With green initiatives often perceived as a more expensive way to run your restaurant, the inherent value it provides through the eyes of your customers can easily outweigh monetary costs. If your bottom dollar is what’s keeping you from working environmentally conscious practices into your restaurant, consider green initiatives a piece of your marketing budget and treat them like new opportunities. Customers are on-board when it comes to cleaning up your operation, and fortunately going green doesn’t have to be done through one giant leap in order to impress.
Try starting small with a recycling program.
Fundamentally, recycling should be the first step when considering going green. It does no good (and sends a mixed message to customers) if you’ve got low-energy light bulbs, but throw all your recyclable materials straight into the trash.
Start small with a determined recycling effort, grooming your employees to properly recycle where possible, and watch it grow into a practiced state of mind. Face it, customers these day are going to be more disappointed to not see the blue bin next to your trash can than knowing you use traditional light bulbs. Advertising and putting into practice steps intended to make your kitchen greener – starting with a recycling program – goes a long way.
- Get ahead of the curve. Not only does recycling hold value to your customers, it’s quickly becoming a necessary practice. More laws are being geared towards making mandatory recycling programs part of restaurant operations, and implementing yours before it becomes a necessity puts you ahead of the curve.
- Feel good practice. Believe it or not, recycling actually feels good. While it’s not necessarily a practice that will help pad your wallet, making an effort to reduce the waste your establishment produces and helping to achieve sustainability in your community has an inherently “good” aspect for any business. Your participation can and does make a difference, whether you’re a small-town mom-and-pop diner or a franchisee for a corporate chain.
- Green restaurant certified. As discussed, recycling can be the first step to fully realized restaurant-wide practices. Taking the next few steps, and acquiring a certification from the Green Restaurant Association, is a great way to show yourself, your staff and your customers that you’re committed to going green.
Spread the word.
If you’re worried about potential green practices tightening the noose around your restaurants neck, take comfort in knowing that customers are often more than happy to pay a little extra for your efforts. Letting people know you’re doing things differently can sometimes be all it takes to attract potential customers into becoming supportive regulars. The key is to spread the word.
- Train your staff. Don’t be pushy, and definitely don’t make “green” the new go-to word whenever a server has a customer’s ear, but taking time to train your servers in how best to spread the word is a valuable management practice. A simple “oh and by the way all our produce are locally sourced” does wonders.
- Make it obviously casual. Again, the worst thing you can do after going green is to shove the notion down the throats of your customers. Try posting casual reminders around your restaurant in the form of signs above your recycling bins, Energy Star logos advertising Energy Star rated restaurant equipment, or the words “I’m made of recycled materials” on take out containers. If you’ve got a website, or promote through the local paper, don’t be afraid to include a graphic or line of copy highlighting your new changes.
- Advertise extensively. Being proud of going green is not a bad thing, and if it drastically changes your operation for the better you absolutely should let people know. Little reminders might not justify the value you feel these changes hold, but creating an advertising campaign is a bold way to say you’ve made improvements and people should pay attention.
Like fire, greening one’s establishment can be started with a single spark and has potential to catch and spread at unpredictable speeds. Though viewed from some standpoints as a damaging budget-biter ready to burn up your income, approaching green efforts consciously, and stoking the flame when and where it’s necessary, can produce valuable warmth and comfort in the form of customer approval, limited waste and an overall sense of purpose. Many aspects of your restaurant need only be tweaked to perform in a more environmentally friendly way – and may not cost you a penny. Take time to evaluate your current process and objectively decide where cutting costs monetarily is costing you more in regards to a bigger picture.