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Green Is Always in Season

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), “Environmentally responsible practices are becoming the new normal across the industry, as restaurateurs recognize that recycling, waste reduction, and water and energy efficiency are good for their business and our world.”

Amen to that! There are nearly 990,000 restaurant locations in the U.S., and food service is an incredibly resource-intensive endeavor, so when an industry as large as ours decides to go green, the reverberations are huge.

In one particularly impressive case of efficiency savings, Ted’s Montana Grill spent $111,000 to switch to LED lighting, and ended up saving $140,000 in the first year and $250,000 in the second year on electricity bills.

That’s a large example, to be sure, but there are hundreds of small things food-service pros can do to tread a little lighter and reduce their operating costs in the process. Examples include:

  • Serving water by request only (tap not bottled)
  • Using recycled/compostable disposable containers
  • Installing energy efficient hand dryers in restrooms
  • Reducing portion sizes (scales help)
  • Serving sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood
  • Freezing edible food scraps for later use
  • Composting inedible food scraps
  • Developing more vegetarian dishes
  • Cleaning with eco-friendly detergents
  • Sourcing produce from nearby farms (within 100 mi.)
  • Recycling cooking/fryer oil
  • Using linen/cotton napkins instead of paper

Doing Well by Doing Good
Sustainability is more than a cost-saving strategy, however. It’s also a smart growth strategy, especially when you consider that consumers actively prefer dining at establishments that have a clear commitment to preserving the environment for future generations. The NRA’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast found that nearly half of all restaurant-goers are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its energy and water conservation practices alone!

Green begets green, if you know what I mean. In a competitive marketplace, a restaurant’s commitment to sustainability can become a very lucrative differentiator. (See also: Chipotle Mexican Grill)

If your restaurant, bar, cafe or catering company wants to lessen its impact, the NRA has a wealth of resources to guide your efforts. The association’s Conserve program, launched in 2008, helps operators implement conservation practices that are good for the environment and their bottom line. The initiative even provides restaurateurs with a fully customized roadmap to reducing their energy and water consumption. Check it out!

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