Making the decision to make your restaurant a more sustainable operation has gotten considerably easier in the last few years. That’s because as consumer awareness grows there are more and more benefits associated with “green” restaurants. If you’re in doubt, simply look at the National Restaurant Association’s sustainability efforts, or see how Chipotle has succeeded in a down economy without significantly lowering their prices.
If you’ve set a sustainability goal for yourself, then the next thing you need is a plan. How are you going to make your operation more sustainable? What are the areas that can provide the maximum benefit with the least amount of investment? How do you plan to market your efforts to your customers? All are good questions, and you’d better have answers before you start spending time and money.
Here’s four steps to get you started towards a greener, more profitable future:
Improve energy efficiency. In most restaurants, this is the easiest place to cut costs with minimal investment. The added bonus is that you get to tell your customers how committed to sustainability you are after you’ve cut energy bills. Simple improvements like training your staff to manage equipment efficiently, cutting heating and cooling bills, and investing in energy efficient water heating can make a huge difference.
Of course, every restaurant is different, and the strategies that work in your restaurant aren’t going to work somewhere else. When you’re making your sustainability plan, identify where you can improve efficiency then estimate how much you’ll save on future bills versus how much it will cost you to implement your plan.
Come up with a program. Another key to a successful sustainability plan for your restaurant is figuring out ways to reduce waste. Recycling and composting programs are the two most common ways to address this. Unfortunately, unlike energy efficiency improvements these waste reduction programs are either cost neutral or increase your operating expenses.
That doesn’t mean they don’t provide benefits. The public relations mileage you can get out of a good recycling or composting program can prove invaluable. Remind customers you recycle or compost waste. The local newspaper in your neighborhood is also another great way to get the word out about your program. Newspapers run stories like this all the time, and it can be great free advertising.
Change your buying habits. You’re a consumer just like everybody else. The purchasing decisions you make for your restaurant say a lot about how you run your business. Making sustainable decisions will also make your operation a lot greener.
Some places to start:
- Source ingredients locally and/or grow your own
- Use compostable disposable items like corn cups and sugarcane disposable containers
- Buy seafood only from certified sustainable seafood
Don’t be bashful – talk about yourself! Implementing a successful sustainability plan doesn’t do you a bit of good if no one knows about the hard work and money you’ve invested. As you put this plan into action, don’t be afraid to tell everyone you can think of about what you’re doing.
This isn’t just a one-time announcement. Your sustainability plan will likely take some time to implement, and you should turn that effort into an ongoing conversation with anyone who will listen, especially customers. Use multiple channels ranging from banners in the front of the house to social media to announce your new, sustainable self to the world.
You’ll be amazed how interested people will be in what you’re doing.