Sustainability is a matter that has always been around, but in the past few years this topic has been flaring up in all industries. The millennial generation, one of the biggest driving forces behind the boom in the food delivery industry, is the one that set the trend in motion, challenging our eating habits, environmental concerns and lifestyle choices. Around 3 out of 4 millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products, as is 66 percent of consumers around the world*.
But how can you make your restaurant - and your delivery operation - more sustainable? Adding eco-friendly practices to your business may not be as hard as you think. By working towards less (food) waste and a more seasonal and locally-sourced menu, you’ll quickly be able to get on the right track.
Waste management in the food and restaurant industry is more important today than ever. One element that can already make a huge difference for the environment is the type of packaging materials your restaurant uses for takeaway and delivery. Today, compostable, recyclable and plant-based packaging is readily available, and many restaurants and third-party delivery service providers are already making efforts to curb the distribution of (single-)plastic straws, cutlery and condiment packets.
The same goes for your in-house dining experience. Here are some of the best practices for reducing restaurant waste:
- Cut back on single-use plastics, for instance by swapping plastic straws and other utensils for bamboo, metal or paper alternatives
- Buy products in bulk whenever possible. For instance, instead of providing each table with plastic bottles of ketchup, mayo and other condiments, use glass jars that you can refill
- Recycle glass and cardboard
- Compost fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, bread, egg shells etc.
- Reduce plastic bottle litter by providing your guests with a glass water jug and glasses
- Offer small discounts for customers who bring their own reusable coffee or tea mugs
- If you offer weekly or monthly suggestions, write them on one or several chalkboards spread across your restaurant, instead of constantly printing new paper menus
These changes aren’t extreme at all, so any business can implement them in no time at all and reduce the impact they’re having on the environment.
Another area many restaurants can improve on is food waste - more specifically, how to handle it. Consider investing in software that allows you to keep track of inventory, both offline and online, so you can closely monitor your perishables. Secondly, try to repurpose leftovers and scraps by using them to prepare homemade soups, sauces, stock,… If you still have food surplus left, you can partner up with companies that are fighting food waste, such as:
Karma - a delivery platform (and Deliverect partner) that connects surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores etc. to consumers for adjusted prices, and delivers the food, too. Karma is currently available in Sweden, Paris and London.
Too Good To Go - a platform that makes food surplus available to consumers at small prices. Customers can then collect their food items at the shop, restaurant or supermarket they bought it from. Too Good To Go is currently available in 9 countries in Europe.
Olio - a platform that lets both individuals and businesses donate food surplus, which can then be collected by the consumer. Olio is available worldwide.
Goodr - a platform in Atlanta that helps businesses reduce waste with predictive data analysis. Any surplus can be donated, picked up by Goodr and delivered to non-profits.
Food for All - a platform that sells last-minute restaurant meals for cheap prices in Boston and New York. Customers can pick up their food at the restaurant just before closing time.
Of course, there exist many more of these food waste fighting apps. A quick Google search will show you the initiatives in your local area!
A sustainable menu starts with seasonality. Changing your menu according to what’s in season is easy and offers many benefits: not only will your guests be tempted with limited-available, fresh and seasonal dishes, it will also help you cut costs. Seasonal products are abundantly available, which lowers their food costs.
Secondly, don’t waste money by flying in products from across the country - or world. Buying locally will most likely cost you less, it’s better for the environment and you can support your local community at the same time. An even better option is if you can use homegrown produce from your own garden!
Another way to keep your menu sustainable is by offering more vegetarian and vegan options. A large part of today’s consumers is aware that reducing their meat consumption is a great way to reduce their impact on the environment. So why not embrace the change and cater to your customers’ needs? If you serve meat, make sure you buy it from local, organic and free-range farms.
Last but not least, serving correctly sized meals will help you bring down food waste, as well. However, be careful with your value for money ratio. Nobody likes small portions that are overpriced!
The rise of “foodie activism” has encouraged many businesses of all sizes to do better in terms of sustainability. Making a few changes at the time can already make a big difference for the planet and your customer base alike. If your restaurant offers delivery, make sure you work with delivery service providers that promote eco-friendly courier transportation methods (bike, e-bike,…).
* Source: Nielsen
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