Restaurant Sustainability Practices and Trends

Restaurant sustainability means creating a business that protects and restores the environment and shows a commitment to social equity.

Restaurant sustainability means creating a business that protects and restores the environment, shows a commitment to social equity, and works to enhance the community and create prosperity for everyone. This can be a lofty goal that touches on all aspects of life. To help make working towards the goal of creating a sustainable restaurant less overwhelming, we’ll start by taking a closer look at why it’ll help the environment and your bottom line.

Why Restaurant Sustainability is Important

There are many good arguments for focusing on restaurant sustainability. Not only does it provide an opportunity to cater to customer preferences, but sustainability will also play a key role in the success of the restaurant industry. Reducing waste, upgrading packaging and other practices are becoming commonplace and will soon become the new standard.

If you have been hesitant to move towards a more sustainable business model, perhaps you will be convinced by the fact that consumers will pay more for sustainable services and products. In fact, 74% of Millennials and 72% of Generation Z customers want to patronize sustainable businesses. They are socially conscious and looking to support brands that share the same values. Studies also show that businesses that prioritize sustainability outperform their competition and experience more rapid growth.

In the wake of COVID-19, a larger portion of restaurant sustainability is looking at how to maintain food quality during takeout and delivery. With more restaurants relying on off-premise services, takeout packaging has become even more important. As a result, the vast majority of restaurants, including a full 86% of fine dining establishments have invested in upgrading their packaging.

What Environmental Issues Do Restaurants Face?

Every business faces its own challenges when it comes to being more environmentally friendly and improving sustainability. For restaurants, it comes down to five main issues.

  1. Water usage. Washing dishes is a key part of foodservice and many commercial machines do not use water efficiently.
  2. Food waste. It is common practice to throw away food that is deemed unusable. This not only creates waste but also puts stress on the environment by increasing the demand for production.
  3. Energy usage. Electricity and gas are essential components of restaurant operations and can be hard on the environment.
  4. Pollution. Restaurant pollution can come in many forms. From the high use of oil, gasoline, natural gas, and coal to the exhaust emitted by food transportation trucks, there are many opportunities for pollution along the supply chain.
  5. Garbage. Any trash that isn’t recyclable adds to landfills and creates a bigger carbon footprint. 

How to Improve Restaurant Sustainability 

A couple of ways to make your restaurant more sustainable and improve environmental factors are to:

Reduce food waste.

Take a closer look at your menu and see if there is room for improvement. You may be able to avoid using commonly wasted ingredients, offer different portion sizes, utilize seasonal ingredients more effectively and scale down the menu as a whole.

Food donation is another option. Start by assigning a food donation leader and partnering with the right organization. From there, you will need to train staff on how to safely handle food for donation. You can also reuse food waste by creating compost. Local farmers or compost hauling companies may be willing to help.

You can also compost on-site and use it in herb and vegetable gardens. Anaerobic digesters can also be used to effectively process food waste.

Source sustainable food.

For example, talk with your seafood supplier and learn more about their sources, sustainability certifications, and catch methods. Also, be sure to look into local community fisher programs that may be able to help. Sustainable seafood dishes can go for 15-20% higher, so it is well worth the effort from both an environmental and business perspective.   

Invest in sustainable packaging.

Start by using compostable and biodegradable containers and eliminating the use of plastics. New legislation is pushing to ban single-use plastics, including straws, cutlery, and bags, so it is a good idea to get ahead of this change and be prepared. 

Looking towards the future of restaurant sustainability, there are definitely some trends to be aware of. The National Restaurant Association recently put out their 2030 report and they have identified an increase in the popularity of plant-based proteins as the second biggest food trend. While meat is a staple of many menus, animal agriculture is largely regarded as unsustainable.

Plant Protein

Currently, animal agriculture uses 77% of available agriculture across the globe while only producing 20% of the food supply. In addition, since cows require extensive land to roam and feed, beef production plays a huge role in deforestation, which has, in turn, accelerated climate change. 

Plant protein, on the other hand, reduces greenhouse emissions by 90% over meat. Plants also eliminate water and nutrient pollution. For these reasons and others, consumers are turning to plant proteins and restaurants are responding by adding these dishes to their menus.

Sustainable Meat and Fish

Restaurants that do serve meat are turning to sustainable sources. The health of all oceans and fish species depends on humans looking for sustainable sources of seafood. Diners are aware of these issues and want to eat at restaurants that share their concerns. 

Marketing to Eco-conscious Consumers

Marketing is the key to reaching conscious consumers and other people who may be open to the idea of conscious consumption. Advertising should be used to communicate a restaurant’s mission, values, beliefs, and different ways they are working to improve restaurant sustainability. This information can be easily displayed on websites, menus, and different displays throughout the restaurant. 

Restaurant sustainability is the future of the industry. Consumers want to feel good about where they spend their money and invest in restaurants that are making a positive impact on the environment and the community. While making this shift can feel intimidating, don’t forget that it does come with business benefits. You will be able to win over more customers, charge more for sustainable dishes and experience more growth, not to mention the fact that you will feel better about your own contribution to the environment. 

To learn more about sustainability in the alcohol industry, check out the article below.


What are 5 environmental issues in a restaurant? 

Water usage, energy usage, food waste, pollution, garbage.  

How do you make a restaurant sustainable? 

A restaurant is considered sustainable if it protects and restores the environment, shows a commitment to social equity, and works to promote prosperity for everyone in the community.

What are three examples of sustainable practices? 

Reduce food waste, source sustainable food, and use sustainable packaging. 

What are some restaurant sustainability trends?

Using plant-based protein, relying on local sustainable meat and fish, and engaging in conscious marketing to promote conscious consumption.

Why is sustainability important for restaurants? 

Sustainability is key to the long-term health of the industry and the environment while also creating better business opportunities. The majority of younger consumers are willing to pay more to support sustainable restaurants. 



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