Bad news: people today want to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t completely trash the environment. Many restaurateurs think going green means changing the way they do things, and they’re not wrong. If you wanna get good with Mother Nature, your restaurant does have to change.
But not all change is bad.
When your restaurant begins to respect the planet, it’ll attract new customers, you’ll save money, and you might even feel like a better person. Here are 9 proven methods to change your restaurant into a more eco-friendly place to eat.
Don’t Bring Water Without Asking First
Glasses of water brought to a table and left untouched by guests will waste space in your dishwasher and drain water from your tap (the dishwasher is often forgotten as a factor in this equation). Instead, take drink orders early on and ask guests if they want a glass of water in addition to their beer or soda. They’ll usually say no, and you can always bring out water later should your guests change their minds. Make sure the wait staff communicates this as an effort to be environmentally conscious, and this initiative will be largely viewed very positively by the guests. If this is not communicated, however, the failure to bring water over could be interpreted as a ‘failure’ of service, so it is important to be aware of consumer perceptions.
Use Biodegradable Takeout Containers
The tell-tale sign of whether a restaurant cares about the environment or not is its choice of takeout container. Is the container made of Styrofoam or of a biodegradable material? A Styrofoam container may cost less than a paper one, but it also takes millions more years to decompose. So with Styrofoam you save a nickel and create a piece of rubbish that lasts into the next geological era—no thanks.
Stop Throwing Out Silverware
Environmentally conscious restaurateurs use metal silverware over plastic utensils because silverware can be reused whereas sporks cannot (not to mention the increased perceptual value of metal silverware over plastic). Yet even metal spoons, forks, and knives are often accidentally chucked into the garbage anyway, contributing to landfill gorging. You can avoid this problem by putting a magnetic silverware catcher on the lids of your trashcans. Food falls in while metal silverware clings to the lid.
Maintain A Tight Inventory
According to a 2005 study, American restaurants produce 134,350,000 pounds of food waste every day. That’s not just from scraps left on plates. Much of food waste comes from ingredients that chefs allow to spoil and must then throw out. You can reduce food spoilage by keeping a tighter inventory, ordering fewer ingredients, and using perishables sooner.
Avoid Using Paper Towels
Consider that after you put a paper towel dispenser in your bathroom, a piece of tree gets trashed each time a guest washes his or her hands. Imagine all the stuffed garbage bags that’ve been hauled from your bathroom to the dumpster. You can shrink this mountain of discarded paper by installing just two electric hand dryers, one in the men’s room and one in the ladies’.
This also has a very positive effect on the overall cleanliness of the bathroom, as paper towels are often tossed about and miss the trashcan. Sometimes our aim is not as good as we think!
Make Deliveries By Foot, Bike, or Moped
If you deliver food within an urban area, you have a choice. Either your delivery boys can clunk through the city on heavy eight cylinder combustion engines or they can wheel around lightly on mopeds that run at 120 miles per gallon. Using bikes, mopeds, or your own two feet not only conserves fossil fuels, it also saves you time on that perpetual search for parking. In most municipalities, it also allows you to weave through traffic or utilize sidewalks, which can be critical timesavers that help keep food warm and service speedy, especially in dense urban areas.
Upgrade Your Equipment
You can replace an incandescent light bulb with a CFL bulb and save about 500 watts per day. Compare this to the 14,000 watts per day you save by replacing an old freezer with a new one certified by Energy Star. Quite a difference. (…And while we’re on the topic of freezers—be sure to defrost yours regularly. This will take a strain off your appliance and conserve electricity.)
Turn Off Your Water Faucets
If you repeatedly remind your cooks to turn off the faucet after they’re done using it, you run the risk of being labeled a nag. So instead, post a friendly reminder above the sink. Your cooks will listen without you ever having to utter a word.
Recycle Your Printers’ Ink Cartridges
Most restauranteurs toss the ink cartridges from their POS printers into the trash after the cartridge has run out of ink–they don’t know that these cartridges can be recycled for free. Websites like RecycleUS.com will take your used ink cartridges and dispose of them for you. They even pay for shipping.
About the Author:
Jeramy Baker is lead copywriter for JES Restaurant Equipment & Supplies. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, JES is committed to providing restauranteurs with fair prices and honest advice.