How Eco-Conscious Restaurants Can Reduce Waste And Become Greener

March 25, 2022

Research shows that 83% of consumers wish that restaurants would use more environmentally-friendly practices. So if you want to appeal more to your customers, reducing waste and going green could be the solution.

We’ll give you an overview of how to do that below. Keep reading to find step-by-step instructions for becoming an eco restaurant.

The basics of going green

Many restaurants use a ton of ingredients, eating utensils and to-go containers. They also tend to use a lot of paper products when advertising to consumers on-premise.

There are lots of opportunities to make your restaurant a greener business, including:

  • Using paper straws and containers
  • Choosing eco-friendly lighting 
  • Bringing composting to your kitchen
  • Using more environmentally-friendly cleaning products
  • Advertising via digital signage instead of paper 
  • Giving your excess food to charity instead of throwing it out
  • Using local ingredients and adding vegetarian dishes to your menu

Digital signage, in particular, can be a very effective way to reduce your reliance on paper. You can use it as a replacement for everything from menus to communication with your back of house.

These tools will help you reduce waste

Part of going green is leveraging the right tools and technology. These are the items that will help you do it:

  • Digital signage
  • A POS system that helps you manage your inventory more effectively
  • Energy-efficient LEDs over traditional lightbulbs
  • A CRM to manage your relationships with local ingredient producers

If you don’t want to invest in all of these technologies right away, that’s fine. You can pick and choose which ones make the most sense for your restaurant now and will always be able to add more later when the timing is right.

Step 1: Invest in digital signage technology

Digital signage can replace every type of paper product that you use to communicate with customers and staff. That’s a big deal when you consider that 26% of waste in landfills comes from paper products.

With digital signage, you can:

  • Advertise your best deals and upcoming specials to customers
  • Share important messages with your employees
  • Keep your guests entertained with live-streaming entertainment
  • Allow your on-premise visitors to access your most important promotions by scanning a QR code on your screens

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Step 2: Use sustainable utensils, cups and plates

During COVID-19, we saw an explosion of demand for to-go options from popular local restaurants. That trend is expected to continue in the post-pandemic world.

It’s great for restaurants that can now reach customers that they might not have otherwise. But it also means that there’s going to be a much higher demand for to-go eating utensils, plates and cups – all of which have traditionally been made from plastic.

That’s why embracing paper or wooden versions of these products can be so helpful to the environment. 

We’re going to need a lot of restaurants to make this decision in the coming years as to-go ordering becomes increasingly popular. Your restaurant can get ahead of the trend now!

Step 3: Choose eco-friendly lighting

Lighting accounts for nearly 5% of global C02 emissions on its own. That means another excellent strategy for reducing your environmental impact is to choose more environmentally-friendly lighting strategies.

One of the easiest ways to do that is by choosing LED bulbs over CFLs. LEDs use far less energy than CFLs. That efficiency translates into a lower impact on the environment.

But LEDs can also be helpful for your company’s bottom line. They can last up to 50,000 hours longer than CFLs. That means, by choosing them, you won’t have to purchase new light bulbs as often.

Step 4: Bring composting to your kitchen

Composting is a practice that’s incredibly helpful for the environment. There’s no reason that your kitchen can’t start using it to contribute to healthier local soil and reduced waste amounts in local landfills.

If you’re not familiar, composting is the practice of recycling organic matter to be used later as a soil enricher. You can compost a ton of ingredients that your kitchen uses, including:

  • Eggshells
  • Leftover pieces of bread and grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Paper napkins and coffee filters

Step 5: Fill your menu with local ingredients

Purchasing local is another excellent strategy for boosting your sustainability. Local ingredients are better for the environment for two major reasons.

First, these ingredients don’t need to be transported across the country to reach your restaurant. That means less fuel is burned to get the food to your establishment.

Additionally, farmers who sell ingredients locally don’t typically use as much (if any) pesticides. That means there’s less damage done to the earth while these ingredients are created.

The chances are high that some local farmers in the area can supply your restaurant with high-quality produce – especially things like vegetables, onions and lettuce.

These may or may not cost more than ingredients from national suppliers. But research shows that customers are willing to pay more for dishes with local ingredients in them. So you may be able to increase your menu prices a bit to offset the extra costs.

Step 6: Give your extra food to charity instead of throwing it out

Research indicates that an astonishing half a pound of food is wasted per meal in restaurants. That number includes both what the customer leaves on their plate and what kitchens waste while preparing the dishes.

On top of that, your restaurant will likely have excess ingredients that it doesn’t use. That means you could be wasting much, much more food than you realize.

There’s only so much you can do to reduce food waste in your restaurant itself. When you have extra ingredients, consider donating them instead of throwing them out.

Doing so will help people who are less fortunate while also making sure that the energy and fuel that went into getting these ingredients to you hasn’t gone to waste.

Step 7: Use environmentally-conscious cleaning products

Traditional cleaning products are full of toxic ingredients that can pollute waterways and sources of groundwater. But you don’t need to use them to keep your restaurant clean.

There are tons of eco-friendly cleaning products out there nowadays that are just as effective as their toxic traditional counterparts. Consider purchasing these for your restaurant instead the next time you need a resupply of cleaner.

Step 8: Embrace vegetarian menu items

Data shows that producing a single serving of meat produces 20 times the greenhouse gas emissions of producing a single serving of vegetables.

That’s one of the reasons why vegetarianism has become increasingly popular. People who choose to live a vegetarian lifestyle contribute much less to the degradation of the planet with their eating choices.

With that in mind, your restaurant can play a big part in encouraging this behavior by offering more vegetarian menu items.

If every restaurant did this, then it would be easier for people to stick with being vegetarian. And when more people do that, less meat needs to be produced to feed the population.

Don’t let these potential problems derail your progress

Going green doesn’t have to be difficult. But some potential pitfalls can derail your progress. Here are three problem areas to watch out for while you make this change.

Choosing the wrong digital signage software

There’s lots of different digital signage software out there. But some are more effective than others. 

You want to make sure that you select digital signage software that is capable of completely ending your reliance on paper for communicating with staff and customers.

Otherwise, you’re not going to end up using your digital signage solution and it’ll end up being a wasted investment.

Failing to plan financially

Many restauranteurs worry about the finances of going green. It’s important to think about how your cash flow will change once you start buying local ingredients and using different types of products. But you can make these changes work for your budget with a little planning.

So make sure that you’re clear about what your finances will look like after you make these changes before you get started. That way, you’re ready to succeed from the beginning.

Neglecting to analyze your performance and adapt

As a business, it’s always important to assess your progress over time. Doing so is the only way to understand whether you need to make changes to achieve your goals.

The same is necessary for this situation. As you work to become a more eco-conscious restaurant, make sure that you’re analyzing how these changes are impacting your bottom line. 

Don’t be afraid to make changes if your initial strategies don’t end up working out.

UPshow makes it easier for your restaurant to go green

UPshow offers digital signage software that can completely change the way you communicate with customers and deskless workers in your restaurant. 

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