Why Should You Go Green in Your Restaurant?
Environmental sustainability is in the news and on consumers' minds, but "going green" can be a daunting process. Upfront costs, organizational obstacles, and perceived difficulties can make the work that goes into establishing eco-friendly practices seem like it may not be worth the payoff. On the contrary, current research indicates that going green can help restaurants in more ways than you might expect.
Healthy Customer Relations
A brief look at survey numbers from foodservice organizations is enough to show how passionate customers are becoming about green restaurant practices. As people become more interested in how to go green, they look for eco-friendly restaurants, as well. According to Certified Green Restaurants, as many as 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as being concerned about the environment.1 That is a huge well of potential customers that are more likely to choose a restaurant that advertises its green practices. Social media and advertising campaigns are both great ways to communicate to your customers and community that your restaurant is going green.
The National Restaurant Association conducts yearly surveys to determine current and upcoming trends, and for 2016, the eco-friendly restaurants movement is topping the charts. The No. 1 predicted trend for 2016 is locally-sourced meat and seafood, with locally-sourced produce not far behind at No. 3. Environmental sustainability in general was listed at No. 6. With 75 percent of customers wanting locally-sourced food, it's safe to say that changes to a restaurant's menu and practices to reflect those trends could pay off quickly.2
While it is true that creating a green restaurant involves making some up-front investments, you may be surprised by how quickly those investments pay off. Below are a few ways you can quickly see savings from changes you make to become more eco-friendly.
- Investing in low flow aerators, high-efficiency toilets, and waterless urinals can save you thousands of dollars a year in water utility costs. An aerator alone can save you $400 a year per sink3, and the toilets and urinals can save you tens of thousands of gallons of water per year.4
- Eco-friendly equipment, especially those pieces certified by ENERGY STAR, can help you save money on electricity, gas, and water. These models are very efficient and often feature a programmable or auto-shutoff so they do not use power when they are not in use.
- Starting a recycling program will lessen the frequency of waste pickup, saving you money on that service.
- With 4 to 10 percent of food in restaurants being discarded before it even makes it to the plate, there's a lot of money going straight into the trash. It's important to assess ways to minimize food waste, such as ordering the proper amount of supplies and ensuring that chefs are following procedures closely to prevent as much waste as possible.
- Buying local not only helps the environment by requiring shorter delivery routes, which means less gas is used, it also helps your local economy and impresses customers. More and more people are looking to eat local ingredients, so advertising that you source locally can draw in new customers and increase your bottom line.
In addition to those benefits, the changes you make to conserve water and energy will of course be helping the planet. The restaurant industry leaves a large mark on the earth. Every year, the average restaurant:
- Uses 500,000 kilowatt hours, five times the energy of other commercial buildings5
- Uses 800,000 gallons of water5
- Discards 100,000 pounds of waste6
- Produces 490 tons of carbon dioxide5
With almost a million restaurants in the United States alone, the impact they have on the environment is huge. However, by joining the ranks of eco-friendly restaurants, you can help reverse that trend and lessen your business' mark on the earth.
1. "Six Reasons to Become a Certified Green Restaurant", Green Restaurant Association. Accessed December 2015.
2. "What's Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast", National Restaurant Association. Accessed December 2015.
3. "Lessons We've Learned That Can Save You Money", T&S Brass. Accessed December 2015.
4. "13 Ways to Painlessly Improve Profitability by Saving Energy in 2013: Part 9", FSR magazine. Accessed December 2015.
5. "Can Restaurants Go Green, Earn Green?", ABC News. Accessed December 2015.
6. Green Restaurant Association University Introduction, Green Restaurant Association. Accessed December 2015.