Operations

How Eco-conscious Restaurants can Incorporate Transparency and Education

In recent years it’s become increasingly apparent that restaurant guests are more concerned and more knowledgeable about food sustainability and environmental safety than ever before.  And owners are willing to deliver.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 sustainability report, “The most effective way restaurant operators can convey their environmental efforts is to print the information on the menu, according to consumers.”  Additionally, 45-55% of all generational restaurant-goers consider sustainability efforts an important factor in choosing an establishment.

Menu transparency is key if you want to grow your customer base – people desire to know about their food.  As a frequent diner myself, there’s a certain magic in knowing about where my dinner came from.

Here’s how eco-conscious restaurants can incorporate transparency and education into their menus:

Transparency

Labels Identifying “Clean” Foods       

Food producers are primarily responsible for labeling their products.  And it’s good practice for restaurants to do the same on their menus.  Healthy, sustainable ingredients are among the top trends shaping the food industry this year.

  • Non-GMO
  • Organic
  • Organically Grown
  • Locally Sourced
  • Free Range
  • Grass-Fed
  • Antibiotic Free
  • No Artificial Ingredients
Food Sourcing

People want to know where their food comes from, so tell them!  Change menus seasonally as ingredients come available and source quality, ethical meat and produce that you are proud to serve – your guests will thank you for it!

  • Seasonal Menu Changes
  • Quality over Quantity
  • Ethical Meat
Operations

Be open about your sustainability efforts.  Reserve a space in the menu to let your guests know what you are doing and how they can participate.

  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Food Donations
  • Community Engagement

Education

Social Media  

Inform your customers through social media platforms about your sustainability efforts and community support.  Get involved with the community through food donation programs, composting programs, or Q&As.    

  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Community Involvement
Seasonal Menus

The most powerful tool in transparency and education is to change menus with the seasons.  To source locally is to source seasonally.  This is a great opportunity to provide your guests with unique ingredients and creative dishes.  Specify where the ingredients came from and educate your staff on local producers.  Incorporating a small bio of producers somewhere on the menu is a great way to spread knowledge.      

  • Identify Producers
  • Seasonal Ingredients
Environmental Sustainability

If you are using green cleaning supplies, tell them.  If you are using energy-efficient appliances, tell them.  If you are using compostable/recycled/recyclable takeaway containers, tell them.  Realizing that corporate sustainability is attainable will inspire others to follow suit.

  • Recyclables
  • Maintenance Efforts
  • Conservation Efforts
Staff Training

Staff education is most essential in promoting your eco-conscious restaurant.  With a solid understanding of the produce, labels, and locality, staff will be able to easily convey information to the guest.  Regular training or optional excursions to the farms can further boost interest and confidence in staff.

  • Regular Sustainability Meetings
  • Farm Visitations

As evidenced in recent years, we are moving towards a more ethically responsible food system, both on the farm and on the plate.  And while these tactics may seem daunting at first, they are sure to attract a loyal customer base in these uncertain times.

If you’d like to learn more about incorporating sustainable practices into your business, then look at this sustainability education program for restaurant operators offered by the National Restaurant Association here.

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