Restaurant Industry Insights

Restaurants Making Names for Themselves Via Sustainable Practices

Ask a chef or restaurateur about the most sought-after accolade in the industry, and they’re likely to mention being awarded a prestigious Michelin Star (or three). While awarding Michelin stars began in France in 1926, it didn’t hit the U.S. until 2005, when it reached fine dining establishments in New York City. 

Today, cities with Michelin Star restaurants include Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. If you’re an aspiring chef or restauranteur in search of the infamous Star, you may want to head to the bright lights in one of these big cities. 

However, while concentrated in major cities, you’ll also find these restaurants and chefs in places like Tarrytown, NY, and Boulder, CO. Currently, there are about 200 Michelin Star restaurants in the U.S. and 1,528 restaurants in the Michelin Guide. If you’re heading overseas, the five countries with the most Michelin Star restaurants include France, Japan, Italy, Germany, and the U.S.

To achieve this distinction, you’ll first need an anonymous inspector to visit your restaurant. After dining at your establishment, they’ll write a report about the experience. The restaurant rating criteria are based on the following: 

  • Quality of your product
  • The mastery of flavor and cooking techniques
  • The personality of the chef, represented by the dining experience
  • Value for money
  • Consistency

Achieving a Green Star for Sustainable Practices  

In 2020, Michelin started a new category. The Michelin Green Star was born and awarded to restaurants with outstanding sustainable and eco-friendly practices. It’s awarded every year and is based on the following criteria: 

  • The ingredients’ origin and use of seasonal produce
  • Environmental footprint
  • Food waste systems and recycling
  • Resource management
  • Communicating their sustainable practices to guests

Only 291 restaurants across the globe have achieved this recognition, 26 of which reside in the U.S. Let’s explore a few of the top sustainable restaurants in the U.S.

The Inn at Little Washington

3 Michelin Stars

Located outside of Washington, D.C., The Inn at Little Washington and Chef Partick O’Connell have served guests vegetarian dishes incorporating ingredients from local farmers for over 43 years. Some of the produce, herbs, and honey come from its private garden and the hives it sustains.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

2 Michelin Stars

Located in Tarrytown, NY, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a farm-to-table establishment that started as a dairy. Today, Chef Dan Barber and staff work with 64 local farms and purchase 80% of their seafood from day boat fishermen off Long Island. They also work closely with farmers to develop varieties of produce and grains that require less energy to produce.


Chicago’s Daisies sources from ethically responsible purveyors and is well-known for its homemade pasta, ruffles, and onsite bakery. Chef and proprietor Joe Frillman sources everything possible from his brother’s 30-acre farm. Their dedicated fermentation program ensures limited waste and the ability to use the product in the winter months. As a full circle, their compost program returns unused and discarded produce to the farm, where it’s used as chicken feed and fertilizer. 


THE CHASTAIN is nestled in the Chastain Park neighborhood in Atlanta. Chef Christopher Grossman’s menu is determined by local farmers and their onsite regenerative garden. Regenerative gardening is gaining ground as an environmentally conscientious approach to growing plants, nourishing the soil instead of depleting it and then trying to fix it with fertilizers.

Bramble & Hare

Jill and Chef Eric Skokan’s Bramble & Hare in Boulder, CO, offers rustic charm and produce that comes directly from their 70-acre organic farm. The grain heads to a stone mill, where it’s ground into flour. The heritage sheep and pigs wander on their 360 acres of pastureland. This feat is exceptional in and of itself, but particularly so when you consider they started over 17 years ago, supplying their first restaurant, Black Cat Bistro, with carrots and peas grown from their backyard. 

The Restaurant at JUSTIN

1 Michelin Star

This restaurant sets itself apart as the only winery with a Michelin Star and Green Star in the U.S. Located in Paso Robles, CA, it’s part of Justin Winery. Chef Rachel Haggstrom creates seasonal dishes from food derived from the 26-acre farm that contains a 150-tree orchard, fields of edible flowers, and an apiary where honeybees thrive. About 95% of the menu comes from the garden or the Central Coast community. 

Sustainable Practices

As you can see, it takes quite a commitment, and sometimes acres of land, to accomplish the level of sustainability that gains you entry into the elite holder of a Michelin Green Star. There are, however, simpler practices that can make a big difference. Sustainable practices involve anything you can do to minimize your restaurant’s environmental impact. 

Some eco-friendly possibilities include reducing waste and working with vendors and suppliers who do the same. It may involve obtaining produce from farmers who practice regenerative farming. You can also reduce energy consumption by switching to LED lighting and installing motion detection devices. Add more plant-based options to the menu and research supply chain strategies that include sustainable seafood suppliers and pasture-raised animals that are allowed to roam free and treated humanely.

Panda Express recently announced its plan to deploy GridPoint’s smart building technology platform at about 2,500 locations. This system controls HVAC and lighting, managing energy consumption and reducing usage.

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