The Rise in Demand for Sustainable Restaurants

How to Increase Your Eco-Friendly Operations

Before the pandemic, more restaurants were turning their attention to sustainable environmental practices. Suddenly, their focus shifted to intense cleaning protocols and investing in the delivery of curbside pickup options. Now, as the new normal has emerged, customers are rethinking their environmental concerns and the importance of restaurant sustainability. According to one study, customers are 50% more likely to choose a restaurant that operates with environmentally friendly practices. 

Besides acting as a steward for the planet, sustainable restaurants find customers’ opinions of the brand improve. It also creates a safer and more satisfactory environment for workers, and it saves energy—a hard-to-beat win-win situation. 

What Is Restaurant Sustainability?

Restaurant sustainability occurs when restaurants make the decision to minimize their impact on the planet. It’s about preserving, protecting, and restoring the natural environment. Sustainability, however, goes further than reducing one’s environmental impact; it’s also about the community and promoting social equity and support in an eco-conscious manner.

It may include reducing your carbon footprint, supporting sustainable farming practices, reducing food waste, shortening the supply chain, recycling, and reducing water and energy consumption. We know that’s a lot to consider. But letting your customers know the roads you’re willing to travel to create a sustainable environment and how they can pitch in makes everyone feel like they’re making a difference by eating at your restaurant. 

Sustainable Practices Your Restaurant Can Implement

Not all restaurants can start with major overhauls, like new appliances that use less energy. Small steps can, however, produce big results. Let’s look at a few.

  • Add vegetarian items to your menu. 

John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, was one of the first to call out the need to change our farming practices. It cited the effects of factory farming on animals, the environment, and the health and welfare of the people that consume animals raised in this manner. Environmentally, it’s been shown to raise greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination, and ocean pollution.

These are part of the reason, to varying levels, that consumers are turning to plant-based options. By adding more vegetarian options, you’ll also attract guests looking for restaurants that serve unique and quality items in this category. For your meat-based dishes, consider how they are farmed or fished and use suppliers that practice sustainable methods. For example, many restaurants are consciously choosing fish that are wild-caught, sustainably sourced, and not on the list of endangered or threatened marine species.  

  • Use recyclable and biodegradable food packaging and trash bags.

Try to eliminate as much plastic and disposable packing as possible. This translates to swapping out non-recyclable packaging for reusable and recyclable materials. There are numerous green packaging suppliers that can help you implement packaging items from renewable resources and compostable materials. 

  • Cut down on energy usage.

This can be as simple as making sure your staff turns off all unneeded lights at night and reduce the temperature. You can also automate these functions to set themselves at closing and opening or invest in an energy management system that tracks usage and helps optimize and reduce energy usage. 

  • Consider local suppliers. 

Using local suppliers and seasonal produce can minimize your carbon footprint significantly. At the same time, your guests will appreciate the local, fresh food, and you’ll also be building community support. You can also check with your provider to see what they’re doing to offset their environmental impact and let your vendors know your brand’s commitment to protecting the environment. 

These are just a few of the many practices that create an environmental-friendly restaurant. While addressing global issues can seem almost insurmountable, it’s the small, sustainable practices we do every day that have some of the greatest impacts. Once implemented, make sure to let your customers and guests-to-be the changes you’ve made to help create a better planet. You’ll find new customers checking out your restaurant because they want to feel like part of the solution and then returning because of your exceptional food and service. 


How can I make my restaurant greener?

A few more tips for creating a greener restaurant include reducing water usage by using low-flow spray valves and water-saving toilets and urinals. In addition to farm-to-table options, you can, if you have the space, grow some of your own food or visit local farmers’ markets. Another easy “green” solution is using eco-friendly cleaning products.

Which restaurants are more sustainable?

There are a growing number of restaurants that have adopted sustainable practices. Just a few of these include Sweetfin and Sweetgreen. The following restaurants earned a MICHELIN Green Star for their commitment to sustainability: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, The Inn at Little Washington, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, The French Laundry, SingleThread, Harbor House, Chex Panisse, Atelier Crenn, Bar Crenn, and Quince.  


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