Restaurant Sustainability is Becoming Commonplace

restaurants take huge strides in sustainability

Posted: Jan. 16, 2019

A report by the National Restaurant Association reveals how restaurants and foodservice operators are taking huge strides towards reducing waste and conserving resources and are making groundbreaking choices in the process.

As a restaurant owner or manager, you are aware of the growing popularity of sustainability practices. In recent years, more and more restaurants and foodservice operators have adopted innovative sustainability practices. To learn more about how restaurants are tackling environmental protections, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveyed 500 restaurant owners and operators within their businesses. In conjunction, 1,000 customers were surveyed to find out how restaurants can promote their sustainability practices to customers.

Below, we share the findings of their report: The State of Restaurant Sustainability in 2018.

The Majority of Restaurants Adopt Sustainability Practices in Some Form

The report shows that foodservice operators of all kinds, from small, independent restaurants to mega restaurant chains, are trying to reduce their energy and water consumption and minimize waste creation with sustainability practices, while also connecting with environmentally-conscious customers.

Restaurants recycling food packaging and waste:

  • 65% recycle cardboard and paper
  • 64% recycle fats, oils, and grease
  • 29% recycle aluminum or metal cans
  • 29% recycle rigid plastics
  • 26% recycle glass
  • 22% recycle flexible plastics, like cling wrap and bags

Restaurants saving energy and water with energy-saving equipment:

  • 79% use CFL or LED lighting
  • 61% use programmable HVA thermostats
  • 46% use EPA Energy Star-rated refrigerators
  • 41% use EPA Energy Star-rated freezers
  • 25% use EPA Energy Star-rated dishwashers
  • 44% use low-flush toilets
  • 16% of businesses took advantage of energy rebates from electricity companies

(Energy Star is a federal program that helps businesses save money while protecting the environment with the best environmentally-sound technology.)

Operators using packaging and supplies made from recyclable materials:

  • 72% buy packaging and supplies that are made from recycled materials.
  • 56% buy supplies certified as compostable.

Reducing food waste is a top priority for operators:

  • Nearly one-half of operators track how much food waste is created.
  • One in five donates leftover food.
  • More than one in 10 compost food waste.

About three in four restaurant operators monitor food waste daily; 76% of chain restaurants do compared to 66% of independent contractors. Serving ugly food is one way restaurants are reducing waste.

A restaurant's sustainability efforts can influence guests' restaurant choices

The most environmentally-conscious collective is Gen Z, people born in the mid-‘90s and early 2000s. Sustainability practices are important to this age group, especially in regards to practices that protect the oceans and oceanic wildlife. Packaging made from recycled materials is equally important, and they want to see restaurants limiting the use of plastic straws and utensils.

According to the NRA survey, they’re not alone: Nearly half of all customers are influenced by restaurants’ sustainability practices.

  • About half of all consumers say that a restaurant's efforts to recycle, donate food, or reduce food waste can be factors in where they choose to dine.
  • The best way to promote restaurant sustainability efforts is on the menu.

Chefs get it: In the NRA’s What’s Hot Report, (a trends report based off of surveying 700 chefs), sustainability, food waste reduction, and local sourcing are priorities for 2019.  “Environmental sustainability” is ranked No. 9 on the list of Restaurant Trends.

Know which sustainability practices your peers are adopting and consider implementing a few in your restaurant if you haven’t already.

With a restaurant point of sale, you can track food waste and make cost-saving changes.




Posted: Jan. 16, 2019 | Written By: Emma Alois


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