It could be that you’ve decided to do your bit for the planet by reducing your carbon footprint after COP26 or you’re bent on making 2022 the beginning of sustainability in your business. Whatever your reason, there are surefire ways to make your restaurant business an eco-friendlier one.
Here, a reputable food distributor in the Middle East that has been implementing eco-friendly business practices shares 7 tips to help make your restaurant more sustainable.
1. Serve seasonal produce.
Most restaurants have a fixed menu, while others serve only what’s in season. The second option is clearly the sustainable one, so it’s a concept worth considering.
Depending on where you are, a seasonal menu would generally need modifying two to four times in a year. You might even want to look at rotating some dishes (e.g. soups and salads) to accommodate fresh ingredients with a limited or short growing season. Examples of these include rhubarb, asparagus, cherries, blueberries and melons, as well as fish like salmon.
When you serve seasonal produce, the ingredients you use would be at the peak of freshness and have the optimum amount of nutrients and the best flavors. Of course, when you have a seasonal menu, you’ll have to be more flexible and creative in crafting your menu.
2. Work with vendors that follow sustainable practices.
Partnering with vendors and suppliers of the same mindset make it easier to be and stay sustainable. Although you may not be aware of it yet, there are ethical and responsible suppliers and operators ready to partner up with restaurant owners like you.
Like you, they could be focused on partnerships with local farmers and other producers, as well as apply eco-friendly business practices like sustainable packaging, recycling and waste reduction.
You could even highlight your sustainable business partnerships as part of your marketing campaign. You can also look at opportunities to cross-promote one another’s business as part of the bigger circle of sustainability. This is sure to not only earn the support of eco-conscious diners but also enhance the reputation of your brand.
3. Grow some ingredients yourself.
While you may not be able to produce everything you need for your restaurant yourself, you could look at growing an herb garden from which you can simply pluck or harvest the herbs you need for your cooking.
Starting an herb garden is a small exercise and requires only a little space. Still, you know you’ll be using fresh herbs you’ve grown yourself. And again, this is something you can highlight in your marketing materials.
For bulk ingredients like meat, poultry, vegetables and fruits, you can keep working with food companies in Dubai (or wherever you are located), and get your wines and single-origin coffee from reputable suppliers.
4. Purchase local ingredients in bulk.
Imported ingredients usually travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to arrive at your doorstep, and this can increase your restaurant’s carbon footprint significantly.
But by opting to buy locally produced ingredients, you’ll not only be reducing your carbon footprint but also contributing to the local economy and possibly even saving on costs. In-season local produce tends to be cheaper, so you could be saving a lot by focusing on creating a menu that revolves around fresh, in-season ingredients.
Of course, you could also look at drying, freezing and preserving excess ingredients for future use in soups, casseroles and stews.
5. Control and manage your waste.
Restaurants produce a lot of general waste that ends up in landfills, so it makes sense to control and reduce it. While not all food waste can go to the compost – a lot of it can. And even if you don’t compost, you can partner with those who do.
You can work with farms and garden owners who need the waste your restaurant produces to enrich the soil they use. You can arrange for the pickup of your waste which they can get for free, although segregation may be a task left to them. This way, you’ll be saving yourself time from waste segregation and be able to dispose of your general refuse for free.
Your partners, meanwhile, have free access to compostable waste, so it’s a win-win both ways.
Aside from the above, you can also look at reducing packaging waste. Instead of using Styrofoam for takeout and delivery, consider using compostable materials.
6. Involve your staff in your sustainability goals.
Train your staff to make sustainability a part of their everyday tasks. Expose them to materials that help drive home the point. Conduct site visits – whether it’s to landfills, local farms, vineyards, or your business partners’ premises. Emphasize the difference you’re making and how they are helping achieve your sustainability goals.
Encourage them to contribute ideas and even recipes that support your cause. Recognize and reward them for their contributions.
Educate your front of house staff on storytelling, so if a guest asks why such and such ingredients are not on the menu for the week, your servers can explain the way you plan your food offerings. Of course, you can also tell your story of sustainability via your social media accounts and marketing materials.
7. Ensure you deliver exceptional customer service.
As a restaurateur, your primary goal remains to be the delivery of exceptional guest experiences. This includes providing adequate information about your restaurant and menu, as well as your sustainable business practices on your website, through social media and staff education.
Of course, superior customer service also entails ensuring your restaurant serves only high-quality food that’s delicious and nutritious.
By providing the best food and service to your guests, you’re not only ensuring the growth and profitability of your business. You’re also providing them an opportunity to support sustainable enterprises; that is, your restaurant, and by extension, the businesses you work with.
Thriving With Sustainability
If you’re looking to make your restaurant business more sustainable, know that you’re on the right track, and there are several ways to achieve your goals.
Not sure how and where to start?
Simply implement the tips shared here, and you’ll be on your way to having a low-carbon footprint, eco-friendly restaurant that also serves great food people can come back to again and again.