Aligning Sustainability with Your Restaurant Values: 5 Tips to Get Started

This article first appeared on the National Restaurant Association’s “Manage My Restaurant” blog. 

Patron eats salad from a sustainable brown container.When it comes to sustainability in the restaurant industry, these are exciting and challenging times. While there is huge interest in sustainability from both consumers and restaurant operators, it can also be an investment and an ongoing commitment. Fortunately, everything doesn’t need to happen at once, and not everything you do has to come at a premium price.

Sustainability can be as simple as rethinking how you deliver your food, package your leftovers, handle your food waste, or dispense products to your guests. The key is committing to an actionable approach that suits your business, aligns with customer sensitivities and allows employees to buy in. Here are five tips to get started.

  1. Identify your sustainability values. Ground your efforts in a consideration of why you’re committing to sustainability in the first place. After all, sustainability is a reflection of your brand values. It all starts with doing things that matter to you and are consistent with your brand.

  2. Listen to your guests. In terms of sustainability, there remains a gap between what operators believe their consumers want and what customers actually want. That’s why listening and engaging with customers can be so critical. The more operators who can stay focused on their values, and also pay attention to customer feedback, the more successful they’ll be.

  3. Commit to an actionable approach. It can be wise to start small and on the things that are most visible to guests. Since food is the reason customers come into the restaurant, why not look at practical approaches involving food and food waste? Other ways operators can communicate their values could include controlled dispensing of napkins or one-at-a-time towel dispensers in the restroom, which tells customers you care about both hygiene and waste reduction. It can communicate sustainable steps you’re taking without having to say anything.

  4. Be authentic. Be crisp and authentic in how you communicate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This can be as simple as the way you describe your menu offerings. The words you choose tie your restaurant to being part of your community and part of the solution—and can even demonstrate community leadership.

  5. Keep learning. New options for restaurant sustainability are emerging constantly, but if you’re not looking for them, you won’t learn. For example, you can engage with your suppliers and learn about the exciting new offerings coming on the market. Ask them about food and foodservice packaging that may have great sustainability stories in terms of production or end of life.

Bottom line: You don’t have to change everything to pursue more sustainable operations. Simply consider what matters to you and your guests, remain engaged with the topic of sustainability, and always continue to learn.

This article created in partnership with the National Restaurant Association.
       Aligning Sustainability with Your Restaurant Values: 5 Tips to Get Started