In the last few years, restaurants and bars that managed to keep afloat were battling one thing: COVID-19. It was all about disinfecting, and keeping patrons and employees safe. As we rapidly move toward a post-pandemic future, there’s a new set of challenges: sustainability.
A 2018 study reported food waste amounted to $2 billion in lost profits. That’s some major cash. Realizing a better program for restaurant waste can better appeal to generations with the most spending power. There’s a renewed interest, especially from Millenials, in helping the planet and they’re willing to pay extra for it. A recent study found that 71% of consumers reported they are more concerned about the environment now than before the pandemic. Things like dealing with food waste, recycling programs, biodegradable packaging, and adopting green technologies can yield major profit and help meet sustainability goals at the same time.
Dealing with food waste
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that more than 63 million tons of food waste were generated in 2018, which was nearly a quarter of all mainstream waste generated that year. Food makes up the single largest category of waste sent to the landfill today. It’s biodegradable, so what’s the problem? It absolutely breaks down in the landfill, but that’s the problem. Landfills, by nature, are mostly sealed, creating what’s called an anaerobic environment. Since oxygen can’t get in, food and organic waste break down inefficiently and emits methane, which is considered a greenhouse gas. Compared to carbon dioxide, methane has 80 times more warming power in the atmosphere. Diverting food waste from the landfill and into a compost program, for example, can drastically cut into the warming of the planet.
Instead of simply tossing out food scraps, consider participating in city compost programs or composting on restaurant property if possible. It is a sustainable way to deal with the waste and paves the way for new, more flavorful produce that can then be used in the restaurant. That’s just one way to implement circularity when it comes to a restaurant operation.
Another way to deal with food waste is to donate it to local food banks or charities to help people in need before expiration dates. The goal is to replace the linear model where items are taken, used, and then disposed of. Circularity can reduce the environmental impact of your restaurant operation and increase profits at the same time.
Have questions about composting? CLICK HERE to see how RoadRunner can help you get started!
Green technologies can help things run better
Are you buying the right amount of produce each week? How much greenhouse gas emissions are your suppliers putting in the air? Do the dumpsters get emptied enough, and on time, for your needs?
All of these questions and more can be answered using green technology. Apps can monitor, collect, and analyze kitchen data showing how much food a restaurant is actually throwing out. High-tech, yet inexpensive hydroponic grow systems can fit right into an establishment’s decor. Waste monitoring and analytics software have the ability to show how the food being served can impact the planet and the health of customers. RoadRunner’s own technology can ensure any place large or small has the right sized waste bins and that they get emptied in the most efficient way possible.
Beyond that, technology can help with a restaurant’s energy efficiency, too. Sensors can monitor and automatically adjust things like lighting, refrigerator temperatures, and humidity levels for special storage containers. This keeps food fresher longer and saves money on electricity bills. There are similar technologies for water usage in commercial kitchens. Embracing new and emerging green technologies can help your business and help the planet.
Stop the tsunami of single-use items with better options
Another unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic was a massive increase in awareness when it comes to takeout meals. The lightning-fast pivot restaurants had to make for to-go meals meant tons more disposable packaging, styrofoam containers, and plastic utensils were sent to the landfill. Containers were expensive and hard to find on such short notice.
To change that, many eateries are pivoting again, this time to find greener alternatives. Starbucks is once again focusing on reducing the use of disposable cups and expanding its reusable cup program. Along those lines, Tim Hortons also relaunched its reusable cup program. Other chains, including Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Panera Bread announced they’re phasing out products with added PFAS in an effort to reduce environmental pollution.
In terms of smaller operations, there are seemingly endless swaps that can be made that are better for the planet:
- Bamboo cutlery or straws instead of plastic options
- Don’t give out sauce packets unless a customer requests them
- Consider reusable to-go containers with discounts if they’re returned
- Choose biodegradable or compostable coffee stirrers, takeout containers, and bags
Diving into the effort to limit a restaurant’s impact on the planet can mean making more money. With fuel and energy prices at all-time highs, folding green technologies into a restaurant’s operations can save money and drive sustainability. Having a food waste program is the gateway to an even better product. Getting customers in the door is a win. Doing things a better way can keep them coming back, securing long-term success for both the eatery and the planet.
Restaurants and bars are just one of the industries RoadRunner serves. Be sure to look for us on social media to find out how we can help your operation do things better For the Greener Good™.