restaurant owner reducing food waste through sustainable restaurant practices

How to reduce food waste and become a more sustainable restaurant

Sustainable restaurant practices can help the environment and your restaurant’s bottom line. In the coming decade, sustainable and socially conscious dining will play a more significant role in consumer dining choices. According to Food Business News, 80% of consumers believe sustainability is an influential factor when considering purchasing decisions from grocery stores or restaurants.

10 restaurant sustainability tips that will reduce food waste and positively impact your restaurant’s bottom line

There is a myth that sustainable restaurant practices are difficult and expensive. However, industry research has proved otherwise.  Incorporating restaurant sustainability best practices can improve your profit margins by reducing food waste and driving efficiency into your restaurant’s daily operations strategy. 

To help operators incorporate restaurant sustainability practices into their business and reduce food waste, we’ve put together 10 tips for reducing food waste and optimizing your restaurant operations. Click the link to jump to a specific tip that fits your restaurant’s needs.

  1. Conduct a food waste audit 
  2. Invest in sustainable packaging
  3. reduce single-use plastic cutlery 
  4. Replace pre-rinse spray valves 
  5. Recycle used cooking oil 
  6. Optimize your restaurant storage
  7. Turn off equipment
  8. Insulate your water pipes 
  9. Consider opening a virtual restaurant
  10. Become a Certified Green Restaurant®

1. Conduct a food waste audit

Food waste is not only bad for the environment but your restaurant’s business margins. The EPA reports food waste accounts for 22% of all waste in landfills, more than any single material found in our everyday trash. Reducing food waste is a cost-savings opportunity for restaurant operators. According to QSR Magazine, food waste audits tell businesses:

  • How much food they are wasting
  • the type of food they are wasting
  • The amount of high-quality food that can be donated to those in need. 

A food waste audit can help you address your restaurant’s food waste and adjust your restaurant inventory. In a survey conducted by Champions 12.3, restaurants that invest in reducing food waste can achieve a positive return, with the average restaurant saving $7 for every $1 invested.

2. Invest in sustainable packaging

Diners are hungry for sustainable packaging, and they are willing to pay more to support a restaurant that uses sustainable packaging.  According to a survey by Asia Pulp & Paper, nearly two-thirds of U.S diners want the food industry to feature sustainable packaging information on product labels, including what type of packaging it is and whether it’s sustainability sourced. 

Grubhub can help you find suitable sustainable packaging to fit your restaurant’s needs. When you join Grubhub for Restaurants, you gain access to an online store where you can purchase sustainable packaging and self-sealing bags, all subsidized by Grubhub. These sustainable products are made from up to 75% recycled and post-consumer materials.

3. Reduce single-use plastic cutlery

Reducing single-use plastic cutlery is not only the right move for the environment but also your restaurant’s profit margin. Research has found that restaurants can save thousands of dollars annually by reducing how much plasticware they use.

To help, Grubhub has joined the #CutOutCutlery campaign, and we are adding a new feature on the Grubhub app and website. In the coming months, the Grubhub app and website will begin automatically defaulting to zero utensils and napkins with every order. While diners will still be able to request plasticware when needed, this move will help generate significant savings for Grubhub restaurant partners.

4. Replace pre-rinse spray valves

Pre-rinse spray valves are found in nearly all restaurants and drive a large percentage of water usage in the restaurant industry. About one million U.S. restaurants use a combined 51 billion gallons of water each year to rinse dishes.

Manufacturers, however, have now developed spray valve models that use 1.28 gallons of water per minute (GPM) – or 20 percent less than the federal standard of 1.6 GPM. By swapping out your restaurant’s pre-rinse spray valves with these efficient models, you can save $115 to $240 annually on water and energy costs.

5. Recycle used cooking oil

Reducing oil waste doesn’t mean you have to cut back on the amount of fried food you serve. You can extend the life of your cooking oil by skimming it every two hours and filtering it at least twice a day to remove extra food particles or contaminants. 

Additionally, look to work with a grease hauler or production company that will convert used-cooking oil into biodiesel.

6. Optimize your restaurant storage

A poorly planned storage system can result in more waste and higher costs than making no changes at all. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your restaurant storage successfully:

  • Ensure that your employees know who is in charge of which storage responsibilities. 
  • Store products as soon as they are received at your restaurant to reduce food waste.
  • Use large storage containers. 
  • Create a shelf-life chart that all employees can reference to ensure food is fresh to use and is quickly disposed of when it’s not.

7. Turn off equipment

It takes a lot of energy to keep restaurant kitchens up and running. Energy-intensive appliances, such as ovens and broilers, usually operate for hours at a time. But by shutting down some kitchen equipment when orders begin to dwindle, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

8. Insulate your water pipes

Insulating your hot water pipes is a great step to decrease the amount of water your restaurant uses, especially in colder months. Insulating your water pipes is a low-cost strategy that can reduce your restaurant’s heating bill. Additionally, many utility companies will often offer rebates for pipe insulation.

9. Consider opening a virtual restaurant

Virtual restaurants are the latest trend in the restaurant industry– and for a good reason. A virtual restaurant is an eco-friendly business model that can help reduce food waste while also adding revenue to your core restaurant without additional overhead.

Chef Hillary Sterling’s virtual restaurant concept, Cayenne, has found success as an eco-friendly delivery-only concept. Chef Hillary Sterling and her team analyze her restaurant’s delivery data and insights to understand the ebb and flows of her diners. That data has informed her kitchen preparation and production strategy and helps her eliminate food waste. 

Additionally, with her virtual restaurant, Chef Sterling can cross-utilize ingredients with the three other concepts that operate out of the same kitchen, which has positively impacted the environment and her restaurant’s bottom line.

10. Become a Certified Green Restaurant®

The Green Restaurant Association is a nonprofit organization that helps restaurants become more environmentally sustainable through their Green Restaurant Certification Program. Restaurants that complete the certification program typically: 

  • Save money
  • Grow their customer base
  • Improve employee morale
  • Stay ahead of legislation such as recycling mandates

Through Grubhub’s latest partnership with the Green Restaurant Association, the GRA will help Grubuhb Restaurant partnership become a Certified Green Restaurant®

Grubhub for Restaurants is committed to driving sustainability across the restaurant industry

From attracting new diners to driving incremental cost savings, sustainable restaurant practices can help the environment and your restaurant’s bottom line.

Grubhub is here to help. When you join Grubhub for Restaurants, you’ll gain access to subsidized sustainable packages, Grubhub exclusive Branded Virtual Restaurants and support to the Green Restaurant Association’s certification program. 

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