Restaurant Sustainability Mistakes


Incorporating sustainable practices in your food service business supports the environment, satisfies environmentally conscious customers, and can be lucrative. The popularity of sustainable eating is growing as people become more aware of environmental issues. Implement sustainable practices and avoid common sustainability mistakes to capitalize on this trend. 

The Impact of Customer Mindsets

Given the narrow profit margins in the food industry, restaurants must take every possible measure to increase profitability. Traditionally, the most effective approach was to prioritize customer convenience, but recently, the customer mindset has shifted with increasing awareness of environmental issues. Customers are starting to prioritize sustainable restaurant practices above comfort.

Willing to Pay More for Sustainable Options

With consumers prioritizing eating at restaurants with sustainable practices, that means they are also willing to pay for sustainable food options. Factors like personal values, the perceived importance of sustainability, and income also influence how much customers are willing to pay. However, the restaurant industry can capitalize on customers’ willingness to shell out higher amounts by using sustainability as a means of meeting consumer demand.

Evaluating Environmentally Practices Before They Visit

Customers evaluate a restaurant’s environmentally friendly practices, and they expect restaurants to demonstrate their dedication to sustainability through tangible measures. Simply talking about sustainability is not enough, though. Customers want to see you advocating for the environment and a sustainable future for all. As a food service business, there are numerous actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

Some of this industry’s most vital sustainability signals are utilizing eco-friendly packaging and excellent food waste management. Other sustainable initiatives that customers care about include:

  • Reducing emissions from distribution.
  • Sourcing raw materials sustainably. 
  • Reducing emissions from production.

Watch Out for These 9 Mistakes 

Sustainable restaurants are popular, which means you can attract many customers through sustainable practices and make your restaurant a success. Running a sustainable food service business also has its challenges, and you’ll want to avoid common pitfalls. To keep your restaurant doors open, you can follow sustainable practices that benefit the environment, your employees, and your business. Here are nine restaurant sustainability mistakes to avoid. 

1. Ignoring Customers’ Needs and Preferences

By understanding your customer, you can tailor your menu accordingly. Thorough market research will determine what your customers want. Millennial mothers, for example, might want nourishing options for their children. A kid’s menu with vibrant and fresh food instead of a bland menu with nuggets, milkshakes, and burgers might encourage families to frequent your restaurant.

You’ll also want to stay ahead of the sustainable curve by researching sustainable restaurant practices and trends. Dishes with whole foods like mushrooms, nuts, and beans might be more alluring than just plant-based options. Find reputable sources like the Sustainable Restaurant Association to help you stay ahead of the curve. 

2. Not Being Transparent 

People can become eco-warriors simply by purchasing sustainable products and eating at sustainable restaurants. Allow your customers to be heroes by informing them about your sustainable practices. Your social media platforms or delivery apps are the perfect platforms to do so.

Share information about your:

  • Produce and packaging suppliers.
  • Zero-waste initiatives.
  • Energy-saving strategies.
  • Sustainably sourced ingredients.
  • Donations to organizations that promote sustainability.
  • Recycling initiatives.

3. Not Using Eco-Friendly Packaging

Polystyrene take-out containers are not biodegradable, and, once manufactured, can stay on the earth for thousands of years. These single-use plastics are here to stay! Even though you might source your ingredients locally, minimize your energy use, and treat your staff fairly, your takeaway packaging can significantly harm humans and the environment. Luckily, there are numerous polystyrene alternatives—some made from bamboo, agave, or sugarcane fiber. 

Sugarcane fiber is a wonderful renewable resource. It is a byproduct from the sugar manufacturing industry that’s now utilized to make heat-resistant, sturdy, and leak-resistant take-out containers. Opting for containers like these is one of the best restaurant sustainability practices that combats single-use plastics.

4. Wasting Food

To start combating food waste, you might want to conduct a food waste audit. Set up containers in various locations in your kitchen, such as prep and dishwashing. With tracking sheets, you and your staff can note how much food you are wasting. Over the course of a week, a few weeks, or a month, you’ll have a better idea of how much food you are throwing away and can start implementing ways to reduce that amount. 

Restaurants can also adopt a circular food system that focuses on using only necessary resources and finding ways to reuse these resources. Restaurants can utilize this system by creating smaller menus with dishes that use similar ingredients. Restaurants might also compost food scraps that can’t be used and use the compost to grow vegetables. 

5. Disregarding Marketing

Eco-friendly restaurants are popular, but you still need to create awareness about your restaurant and your sustainable practices to attract customers. It is important to create a thorough marketing plan, and you’ll want to focus on the following:

  • Identify your potential customers. 
  • Create a compelling brand message focusing on your unique eco-friendly practices and products.
  • Establish an online presence by utilizing social media platforms.
  • Collaborate with influencers in the sustainability and food industries. 
  • Engage with your community by participating in local events like farmers’ markets or food festivals. 

6. Underestimating the Costs of Sustainable Materials 

Switching cleaning supplies to eco-friendly ones can increase expenses as sustainable materials are often more expensive. It’s important to do thorough research to get a realistic understanding of the costs involved in sustainable practices. 

A sustainable restaurant also wants to be energy-efficient. In the long run, eco-friendly equipment like energy-saving appliances, LED lighting, and low-flow faucets can reduce your utility bills significantly. Ensure you budget for the initial start-up costs, as the upfront investment might seem expensive. 

You might also want to look into alternative financing options, as there are numerous loans and grants available for eco-friendly businesses. 

7. Not Sourcing Locally

Sourcing ingredients on the other side of the world will significantly increase your carbon footprint. You want to source your food as close to your restaurant as possible, as this will reduce the energy and resources required to transport produce. You’ll also be able to support your local community. Locally sourced food is often also fresher and cheaper. Many sustainable restaurants also grow their own vegetables and herbs on their rooftops or in their kitchens. 

8. Treating Staff Poorly

Sustainable practices include considering the environment and your fellow humans. Employees are more likely to opt for sustainable, long-term careers in hospitality if you create a work environment where staff feel safe, supported, and valued. Excellent working conditions and a happy environment will attract and retain talent and increase employee engagement. 

Sharing your sustainable goals with staff members regularly can also instill a sense of meaning and purpose in their work. Employees who know their work contributes to improving the world are more likely to be motivated and fulfilled. 

9. Not Supporting Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative farming supports local biodiversity and ecosystems, restores healthy soils, and aims to farm and ranch in harmony with nature. This farming approach benefits the environment and your sustainable restaurant. By supporting small-scale food producers, your restaurant can tell a more comprehensive story and foster a greater understanding among your staff and customers about where food comes from. 

Regenerative farming also celebrates seasonality. Working with seasonal ingredients allows you to create delectable seasonal menus and a buzz about what dishes you’ll serve when the seasons change. 

Sustain Your Environmentally Friendly Efforts

By upholding your sustainable practices and avoiding common mistakes, you, your staff, community, customers, and the environment can enjoy all the benefits of sustainability.

One of the sustainable practices customers care about deeply is the use of eco-friendly packaging. If you’re looking for green cups, straws, utensils, and clamshells, visit our product page. If you’d like more information about our products and our own sustainable practices, please contact us online

Sustain Your Environmentally Friendly Efforts
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