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20 Tips to Maintain Restaurant Sustainability

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In today’s restaurant industry, embracing sustainable practices cannot be overstated. Maintaining restaurant sustainability is multifaceted, from minimizing food waste to sourcing locally and implementing energy-efficient measures. 

In this article, we will explore essential tips and strategies for restaurants to minimize their environmental footprint while enhancing operational efficiency and running sustainable restaurants. Let’s dive into the details!

What is restaurant sustainability?

Restaurant sustainability refers to operating a restaurant in a manner that minimizes its environmental impact, supports local communities, and promotes social responsibility. It involves various initiatives and strategies to reduce food waste, conserve resources, support local producers, and ensure the well-being of both present and future generations. 

By prioritizing restaurant sustainability practices and initiatives such as reducing carbon emissions and embracing sustainable sourcing, restaurants can contribute to a healthier planet and foster a positive reputation within their communities and the wider restaurant industry.

restaurant sustainability - restaurant sustainability

Statistics on sustainability in restaurants

According to ZipDo, most consumers, 67%, prefer purchasing from companies known for their commitment to sustainability. A significant proportion, 52% of adults, prefer dining at restaurants that provide organic or environmentally friendly food options.

According to the National Restaurant Association survey, 38% of adult consumers indicated a preference for restaurants offering locally sourced foods, while another 30% expressed a likelihood of choosing establishments with environmentally friendly or organically grown food options. 

Additionally, the research revealed a notable appeal for restaurants serving locally sourced wines and beers, particularly among younger generations. 48% of millennials and 40% of Gen Zs favor this approach.

restaurant sustainability - food containers

Consumers’ sustainability preferences extend beyond food and beverages. They also seek packaging for off-premises orders crafted from superior, ideally sustainable materials while maintaining quality and durability during travel. 

Tips to maintain restaurant sustainability

How do you run a sustainable restaurant? What do environmentally conscious restaurants do to maintain their sustainability? Is incorporating sustainable practices difficult, and how do you begin doing it? 

Below, we compiled a list of helpful tips to maintain restaurant sustainability.

Tip 1. Opt for sustainable packaging

Opting for sustainable food packaging is a crucial aspect of restaurant sustainability efforts. Restaurants commonly use various packaging materials, including plastics, paper, cardboard, and biodegradable or compostable alternatives. Among these options, biodegradable or compostable packaging stands out as the better choice for several reasons.

Biodegradable packaging naturally breaks down into non-toxic substances over time, while compostable packaging transforms into nutrient-rich compost, benefiting soil health. Compared to traditional plastics, these options offer a sustainable solution, reducing environmental harm and supporting a circular economy. 

Despite potentially higher initial costs, the long-term benefits make using biodegradable and compostable packaging a wise choice for restaurants committed to sustainability and meeting consumers’ demands. 

Remember to use restaurant marketing tools to inform customers about your commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. 

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Tip 2. Encourage customers to bring their own food containers

Encouraging customers to bring their own food or drink containers is one of the restaurant marketing strategies dining establishments can implement to promote sustainability further. 

While it may not be feasible for food delivery services due to logistical reasons, such as food safety and hygiene concerns, it can be highly effective for dine-in or takeaway orders where customers visit the restaurant in person.

To incentivize this behavior, restaurants can offer discounts or rewards to customers who bring their own containers to encourage their participation.

restaurant sustainability - glass food containers

Tip 3. Prepare dishes using seasonal ingredients

Utilizing seasonal ingredients in cooking involves incorporating fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood, which are currently at their peak freshness and availability in a particular region. 

Benefits of using seasonal ingredients
  • Taste better: Seasonal foods are tastier because they’re picked when ripe.
  • Nutritional value: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often more nutrient-dense than their out-of-season counterparts. 
  • Supports local farmers: Buying seasonal foods helps local farmers and reduces pollution from transporting food.
  • Better for the environment: Seasonal foods need fewer chemicals to grow and save water.
  • Keeps menus interesting: Chefs can get creative with seasonal foods, so menus change and stay exciting.
  • Cost efficiency: Seasonal ingredients are often more affordable due to their abundance during peak harvest times. 

Tip 4. Reduce food waste

Food service businesses must minimize food waste to optimize costs, conserve resources, and reduce their environmental footprint. 

Efficiently managing food scraps and surplus ingredients offers several key benefits for restaurants:

  • Cost efficiency: Reducing food waste saves money on ingredient purchases and disposal expenses, improving financial performance.
  • Resource conservation: Managing food scraps conserves water, energy, and land, promoting sustainability and responsible resource use.
  • Environmental impact reduction: Minimizing waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions, helping combat climate change.
  • Community support: Donating surplus food to local charities supports those in need and fosters positive community relationships.
  • Innovative menu development: Creative use of surplus ingredients inspires menu innovation, offering exciting dishes while minimizing waste and maximizing profitability.

Learn more about how to reduce food waste from our helpful article. 

restaurant sustainability - reducing food waste

Tip 5. Invest in energy-efficient appliances

Investing in energy-efficient appliances is crucial for restaurants aiming to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

These appliances reduce energy usage, lower utility costs, and decrease environmental impact. Moreover, they boast advanced features that enhance kitchen efficiency. 

Examples of energy-efficient appliances
  • Energy-star-rated refrigerators and freezers
  • Induction cooktops
  • High-efficiency dishwashers
  • LED lighting fixtures
  • Combination ovens 
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Smart thermostats

Tip 6. Minimize water usage

Another way to maintain restaurant sustainability is by minimizing water consumption. 

By reducing water usage, restaurants can lower utility costs, conserve valuable resources, and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility. 

Water usage reduction initiatives
  • Install water-efficient fixtures like low-flow faucets and aerators
  • Promptly fix leaks and maintain plumbing
  • Run dishwashers and washing machines only when fully loaded
  • Serve water upon request
  • Consider installing water-recycling systems
  • Educate staff on water conservation

Tip 7. Partner with local farmers and producers

Partnering with local suppliers is a key strategy for restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability. 

By sourcing ingredients from local suppliers, restaurants can minimize transportation emissions associated with long-distance shipping of food products. This lowers global greenhouse gas emissions and supports the local economy while ensuring the freshness and quality of ingredients.  

restaurant sustainability - partnering with local suppliers

Tip 8. Use recycling and composting

Recycling is an increasingly popular way to increase ecological awareness. You can recycle your own waste or sort your waste into recycling bins. 

Composting decomposes organic materials, such as food scraps and yard waste, into nutrient-rich soil amendments known as compost. You can create your own compost to dispose of organic waste and create nutrient-rich soil. 

Collect food scraps and other organic waste generated during food preparation and dining for that purpose. These scraps are then transferred to a composting bin or system, where they undergo decomposition with the help of microorganisms. 

restaurant sustainability - recykling

Tip 9. Consider having your own restaurant kitchen garden

One of your eco-friendly initiatives could be starting your own kitchen garden. This involves dedicating space on-site or nearby to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables, and other produce used in your dishes. 

By having a kitchen garden, restaurants can significantly reduce food miles, promote organic and pesticide-free ingredients, and ensure freshness and quality. 

Additionally, it provides an educational opportunity for staff and customers, fosters a deeper connection to food sources, and enhances the restaurant’s overall sustainability and self-sufficiency.

restaurant sustainability - restaurant kitchen garden

Tip 10. Start small

If you are just starting to run a restaurant in the spirit of sustainability, consider your restaurant goals and what is currently achievable. Start with small steps and prepare an action plan considering the subsequent changes you intend to implement.

Start with small changes, e.g., offering linen napkins instead of paper napkins. Print your restaurant menu on recycled paper, which is even better if you post it on your website. Remember that in the Internet age, more and more customers check the restaurant’s website and reviews about the restaurant before considering visiting or placing an order online.

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Tip 11. Donate surplus food

One of the restaurant sustainability initiatives could be donating surplus food to local charities or food banks to minimize food waste and support those in need. 

This practice reduces the environmental impact of food disposal and helps provide nutritious meals to individuals and families facing food insecurity. 

restaurant sustainability - donating food

Tip 12. Buy eco-friendly cleaning products

To run a sustainable restaurant, consider the cleaning products you use. 

Traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. A better option is to use eco-friendly cleaning products that are chemical-free and healthier for you and the environment.

How to ensure cleaning products are eco-friendly?

Look for labels or certifications indicating the following:

  • “Eco-Friendly” or “Environmentally Friendly”: This label suggests the product has been formulated considering environmental impact.
  • “Green Seal Certified”: Products with this certification meet rigorous environmental standards, including reduced toxicity and biodegradability.
  • “EPA Safer Choice”: This label indicates that the product meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for safer chemical ingredients.
  • “Biodegradable”: Indicates that the product can break down naturally without harming the environment.
  • “Plant-Based” or “Natural Ingredients”: Products made from renewable, plant-derived ingredients are typically more eco-friendly than those derived from petroleum or other non-renewable sources.
  • “Non-Toxic” or “Chemical-Free”: Indicates that the product does not contain harmful chemicals that can pose risks to human health or the environment.

Tip 13. Train staff on sustainability practices

One of the most important steps is to involve the rest of the team in your sustainability activities. 

Changing habits takes time, so if, for example, your chef has been doing a given thing in the same way for several years, the change will not happen overnight; it is simply impossible. First, he must believe in the sense of this change, and this is where your role as a restaurant owner comes into play. 

You need to educate your staff on sustainability practices. It’s a good idea to take your staff to local suppliers so they can learn more about the products they use every day in the kitchen. Thanks to this, your staff will later be able to explain to guests why there is no offer on a given day, for example, a dessert with fruit that grows only seasonally for two months of the year.

restaurant sustainability - restaurant staff

Tip 14. Focus your marketing efforts online

You can significantly reduce the use of paper and other physical materials traditionally associated with marketing campaigns using digital advertising, promotions, and outreach platforms. 

Additionally, online marketing allows for targeted advertising, enabling you to reach your desired audience more efficiently and reduce unnecessary resource consumption associated with broader, less targeted marketing approaches. 

Here you can check examples of restaurant digital marketing strategies. 

restaurant sustainability - loyalty program

Tip 15. Implement cutting-edge restaurant technologies

Implementing the latest restaurant technology can be crucial in maintaining restaurant sustainability. 


For example, an online ordering system, automated restaurant inventory management systems, and mobile payment systems can reduce paper usage and promote a more eco-friendly dining experience.

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Consider implementing a QR code menu in your establishment. After scanning the QR code with their phone, customers will be redirected to your website or restaurant’s application to view your offerings. They can also place orders online and have them delivered to their tables.

Key Takeaways

  • Implementing eco-friendly food packaging solutions helps to minimize environmental impact and contribute to a more sustainable food service industry.
  • Partnering with local farmers and suppliers reduces carbon emissions from transportation and supports the local economy.
  • Implementing composting, portion control, and food donation helps reduce food waste and environmental impact.
  • Investing in energy-efficient appliances lowers energy consumption and utility costs.
  • Using digital platforms for marketing and promotions reduces paper waste and allows for targeted advertising.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Sustainability in the food industry means minimizing environmental impact, supporting social equity, and ensuring economic viability throughout the supply chain. This involves sustainable farming, fair labor, and efficient resource management to create a resilient and responsible food system.

To reduce the carbon footprint in a restaurant, consider implementing the following measures:

  • Invest in energy-efficient appliances to minimize energy consumption.
  • Minimize food waste by optimizing portion sizes, composting organic waste, and donating surplus food to local charities.
  • Source ingredients locally and seasonally to reduce emissions associated with transportation and support local farmers.
  • Install water-efficient fixtures, fix leaks promptly, and implement water-saving practices.
  • To lower the carbon footprint of menu items, offer plant-based options, reduce meat consumption, and incorporate sustainable seafood choices.
  • Use reusable or recyclable packaging and tableware.
  • Consider using renewable energy sources to offset the restaurant’s energy consumption.
Picture of Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Digital content creator, passionate about helping restaurants to start selling online.

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