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3 Focus Points for the Modern, Sustainable Restaurant: Waste, Wellness, Local

By Janet Haugan, Vice President of Customer Success  ///  December 8, 2014

A sustainable restaurant should focus on food waste, health, and local ingredients.

In the foodservice and restaurant industry, pleasing customers is core to success: a happy customer is more likely to return to a restaurant, more likely to refer friends, and as research now shows, more likely to shell out some extra money if the operation shares values committed to sustainability.

Research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) shows that diners place food waste, health and nutrition, and locally sourced ingredients as the top three issues they'd like restaurants to focus on. And they're willing to pay for it.

The SRA's report, The Discerning Diner: How consumers' attitudes to eating out have become more sophisticated, indicates that 56% of those surveyed would pay a premium for their meal if they knew the restaurant was investing in environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

1. Food Waste

LeanPath research indicates that 4-10% of the food that a restaurant or foodservice operation purchases ends up in the trash or compost bin before it even reaches a customer’s plate. This is referred to as pre-consumer waste, or kitchen waste. After the food gets to a diner, they choose what to eat and what to leave on the plate or discard, and this is the post-consumer waste. Here are a few ideas related to combating each of these waste stages.

Pre-consumer Food Waste
  • Track all your waste. Record the type and amount of all food you throw away, as well as the reason, time, and any other information you think is necessary. Once you measure it, you can manage it.
  • Adjust based on your findings. Once you know what's in your waste stream, think about how you can adapt to reduce it. Maybe it's purchasing less of an ingredient, or maybe it's re-portioning.
Post-consumer Food Waste
  • Pay attention to what comes back. If customers are routinely returning certain dishes, or parts of dishes, consider adjusting your menu. Give the people what they want, or at least, what they'll eat.
  • Reduce portion sizes. We've all fallen victim to the mountain of french fries that doesn't get eaten. Don't be the restaurant that puts us in that position. Adjust portion sizes based on what’s commonly discarded or often half portion sizes as part of your standard menu offering.

2. Health & Nutrition

As the food industry becomes more transparent about what's in the food we eat, many consumers are leaning towards healthier, more nutritious food, even if it means paying a little extra for it.

Of course, we can't tell you how to change your menu to accommodate customer preferences in this regard, but we can suggest putting some extra thought into your dishes' healthiness and nutrition. Try to come up with how you can provide some healthier options, or make current dishes more nutritious by substituting certain ingredients.

Fortunately, a dish's health and nutrition can often be improved by using fresh, local ingredients, which brings us to number three on our list.

3. Locally Sourced Ingredients

Buying local food is gaining ground among individual consumers, and it's no surprise many people would like to see the restaurants they eat at do the same. The benefits of buying local food make up for the slight increase in cost, as you'll be improving the local economy, helping local people, and getting fresher ingredients. And customers will pay more for it!

Get in touch with a local farm to see you can buy in bulk from them, or check use the USDA Farmers Markets Search tool to find a farmers market in your area.

Every restaurant and foodservice operation is different, with different needs, different available resources, and different clientele. But all restaurants can strive for efficiency, responsibility, and sustainability.

Reduce restaurant food waste with LeanPath food waste prevention systems.

Topics: Food Waste Musings