Sustainable Restaurant 101: Reducing your Waste Footprint

Running a sustainable restaurant is no longer just a trendy concept. It’s quickly becoming the focus for how businesses operate because it is what consumers expect. Environmentally-friendly practices are what can set you restaurant operation apart from your competition.

The major project in establishing a successful, sustainable restaurant chain is to reduce the overall amount of waste you produce. Here are 6 basic steps you can take to do just that:

Step 1: Plan
Just like with any project, the first step is to plan what it is that you want to do. This is when you establish short-term, long-term, and overall goals for your restaurant chain. The complexity of multiple locations means that your goals need to reflect small changes across a broader scope of individual locations. Think: averages, not individual results. Sure, there needs to be a baseline that your locations must meet – but overall results are a collection.

Step 2: Measure
You’ll never get to where you want to be unless you know where you are starting. Measuring waste can be a tedious task, especially across multiple locations. The important thing here is to measure everything. Trash from the kitchen, food waste, trash from the dining area, even trash from waste bins outside of your restaurants. With food waste being such a focus these days for restaurants, it’s easy to look past other waste streams like used cooking oil, lightbulbs, paper, cardboard, plastic, and even electronic waste like old computers.  If it ends up in your dumpster – measure it. Your current trash vendors can help you with some of this, but not all of it. It’s a detailed process, and some serious time need to be considered.

Step 3: Identify Problem Areas
Now that you’ve taken the time to collect data on the waste you’re producing, it’s time to look at how to reduce it. Landfill diversion can be achieved in a lot of different ways depending on what the waste stream is. For instance, if you’re producing a lot of food waste, you can look into composting or food donation programs. If you have a lot of post-consumer trash, there are recycling options you can take advantage of. Also, you can look at specific locations and see if you have “trouble spots” that produce more trash than similar locations. Analyzing all of the data you’ve put together will give you your first steps toward sustainability.

Step 4: Find Solutions/Vendors
Once you have identified your problem areas, the next step is to start building solutions. Every waste stream requires a vendor. Example: to curb post-consumer waste you are going to offer more recycling options. This means you’ve got to find a vendor in that area that handles recyclable materials. If you’re going to make composting more readily available, there is a vendor for that. Your solution to vendor ratio is almost going to be 1:1, unless you go with a fully-managed solution like Quest offers.

Step 5: Train
You’re getting close to the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve identified your problem areas and found solutions and vendors to start tackling your waste issues. The next step is making sure that your employees are trained on the new processes and procedures. Everything from what to do, to who to call if something isn’t right. The key to any successful sustainability program for a restaurant will always boil down to the people doing the work.

Step 6: Communicate
The final, and most important piece of the puzzle is: communication. From the c-level down – everyone in the company needs to know the goals, the successes, the trouble-spots, and all aspects of the program. Employees need to have a way to let managers know what works and what doesn’t. Milestones that have been met need to be communicated and rewarded. Most importantly, you need to let your customers know how well you’re doing. Sustainability is just as much of a marketing tool as it is a money-saver.
Running a sustainable restaurant is a challenge. Running a successful restaurant chain is an endeavor. At Quest, we know this because we have helped over 20,000 customer locations across North America waste less, spend less, and look great doing it. Contact us today and let us help your restaurant chain reach its sustainability goals.

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