10 Affordable Ways to Run a Sustainable Restaurant

Sustainability is more than just a passing trend in the industry. Customers are increasingly looking for brands whose values align with theirs.

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Because of the global shift towards sustainability and the expectation that companies do their part to be eco-friendly, businesses need to make their sustainability goals known. And that includes restaurants. Guests want to know that the food is locally and ethically sourced and that management minimizes its environmental impact.

Because of this, lots of restaurants are now looking to become more sustainable, but of course, you still want to do it the most cost-effective way. Not only will this improve your corporate responsibility, but it also increases your profit margins since customers will spend more on sustainable brands.

When you’re in the restaurant business, you’re not just selling food. You’re also selling your values—and customers are more likely to buy from businesses with the same values. So, to make an excellent impression on your customers, going green is a good place to start.

Here are 10 low-cost ways to make your restaurant more sustainable.

1. Eco-Friendly Supply Chains

This is an essential aspect of a restaurant and is the most significant change you can make if you’re committing to sustainability. Having a “green” supply chain means a lot of things, but the easiest way to improve it is by sourcing locally.

Reducing fuel consumption alone can easily reduce your carbon footprint to consider. Plus, if you can source locally, you’ll be helping your community too.

Choose your suppliers wisely, though—make sure they source their products responsibly, and that they have ethical business practices. Try contacting local farmers or fisheries to help boost the local economy. Oftentimes, they can even offer you bulk discounts for partnering with them.

2. Green Menus

Plates of fruit and vegetable dishes on a blue table

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You also want to update your menu to one based on what’s in season. Seasonal produce can be cheaper to buy due to the volume available on the market. As an additional advantage, you’ll be serving food at its freshest—something your customers will appreciate.

Alongside this, offer more vegetarian, vegan, and other meatless dishes to customers. By committing to more plant-based options, you help lessen your environmental impact.

3. Responsible Seafood Sourcing

As more documentaries show the impacts of overfishing and the tonnes of garbage in the ocean, it’s clear there has been a lot of harm caused to the underwater ecosystems. As a result, more and more people are being more conscious in their decisions.

So, if you serve seafood, customers will want to know if it’s sourced sustainably or not. Ensure you’re sourcing from seafood suppliers who practice sustainable fishing. You can also check local and federal guidelines for serving seafood to be confident your suppliers are compliant with standards and properly certified. 

4. Homegrown Produce

On-site gardens don’t have to just be ornamental. Growing your own produce is more affordable in some cases and impressive to customers. By not relying on external sources for certain products, you’re also becoming more self-sustaining. You’ll also increase efficiency by having these ingredients close at hand.

While a huge array of vegetables might be more work to maintain, you can instead grow fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. There both hearty and easy to grow in a lot of places.

If you’re in a more urban location, you can also consider a rooftop garden. And still, if you really don’t have the space, even windowsill herbs and container plants can reduce your need for third-party sources.

5. Upcycled and Sustainable Decor

Instead of purchasing new and expensive decor for your restaurant, check out local auctions and thrift shops. You’ll be surprised by what you can find if you look around enough. Plus, you may find something more suited to your aesthetic than what’s in the stores. It’s also a way to save since you’re repurposing furniture and giving it another life.

Beyond interior decor, it’s vital to go sustainable with your installations. Here are a few ways to be more sustainable and cut down on operating costs:

  • Use LED light bulbs for fixtures
  • Invest in low flow bathroom and kitchen fittings
  • Go with inverter air conditioning
  • Consider timers or motion sensors for lights
  • Use energy-efficient appliances

These may be small changes, but they can make a big impact when you do all of them.

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6. Reduced Waste

Pay close attention to how much rubbish your kitchen throws out at the end of the day or month and act accordingly. If you notice plenty of leftovers, you can reduce portion sizes or offer small and large options. If you’re throwing out a significant amount of expired ingredients, assess your inventory and find ways to cut down on supply.

You can also improve your inventory purchasing with a cloud-based POS and restaurant management system, which can help you compare sales against inventory and reduce waste due to spoilage and overordering.

Another primary source of waste is single-use plastics—and many countries are starting to ban them. Reduce the number of disposables you go through. If you offer takeaway options, ask beforehand if the customer requires spoons and forks. If possible, switch to bamboo and other sustainable utensils, and use paper bags.

Additionally, offer straws by request instead of automatically, unless the drink requires it. It may cost slightly more, but try switching to paper straws instead. Of course, some customers may still require plastic straws to drink for other reasons, so make sure you have some on hand just in case.

7. Recycling

If your area has a local recycling program, then you can sign up. Many are free or affordable to join and are incredibly beneficial in the long run. You can also donate food scraps, fruit and vegetable waste, tea bags, cardboard sleeves, and paper towels to your local composting service.

Alternatively, you can save your own kitchen scraps for gardening if you have the ability to as we mentioned earlier.

8. Green Cleaners

Food isn’t the only aspect that should be eco-friendly in your restaurant. Assess cleaning products you use and see what sustainable, non-hazardous options you can switch to instead. This goes for everything from the soaps in the bathroom to the cleaning solutions for the floors.

If you’re can source from local small businesses, even better! Then, you’re helping your community alongside going eco-friendly. You can even form a partnership, highlighting them on your social media page and working together to promote each other’s businesses

8. Going Paperless

For menus, receipts, kitchen tickets—wherever you can lessen paper options, go for it. Have customers access menus via QR codes, or invest in cheap tablets to hand out. If you must use a traditional fold-out menu, print on recycled paper or laminate them so they’re reusable.

For the kitchen, going paperless can increase efficiency. Plus, you can’t lose the ticket and prevent any disappointed customers when their meal is delayed. It reduces paper waste and makes things clearer for the kitchen staff to work with.

You can also encourage guests to opt for paperless receipts by providing you with their email addresses. By doing this, you can also have them opt into your email list—a two-in-one deal.

A waitress operating a computer to input an order

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10. Community Projects

Another way to be sustainable is to support local charities. Scout your local community and see what environmental projects you can support, like a rain garden, community garden, or other charities.

Alternatively, you can donate packaged leftovers and unused food to the local food kitchen to support people in need. There will be plenty of causes to support if you simply look and it’ll be great for your marketing, too. Doing good isn’t just beneficial for your community—but for your reputation as well.

Go Sustainable With the Right Tools 

Given this change to the industry landscape, right now is the best time to become more sustainable as a business. You don’t need to overhaul all at once; take the process one step at a time. Even just a few of the changes we outlined above can help you get started.

One easy way to start is by monitoring your food waste with inventory management software.

Meet your sustainability goals faster with restaurant software, like Mosaic. Mosaic is a restaurant POS system in the Philippines that allows you to craft your menu strategically and help you make informed decisions based on business insights. With Mosaic Solutions, you’ll have access to real-time data to help you boost your sales and have more visibility on what foods are going to waste—and what ones aren’t.

If you want to streamline your purchasing, inventory, and front-and-back-house operations, contact Mosaic Solutions today. We’ll help your business thrive with our industry-leading solutions.