Back to Blog

Restaurant Sustainability

YOU WOULDN’T BE WRONG IF YOU FELT LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT AND SUSTAINABILITY WERE “HOTTER” TOPICS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS THAN EVER BEFORE – ESPECIALLY AMONG MILLENNIALS AND GEN Z.

Sustainability is increasingly more relevant as consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, have become more aware of the damage that food production has caused to the planet.

-SmartBrief, 2020


Remaining relevant and in touch with your valued customers – and the annual celebration of Earth Day – are a few good reasons to explore what restaurant leaders are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. Here are a few of the “trending topics” that mindful restaurateurs are staying on top of.

Eliminating Food Waste

Anything you can do to operate more efficiently is a good thing, right? Reducing food waste includes a multitude of actions you can take – from re-evaluating your menu and understanding which items are commonly wasted, reducing portion sizes and sourcing locally, to partnering with an organization to make food-based donations. The National Restaurant Association has compiled great food waste reduction resources. See their guide here.

It’s certainly something your customers are thinking about: So much so that IKEA has released the IKEA ScrapsBook—"a cookbook dedicated to cooking with the little things we usually throw away. Featuring 50 recipes created in collaboration with chefs across North America and waste-saving tips, all designed to help you live a little more sustainably in your kitchen” (IKEA, 2021).

Reducing Carbon Footprint, Increasing Consumer Interest through Plant-Based Options

Interest is growing in plant-based meat alternatives. Aware of Generation Z’s growing concern about the sustainability of global beef production, many major QSRs have introduced plant-based options to their menu, including McDonald’s, Burger King, White Castle, Dunkin’, and Qdoba. If this is an option for you, it’s a great way to innovate your menu and increase the engagement of like-minded consumers.

12% of people who had tried either [the Impossible or Beyond-brand] burger said that their primary reason for trying the burger was social responsibility.

-Business Insider, 2019

Packaging & Recycling

Packaging and single-use containers are a major source of waste. Nearly every restaurant has gone through an evolution in packaging and single-use containers, from the days of Styrofoam clamshells to the seemingly universal acceptance of recycled or recyclable materials now. That evolution continues to churn.

Green Packaging Companies: A number of companies are stepping up to fill the need. Companies like Bio-Plus Earth, Be Green Packaging and World Centric are promoting their greener packaging options. Think fiber-based coffee cup lids, 100% recycled cardboard paper takeout boxes, cutlery and even multi-compartment, plant-based Bento boxes. As seen here.

Order, Eat, Return: Players with footprints as large as Burger King are even planning a limited test run of reusable containers and cups next year.

The reusable containers will be available for beverages, hot and cold, and boxes for burgers and sandwiches. After use, the packaging can be returned to receptacles at select Burger King locations, where they will be washed and reused. The entire system is voluntary and requires consumers to opt-in. Customers pay a deposit along with their food purchase, which is refunded when the containers are returned.

-Mintel, 2020

Yum & How2Recycle Partnership: Even systems as universal as Yum! Brands are getting in on the trend as well. According to the How2Recycle labeling program, “Yum!’s membership with How2Recycle will help its brands in reaching a number of their waste reduction goals. To date, the brands have made the following 2025 commitments (How2Recycle, 2021):

  • “KFC will make all plastic-based, consumer-facing packaging recoverable or reusable globally.”
  • “Taco Bell will make all its consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable, and add recycling and/or composting bins to restaurants globally where infrastructure permits.”

Keeping Up with Your Highly Efficient Neighbors

Take a look at these numbers from the National Restaurant Association regarding energy-efficient equipment use in the industry. Those surveyed said:

  • 79 percent use CFL or LED lighting.
  • 46 percent use EPA Energy Star-rated refrigerators.
  • 44 percent use low-flush toilets.

Beyond the Buzz Words

“Sustainability,” “locally sourced,” “waste reduction,” “transparency.” They’re more than just the latest industry buzz. They reflect a growing consumer sentiment and preference.

An in-depth consultation with an Ad Cucina expert can help you maximize your efficiency, minimize your environmental impact and align your offering with the values that create loyal, satisfied and profitable customers.

Get in touch and let’s chat.