Restaurant Sustainability – How and Why

Sustainability is a word that continues to be thrown around in businesses of all sizes and in all industries, but what exactly does it mean for the restaurant industry? Imagine a restaurant that runs on 100 percent renewable energy, produces no waste, captures and recycles water, supports and helps local farms, has a customer line out the door and has local community members eager to get hired.

Sustainability for restaurants means promoting social equity, operates in a way that protects, preserves or restores the natural environment, enhances the lives of people and communities and contributes to economic prosperity for shareholders and stakeholders. Because the topic of sustainability is so broad and all-encompassing, let’s just look at the environmental aspect of sustainability in the restaurant industry.

Today’s society has an increased demand for transparency and increased consumer expectations, implementing sustainable practices is will be imperative for the long-term health and success of the industry. The restaurant industry is facing many challenges today including slowing growth, high operating costs, employee recruitment and retention and the need to attract a younger demographic customer. A corporate commitment to sustainability for a restaurant business seems like it should be a no-brainer, as it directly addresses each of these issues.

74% of Millennials and 72% of Generation Z consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, according to The Nielsen Company. The report also states that consumer brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability outperform those that don’t, growing 4 percent globally compared to less than 1 percent. In addition, 86 percent of consumers are willing to switch brands to one associated with a good cause given similar price and quality, according to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study.

Sustainability can also have a major impact on internal stakeholders by helping to recruit top talent, increase employee engagement and help reduce turnover by retaining employees. Reducing turnover and increasing the engagement and production of employees can lead to substantial cost savings and efficiency gains for large businesses. An engaged employee that is proud of where they work is likely to be a more productive worker and to stay with a company longer.

Within the restaurants, sustainable practices will benefit a business’s bottom line by reducing operating costs. Reducing a business’s impact on the environment means reducing waste, and reducing waste means saving money.

Key sustainability actions for Restaurants:

  • Cut Energy Waste. Leverage rebate programs to improve ROI
  • Move towards Zero Waste. Every $1 invested in waste reduction create $14 in return
  • Reduce Water Waste. Saves money and energy.
  • Manage your emissions. Measure and reduce GHG emissions
  • Impact your supply chain. Focus on local, sustainable sourced through sustainable procurement policies


Now Get Started! How?

Implement sustainability strategy through these steps:

  1. Engage Stakeholders
  2. Assess current state
  3. Identify key impact areas to address
  4. Develop a Metrics tracking system
  5. Develop a baseline measurement and benchmark
  6. Set formal improvement Targets and Goals
  7. Develop Employee Engagement programs
  8. Identify new Technologies, Policies and Programs
  9. Implement it
  10. Continuous Improvement

This is a very exciting areas with huge opportunity to reduce food waste and improve our life on earth.


Mark van Engelen is founder Nya Sustainability Consulting, a consulting firm helping organizations implement sustainability. Services include sustainability strategy development, zero waste planning, GHG emissions calculating and planning, energy/water management, employee engagement and guidance in B Corp and carbon neutral certification.

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