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Creating a Sustainable Menu: 8 Tips for Eco-Conscious Restaurant Owners

Restaurant sustainability is a hot topic as the food and beverage industry scrambles to adopt eco-friendliness throughout its operations and supply chain. 

More establishments have jumped on board, overhauling their approach to become environmentally-friendly businesses. Yet, sustainability can occur incrementally with minor changes, like modifying the menu.

Here’s how a growing demand influences sustainability in the restaurant world and ways you can create a more sustainable menu for your guests.

Sustainable Restaurants in High Demand

Over the last decade, sustainability has become a cornerstone of business strategies — and the restaurant industry is no different. The demand for eco-friendly brands is rising as 21% of customers expect the food and beverage industry to shift green. Likewise, seven in 10 people would prefer eating from a sustainable restaurant.

Amid increasing inflation placing undue financial pressure on restaurant businesses, 45% of diners would pay more to order take-out from a sustainable establishment.

These findings align with similar consumer surveys indicating a higher demand for eco-friendliness. About 85% of consumers have shifted their buying habits toward environmentally-friendly goods. The trend is most elevated among Generation Z and Millennials at 24% and 32%, respectively.

8 Ways to Create a Sustainable Menu

Eco-conscious restaurant owners understand the importance of transforming the dining experience to satisfy customers. Modifying the menu presents numerous opportunities for restaurants to embrace the green trend. Here are eight ways to create a sustainable menu.

Scale Back Menu Offerings

Some menus have a long list of options to satisfy every taste bud. However, the longer the list, the more inventory you need. Likewise, only a handful of offerings may be popular among patrons.

Scaling back the menu helps reduce food waste significantly and increases operational efficiency. With a limited menu, restaurants avoid excess food spoilage and the financial loss of buying bulk items you don’t need. Customers will also have an easier time deciding what to eat, making their dining experiences more enjoyable.

Serve Less Meat

A recent study shed light on the importance of plant-based diets for the environment. Vegan diets produced 25.1% less greenhouse gas emissions than meat consumption, using 46.4% less water and 25.1% less land.

Assess your menu and decide whether to replace specific meat options with plant-based offerings. You could also swap meat out for sustainable seafood like salmon. Globally, 3 billion people depend on seafood in their daily diets.

Offer a Seasonal Menu

Customers deserve only the freshest ingredients when they visit your establishment. Therefore, you might create seasonal menus instead of regular ones. 

A seasonal menu comprises the freshest ingredients of the season. Restaurants may want to partner with local growers for the most nutritious harvests while reducing food miles. About 38% of customers would dine at a restaurant serving locally-sourced ingredients.

Learn what produce grows seasonally in your area and build your menus around what’s available.

Source From Local Vendors

Speaking of local growers, restaurateurs should localize their supply chain as much as possible for all non-food inventory, including paper goods, linens, equipment and servicing. 

Partnering with nearby vendors supports the local economy and decreases transportation emissions. Fostering community connections is vital to your restaurant’s success, allowing you to build your reputation among others as a reputable business and sustainable eatery.

Limit Food Waste

The food and beverage industry is responsible for ample food waste — restaurants account for 34% of the 60% of discarded food worldwide. Meanwhile, the U.S. alone wasted 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion in 2010. 

Shrinking the menu is an excellent way to boost your restaurant’s sustainability. However, your establishment can implement alternative food waste management protocols to further your environmental initiatives.

Consider donating leftover food to local food banks or homeless shelters. You could also offer excess food to local community gardens as compost or grow a small garden at the restaurant. Maintain soil quality with a raised garden bed filled with herbs or vegetables, allowing you to add organic matter for healthier plant growth and the freshest ingredients.

Be Transparent

Customers want transparency when it comes to sustainability. Tell them why you’ve altered your menu for eco-friendliness and how it makes a difference. 

Add the carbon footprint next to each item on the menu or include a story on the back about your restaurant’s sustainability journey. Patrons will better understand why changes have occurred and will more likely appreciate and support your efforts.

Buy Organic Ingredients

The health effects of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers have raised caution among consumers. Most prefer eating organic food to protect themselves from potential harm.

Make organic food the main attraction on your sustainable menu. When you source clean ingredients, you support the shift toward sustainable farming practices, driving down the overall costs of producing organic goods. 

Opt for Biodegradable Packaging

Consumers have spoken — 76% prefer restaurants not to use excess plastic packaging for orders and deliveries. 

Plastic pollution is a serious problem worldwide and is not easily eliminated from the environment. Plastic could take 20 to 500 years to break down, at which point it becomes microplastics.

Couple your sustainable menu with recyclable and biodegradable packaging for take-out and take-home containers. Your restaurant will then no longer contribute to the plastic pollution crisis. 

A Sustainable Menu Is Good for Your Bottom Line

Sustainable changes to your restaurant menu will not go unnoticed by customers, as many are eager to adopt greener lifestyles with businesses’ help. Everyone has a role to play in creating a more sustainable planet. Your restaurant’s eco-conscious menu is part of the solution. 

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