A big question for the modern business owner today is how to be more environmentally friendly. As sustainability and carbon footprints become more and more the subject of discussion in board rooms across the country, small businesses are beginning to realize that this trend affects them deeply as well — leading to more green restaurants popping up in the market.
We see it coming into restaurants’ core concepts more and more. For instance, Gramercy Farmer & The Fish in New York City has a true farm-to-table concept – their own 5-acre farm in Upstate New York provides the restaurant’s produce (and their seafood selection comes from a local sustainable seafood provider).
Green restaurants especially consider their carbon footprint because of the large amount of food waste and water use they have to deal with, on top of their overall energy usage. Many restaurant owners know they probably should be more environmentally friendly, but they don’t exactly understand why it’s a benefit to their business.
So, is it an ethical practice, a financial opportunity, or a brand positioning for green restaurants? Really, it can (and should) be all three at the same time.
Financial opportunity for green restaurants
At its core, going green centers around efficiency, and efficiency is inextricably tied into saving your business money. Waste costs restaurants money, and leaning into sustainability trends can actually lead to lowering your bills.
While joining the ever-burgeoning list of green restaurants in the U.S. can be intimidating at first, you’re basically just improving your business in a way that saves you money in the long run and helps the environment. Think about how much you spend on your utilities every month. Think about how even just cutting down 10% on your electricity or water use can make a big difference in your bills over the course of a year.
But it’s not just your energy usage that can be slimmed down through going green. Restaurants should look at their food costs and food waste. Are you training your cooks to prep your ingredients properly? Have you designed your menu so that you can most efficiently use your ingredients in different ways (i.e. going nose-to-tail)?
Brand positioning for green restaurants
Part of the appeal of going green is making it part of your brand as a company. More and more, consumers are actively making purchase choices based on the responsible, ethical stances of the business. This especially goes for Millennial and Generation Z consumers, who have had the importance of recycling and humane food practices instilled in them from a very early age. If you’re implementing sustainable and environmentally friendly procedures, these younger customers will view green restaurants more positively from the get-go.
The trick, of course, is to make sure you’re actually being up front about these practices! It will do your reputation no good to implement these standards but never make that effort a part of your marketing. Make a point of including some mention of your green initiatives at least once in every description of your restaurant, whether it’s on your website, on print and other media ads, on Yelp and other online services, or on your Rewards Network profile.
And be specific about what you’re doing. Are you working with sustainable fish suppliers? Do you have a running compost that feeds your restaurant’s garden? Do your trash stations offer a recycling option? Have you integrated nose-to-tail cooking into your menu?
Ethical practice for green restaurants
In some ways, the ethical practice green restaurants employ can seem like an afterthought because, at least on the surface, it doesn’t appear to have a lot of tangible results. But making responsible green initiatives a major part of your business strategy is just as much about strengthening your business (through holding your work to a higher standard) as it is about saving money or building your brand. That higher — and consistent — standard can do a lot to stabilize a business.
Also, building up and maintaining strong ethics throughout your business can be a real morale boost for your employees. For many employees, it’s important to feel proud of the work they do and the green restaurants they’re helping to thrive. Knowing they can be proud of the sustainability practices their workplace embraces can help them feel enthusiastic about doing a good job.
One final note: if you’re planning on putting green practices in place in your restaurant, don’t just go half way. The only way you’ll see results (whether in your brand, in your financial efficiency, or in reducing your overall carbon footprint) is if you commit and remain consistent in your roll-out.
Need to find more ways to cut costs in your restaurant budget besides going green? We have lots of ideas in our free eBook “How You Can Control Your Costs” for green restaurants and others alike: