In 2020 more than ever before, sustainability can be integral to the long-term success of a business.
Business owners have many responsibilities to juggle, and for restaurant owners and managers in particular, it can sometimes feel like a thousand different (perfectly seasoned) plates need to be kept spinning. Between scheduling, team management, merchandising, customer service, and the seemingly never-ending curveballs and challenges of 2020, sustainability may not always be top of mind. However, in 2020 more than ever before, sustainability can be integral to the long-term success of a business.
Why does sustainability matter?
Previously, sustainability was only of top importance for businesses that included green efforts in their customer-facing image, often emphasizing this facet in their marketing materials to try and capture a certain demographic. As climate care efforts have become increasingly woven into the mainstream fabric, this is no longer the case. Sustainability practices have become a factor for where the everyday diner decides to eat—one survey from Business Insider revealed that 47 percent of people have ditched businesses that didn’t align with their values. As sustainability has continued to inch forward as a determining factor, it’s worth it for every business to at least engage in the conversation of how to implement green practices within the scope of the business.
One size doesn’t fit all, and every business is a little different, but it’s possible to fold something that makes sense into company culture. Employees are always more likely to stay with a company that makes them feel proud of their work, and a positive culture that reflects this increasingly important topic can perpetuate this positive cycle.
Prioritizing these types of efforts isn’t just good for capturing new customers or keeping the best employees—these practices can help keep a business around longer by helping the bottom line, too. While some sustainability tools require more investment upfront, small changes like LED bulbs that can last for decades pay off in the end.
Where to begin?
With a topic as massive as going green, it can be tough to figure out a good starting point. As always, the best place to start is closest to home. Food waste is a big part of the sustainability conversation that has only gained momentum this year, and food waste has historically been inextricably linked to the restaurant business. One way to reduce unnecessary waste is in the supply chain, and local vendors are the best way to create the relationships that can make a business agile, flexible, and ready to take on seasonal changes.
With this in mind, it’s worth considering seasonal menus where possible. Using ingredients that are in season locally cuts down on the transportation costs that would otherwise be needed to secure foods from areas with climates that naturally produce these pieces. Cutting out this step is good for the earth and for the budget, and soon enough, everyone will be seeing green. Also consider working in a healthy mix of “shelf-extending” products where possible for staples like dry ingredients (like sugar and flour). These alternatives will be helpful in eliminating the amount of products tossed out every week.
Composting also became a hot-button topic this year. While this trend seems to have originated at home, there’s no reason a business can’t jump in as well, especially as composting continues to receive legislative attention and the possibility of city composting “programs” that mirror recycling and waste programs gain momentum. Composting is the perfect use for food waste, and this kind of undertaking is perfect for a “sustainability team.” Creating a small task force of employees who have sustainability efforts worked into their job responsibilities can take ideas like composting into the execution phase.
Again, no two businesses are the same, so there is no “one size fits all” plan to make the world just a little bit greener. Finding the first steps that make the most sense for a restaurant, though, can be a great beginning for a long and flourishing road ahead.