Converting your restaurant or bar for more sustainability won’t just win you the goodwill of your customers it will also help you save the environment and lower your bills, while you transform your restaurant into a green business. Here are a few ways you can get started on creating a sustainable restaurant since it is a process and an evolution.
Create Seasonal Menus
Have you taken a good look at your menu lately? Are the same items there as the year before or maybe it is even longer than that? Switching out a menu every few months may sound overwhelming, but if you asked your customers they would tell you they actually love discovering new dishes at their favorite restaurants.
So, by appealing to your customers with new dishes, your business can also experience monetary benefits. Start by swapping out ingredients that are out-of-season, which can save you money on your shipping cost. Acquiring these ingredients locally will greatly increase the food quality, demonstrate to your customers you are aware of local environment issues, create stronger community alliances, and build a stronger relationship with supportive vendors. As these local suppliers start relying on your business see if they offer discounts as you become a regular purchaser. Also, you should consider buying these local ingredients in bulk when prices are low which will also help reduce your cost.
As a business owner, you know that recycling and disposing of waste costs your restaurant a small fortune. First, consider reducing your reliance on packaging; this will allow you to cut your bills and reduces your carbon footprint. Second, build relationships with suppliers, preferably those local to you, who can give you smaller packaging and/or eco-friendly packaging that you can return if not damaged. Third, consider recycling glass and cardboard. All of these steps will allow your business to reduce its overall waste while raising your profits.
At the end of 2015, Congress passed the PATH Act (Section 170) and made two big changes: 1) enhanced tax deduction permanent and 2) allowing all companies to claim the enhanced deductions, as long as they donate their food to 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Now, smaller businesses can take advantage, and an LLC or restaurant franchise won’t have to worry whether or not they are eligible for a tax deduction on food as long as the donations go to 501(c)(3) organizations. We recommend you check with your tax accountant for full details, but this change gives restaurant owners a stronger economic incentive to donate excess food inventory and can help cut hauling costs and tipping fees by reducing waste.
Don’t forget to also get the message out to your customers and deepen your connection with your customers because socially conscious millennials’ collective buying power is growing and today’s consumers want the businesses they patronize to reflect their values. The National Restaurant Association research shows that 60% of consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its eco-friendly practices, such as water conservation and recycling.
Modifying your menu and reducing your waste is a huge step in the right direction but WAIT…. don’t stop there. Get a real leg up on your competition by adding cutting edge technology to your business plan. The right technology will cut costs, increase efficiency, and facilitate customer feedback/engagement.
Start by switching out most of the paper elements in your restaurant with digital dining tablets. This device offers a great alternative to the traditional checkout process, plus it can house your menus. Digital dining tablets allow you to revolutionize the customer dining experience. Customers can split checks, customize tips, and leave without their payment card ever leaving their sight. Additionally, customers can order food whenever they want with a touch of a button, which reduces the amount of interaction and frees-up the servers so they have fewer distractions.
With the explosion of Smartphone Apps consumers are embracing the ability to make online reservations and on-demand food delivery. If you decided to create your own branded app, so you can connect with your customers and keep them engaged, make sure to provide maximum functionality in your app to satisfy your customer. If you currently don’t offer food delivery, consider partnering up with Eat24 or GrubHub.
Staying ahead of the technology curve allows you to cut costs, increase revenue and as a bonus, it’s great for your restaurant’s success and the planet.
Engage your Staff
This will most likely be your biggest challenge as you evolve your operation and move towards more sustainability. You believe in your mission, but it’s not always easy to get the rest of your team behind your movement. If they have been doing something the same way for many years, they won’t necessarily change their habits overnight, so it will take time for them to buy into your vision. Consider taking your team out to the local farms four times a year so they can learn about the products they’re working with just before you change out your seasonal menu. Remember the best way to get information to guests is through your staff. If you educate your staff so they have the knowledge and first-hand experience of how you plan your menus around seasonality and sustainability they can explain that to your customers.
Being eco-conscious is no longer just a fad and becoming more and more important. Thankfully there are more ways for restaurants and bars to be more sustainable, and we hope these few eco-friendly tips will improve your cash flow, customer base, and commitment so you can have a more sustainable and profitable business.