Plot Twist: Eco-Friendly Restaurants Reduce Costs

You’ve been thinking about making your restaurant eco-friendly, but don’t think you can manage the associated costs. This is a concern that many small business owners have when the sustainability conversation comes up. While it’s true that going green can come with additional financial requirements, we’re here to say that a slow and steady transformation to an eco-friendly restaurant will reduce costs over time and make your clients happier.

When speaking about sustainability, restaurant owners are quick to point to the price of eco-friendly packaging as a frustrating signifier of the price-problem with going green. Yet the focus on take out containers would do a disservice to the numerous ways restaurateurs can make quick changes that will save them money over time, without bringing foam and recycling containers into the conversation. So, let’s save that talking point for last and look at a few other ways that restaurants can cut costs and become eco-friendly at the same time.

Plastic straw alternatives: Paper straws (left) and glass straws with cleaner (right)

How to be Eco-Friendly and Cut Costs

Waste not, want not

an Eco friendly restaurant saving money by reducing waste

Food waste can quickly become a huge drain on your restaurant’s budget. Cutting down on food waste means cutting down on operating costs and becoming more sustainable. This includes both food waste and packaging, but let’s look at food for now.

Food waste typically piles up from excess portions or excess stock orders, especially with off-season produce. You can cut down on your waste by keeping a rotating menu and reducing portion sizes. Offering dishes that use seasonal produce will reduce their cost and build greater rapport with local farmers (especially if you’ve chosen a farm-to-table model, which we wrote about here). Food that travels a shorter distance is much more sustainable.

Your chef will be able to do a lot with a little. Very few patrons are dazzled by pages and pages of menu items. Turn that book into a pamphlet and make the most of a small selection of ingredients from your local farmer’s market. There’s a second half to this equation which involves using the reduced food waste in your brand positioning. Ensure that your customers know the efforts you are making on behalf of the environment while using fresh and tasty ingredients in their meals. Your clients need to know that your business is a sustainable one

Another big source of food waste is portion sizes that are far too large. You might be hesitant to reduce portion sizes thinking your regulars will be disappointed, but if you notice servers bring plates back to the kitchen with plenty of food left behind or you see a lot of doggie bags leaving the dining room, it might be a good opportunity to put less on the plate and keep more in your wallet.

Be efficient with your power

An eco friendly restaurant with energy saving lights

Let’s talk about energy efficient appliances. If it’s been a while since you experienced sticker shock just hearing some of the prices of commercial kitchen equipment, you’ll be happy to learn that those upfront costs have gone down. This is due to Energy Star certified equipment gaining popularity in the restaurant industry. Yes, you will still be paying a bit more upfront, but think about the benefits.

Energy efficient commercial restaurant equipment can save hundreds of dollars over each machine’s lifetime on electricity and water consumption. And then there’s the rebates. Depending on your state, you may be eligible for a cash rebate as part of government campaigns or restaurant association memberships in addition to 0% interest loans to purchase the equipment. Go green and reinvest that money into your business.

Have you thought about your restaurant’s toilets? Don’t take those porcelain thrones for granted as a restaurant’s bathrooms are part of this conversation. Installing sinks and toilets that use less water will save you money in the long run. A good example of this is looking at toilets installed in the 1980s and 1990s, which use nearly 5 gallons of water per flush on average. Modern high efficiency toilets reduce the water waste by nearly 5 times!

Make your competitors your best friends

This might seem counterintuitive, but your neighboring restaurants are a perfect partner on the road to cutting costs and going green. However, before you reach out to the pierogi place across the street, you need to decide what your ask should be. Remember those styrofoam containers we mentioned in the introduction? Here’s how you can stop ordering them for good and replace them with compostable or recyclable take-away boxes instead. 

Instead of paying an arm and a leg, select a handful of local restaurants that offer to-go options and place a bulk order with a distributor. You will likely receive a preferential rate that is equivalent (or even lower) than what you pay for your foam or plastic take out containers. This will work even better if your new partners in sustainability serve different cuisines as it provides an opportunity to cross-promote the partnership and let your respective customer bases know that you are working together to make the neighborhood more eco-friendly.


Eco-friendly restaurant appliances

There can be significant upfront costs for restaurants that are looking to go green including eco-friendly commercial kitchen appliances and recyclable packages. Many restaurants are just not interested in paying the cost or passing it onto their customers. However, as we have shown, there are plenty of ways to get creative with sustainable solutions including cutting down on food waste, rotating your food offering, and waiting for those appliances to pay off in the long run.

With a bit of marketing magic, you will be able to associate any possible cost increase of going green to your branding budget; making sure that your business is known as an eco-friendly restaurant where the owners care about their impact on the environment and, more importantly, their local clientele and neighborhood.

Looking for a fun way to grow your restaurant business? ChowEasy is a restaurant marketing app that helps locals discover your restaurant by matching their appetite and mood. Get full control of your promos by offering them on YOUR schedule and YOUR terms with your restaurant name revealed ONLY to committed diners. No upfront costs or commitments! Learn more now.

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