Restaurant recycling and green conservation comes in all forms, modes and sizes. Portion control, to go container selection and a commitment to sustainable food are all steps that will not only help your bottom line, but the planet.
There are few small businesses that can contribute so much to the earth’s conservation and its future as restaurants.
Let’s look at some numbers. There are approximately 850,000 restaurants in the country. And, according to tracking authorities, one-third of these either close, remodel or change ownership within the first three years of operation. The industry continually changes and with those changes cause waste.
New owners remodel, the previous owner’s aesthetics end up at the dump. Another new owner wants a new stove and kitchen equipment. Although they do not necessarily function any better, they give a momentary shine to a project that could go dark within 24 months. The old Vulcan ends up in the sale section of Economy Restaurant Supply, a culinary orphan in the land of shiny stainless and chrome.
When I sold
The banquette builder came to get his money, quickly followed by a demolition container that the future owner had ordered. The banquettes ended up in a landfill by week’s end.
Today, the space plays host to yet newer banquettes.
Restaurant recycle possibilities are endless. Here is a list of ten things to do to help conserve and recycle.
1). Canned goods. Think about the amount of tin you toss and focus on Farmers Markets. The produce is fresher, the quality in unequaled and the cost, in the long run is probably cheaper since it can be portioned easier than opening a number ten can of mushy string beans.
2). Plastic, cardboard, and bottles can all be recycled. In
3). Compost. It may sound strange for a restaurant in the city, but there are opportunities to give away your food waste. Years ago, garbage men used to pick up waste from homes to feed to picks and livestock. Today farmers are searching for compostable materials to use for fertilizer.
4). Farmer deliver. Make an arrangement to buy your produce from local farmers during the growing season. Many market vendors are looking for and developing a local delivery business.
5). Recycle your produce cartons. The amount of cardboard used to deliver lettuce not only adds to the cost of the produce, but keeps the carton manufacturers busy. Plus, the labor involved in breaking down the boxes costs more than you probably care to consider.
6). Linen is an outrageous commodity that we can’t live with, but can’t live without. Whether paper or cloth, napkins and table covers are essential to your business, however, there is an alternative to white linen which needs to be constantly changed. In your casual venues, consider using checked tablecloths. They can be flipped and used for three or four seatings if you don’t have many children in your restaurant. This will not only save you money, but will conserve on water, electric and chemicals used to wash, and dry the linen.
7). Heat and air conditioning. I am not a huge fan of kitchen air conditioning. I love fans, both exhaust and circulating, but I have never won an air conditioning battle with a 12 burner stove. I have also always used the heat from the kitchen to add to the warmth of the dining room. Re circulate the heat in winter towards the dining room and close the air conditioning vents in the kitchen in summer. Remember that old adage: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
8). Water. Bottled or Tap? Ask the customer if they want water. Let them help you conserve.
9). Herb gardens are a promotional profit center. Create one in patio flower boxes, a small piece of land around your building or in pots throughout your dining room. Herbs are plants. You can use them as hanging baskets- get rid of those ferns- and nothing beats being able to clip Basil, Tarragon and Oregano from a pot or planter next to a customer.
On top of that, if the garden is large enough, you can entice the local garden club to plant and care for it. Just let them enjoy a complimentary lunch on the day they do their gardening and they will weed, while you feed them. Publicize your weed and feed program on your menu. It will prompt customers to frequent your restaurant.
10). Recycled menu paper, to go containers, and carry-out bags and boxes are not that much more expensive than containers that become landfill clutter. Plus, eventually it will be mandatory to use these types of containers so you might as well be ahead of the law.
Each of these tips seems small, but if 850,000 restaurant owners adopted conservation practices it would not only change the industry for the better, but for the world.