Reducing your restaurant's reliance on single-use plastics is a great way to show diners that you're making a positive impact.
Consider, for example, that the waste from takeout orders alone accounts for an estimated 269 tons of plastic pollution swept into waterways and the ocean each year, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC).
Given the recent public outcry about environmental issues, food chains, and cities have responded by announcing a ban on plastic straws. While it's impossible for restaurants to avoid plastics entirely, there are numerous ways to cut back.
Restaurants that act sustainably can expect their patronage to increase, as diners want to eat at restaurants that align with their values.
Here are 6 ways to cut back on single-use plastics in your restaurant and appeal to eco-friendly diners.
As the saying goes, what gets measured gets improved. A waste audit allows you to identify how your restaurant uses plastics, as well as areas to cut back.
A quick look through the order ledger and the trash bin will reveal your plastic usage. For example, look for the following items.
- Water bottles
- Plastic cups
- Plastic packaging
- Storage containers
- To-go bags
- To-go containers
- Drink stirrers
Share your findings with staff, as they will be vital to your sustainability efforts.
Look into sourcing eco-friendly alternatives to plastics.
For example, offer to-go bags and to-go containers made of recycled paper. You could also switch to metal or paper straws for beverages.
If you're sourcing paper straws, be sure that they aren't individually wrapped in plastic, as this defeats the point.
Diners will appreciate the effort and won't care if the price increase goes to help the environment.
According to CMO, consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that align with their values, and this includes purchasing from establishments that do their part to save the planet.
Be sure to let customers know that you're reducing your use of plastics, whether via your marketing campaigns or in-store.
People have cutlery at home, so ask before stuffing utensils into every delivery order.
Most single-use utensils get thrown away; so, a simple question can help you significantly reduce your use of plastics. Customers who've placed orders may still need utensils, though, as they could be eating on-the-go.
Requiring people to opt-in to use plastics is an effective way to both lessen your usage and also demonstrate that you care about the environment.
Instruct staff to use reusable dishware for on-site dining.
Doing so means setting aside plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery for employees to use while on shift. Similarly, discourage employees from using plastic straws, paper napkins, and any disposable materials while at work.
Your employees are your ambassadors, so expect staff to model and espouse sustainable practices.
Many food chains and cities have banned plastic straws to protect the waterways and the ocean.
It's better to provide straws upon request than ban them outright, though, as disability groups across the U.S. have voiced concerned that a ban on straws would impinge upon people with disabilities.
When staff delivers drinks to a table, they should only provide a straw when asked by a customer. This way, you distribute far fewer straws than normal while also avoiding the risk of alienating people with disabilities.
Buying in bulk allows you to both save on food costs and save the environment. The fewer food orders you make, the less packaging you have to throw away.
You can also evaluate your menu with an eye for ingredients that increase your food waste. For example, if Shitaake mushrooms arrive wrapped in plastic pouches, you could switch to another type of mushroom to reduce your food waste.
Similarly, you can limit how many varietals of basic food items that you offer. If your menu uses both Russet and Baby Red potatoes, for example, you can cut out the Russets and streamline your ordering to prevent wastage from the second potato varietal.
Buying in bulk shortens your supply chain, helping to both reduce the plastics your throw out as well as the number of overall resources needed to deliver your supplies.
Using less plastic is good for your company's image, the environment, and - if done right - your bottom line. Look for ways to lessen your environmental impact, as this is a hot-button issue with consumers and a ready way to increase the equity of your restaurant in the coming years.