How to Make a Restaurant Environmentally Friendly
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

The sustainability movement is not just a fad; it’s here to stay. Everyone is getting impacted by it, from private citizens to businesses. As a restaurateur wondering how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly for your customers, you’ve come to the right place.

In the article below, I will present the positives of becoming an eco-friendly restaurant and the initiatives you can take short and long-term to show customers you want to be greener.

What is an Eco-Friendly Restaurant?

An eco-friendly restaurant is a restaurant that strives to reduce its carbon footprint and sell its food while promoting sustainable consumption, all with the goal of minimizing its negative impact on the environment.

Environmental Sustainability in Restaurants: Why Should Restaurants Go Green?

A green restaurant menu can reduce costs

Implementing green practices in restaurants doesn’t just help the environment – it also helps the restaurant directly. A big part of the impact restaurants have on the environment is related to food waste. Minimize your food waste and boost your profits by no longer pouring money down the drain.

Moreover, restaurant sustainability practices like buying eco-friendly restaurant supplies and equipment may seem more expensive at first. Still, they will pay off in the end. They will reduce your electricity, water, and gas bills, making the initial investment worth it.

You might also like: 25 Safe & Smart Cost Reduction Strategies in Restaurants

Customers love the green restaurant concept

In recent years, customers have started to embrace sustainability in restaurants. According to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker, 77% of American consumers agree that sustainability is an essential factor when purchasing food.

Moreover, a 2022 global study conducted by Oracle found that sustainability initiatives such as zero-emission delivery or lowering food waste have a significant impact on customers’ purchasing decisions. If you are serious about your sustainability practices and you advertise them to your restaurant customers, they’re more likely to want to dine with you.

Green restaurants help save the planet

Ultimately, why should you learn how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly? For the planet we all live on. There are more than 1 million restaurants in the United States alone. Each year, these restaurants consume thousands of gallons of water, produce tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of pounds of waste.

At this rate, and with more restaurants opening every year, the impact they have on the environment is impossible to neglect. However, by implementing a green restaurant concept, you can help make a difference in the world.

How to Make a Restaurant Environmentally Friendly: 5 Sustainable Practices in Restaurants

1. Introduce seasonal menus

An eco-friendly restaurant needs to learn the value of seasonal menus and buying local ingredients. The best way to create a sustainable restaurant menu is to use produce only when they’re in season.

The benefits of a seasonal restaurant menu are countless. You will constantly offer customers something new. Plus, the ingredients will be cheaper, fresher, and tastier, and you will spend less money on them.

Moreover, if you buy all your ingredients locally, you help reduce carbon emissions from transporting produce from across the country, thus lowering your carbon footprint.

You can even try to grow your own ingredients if you have a back garden or make your own sauces using fresh, organic ingredients you buy from local producers. Customers love authenticity when it comes to food.

Don’t forget to let them know your ingredients are local by using popular menu writing adjectives such as “locally-sourced,” “seasonal,” “organic,” or “free-range.”

Learn more: The Benefits of a Seasonal Restaurant Menu & How to Implement One

2. Implement eco-friendly restaurant design ideas

Believe it or not, design is also a big part of sustainability for businesses like restaurants. When you’re designing or redesigning your restaurant, there are a few things you can do to ensure a more eco-friendly design:

  • Use LED lights as much as possible;
  • Take out the TVs if they’re not 100% necessary (if you own a sports bar, for instance, that is not an option);
  • Use motion sensor lights in the bathrooms;
  • Add big windows that let in sunlight and air to reduce lightning and cooling costs;
  • Install awnings outside the building to keep heat out during the summer;
  • Buy furniture made of recycled materials, especially wood;
  • Print your menu on recycled paper;
  • Use paper napkins that can be recycled.

3. Use eco-friendly food containers

eco friendly container

If you’re also doing takeout and delivery, eco-friendly takeout containers are a must-have. Foam containers are not the best for the environment, but luckily there are options. One such option is containers made from bagasse, which are compostable, biodegradable, and microwave-safe.

Containers made of wood or polylactic acid (PLA) are also an option. The latter is more similar to plastic, except it’s compostable and biodegradable. Some restaurants also prefer to-go containers made of lined or bamboo paper. The choice is up to you.

Whatever you use, make sure you announce it on your website so your customers see your dedication to the environment. Using our sales-optimized website, you can easily add an announcement section to your homepage that will look like this:

add eco friendly initiative to your website

If you’re using plastic straws for takeaway or in-restaurant, consider switching to eco-friendly alternatives like paper or PLA. This is the trend anyway, as there is talk of banning plastic straws altogether in some cities.

Stop printing your menu on paper, use a QR code instead Set-up QR code dine-in ordering in minutes

4. Get a green restaurant certification

Did you know there is such a thing as the Green Restaurant Association? In fact, they’ve been around since 1990. They are an international nonprofit organization that helps restaurants turn their business green. They also offer a certification that will make you an official green restaurant.

Consider joining them if you feel like you need help with your sustainability practices. Not to mention, having a green certification will go a long way in persuading your customers that you are doing the right thing for the planet.

5. Use digital solutions

Digital solutions are already slowly replacing paper in the foodservice sector. For example, you can use restaurant POS systems that provide digital receipts now or QR codes for dine-in instead of traditional menus.

You can also switch your loyalty program to digital-only through an app or a digital card instead of the traditional punch cards or plastic cards.

Nowadays, most marketing efforts are online too. Instead of advertising on paper, do it through your website and social media.

How to Let People Know Your Restaurant is Environmentally Friendly

Now that you’ve learned how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly, it’s time to start telling people about yours. Having an eco-friendly restaurant is excellent press, so don’t be shy about advertising it:

  • Announce it on your website: add an eco-friendly badge to your website cover photo and announce your green initiatives on your homepage. With our sales-optimized website, you can do that easily using the info feature.

restaurant website announcements

  • Share your progress on social media: social media is excellent for keeping customers updated on small green steps you are taking, like installing a composting bin or switching to LED lighting.
  • Display any certifications on your front door: let passersby know your restaurant is green-certified by proudly displaying your certificate.
  • Train your staff to inform customers about this: people who casually visit your restaurant and don’t know a lot about it might be happy to find out you are eco-friendly. A simple “Have you heard our establishment has been paper-free for six months?” can do the trick.
  • Display a banner near the register: when people are waiting to pay or pick up their to-go order, they can use that time to read about your sustainability initiatives.
  • Participate in local environmental events: inquire about events with an environmental cause happening in your area and see if you can participate. That would be excellent publicity for you.

Final Words

Learning how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly can be an uphill battle if you don’t know anything about the process. Luckily, the tips and tricks above provide a solid basis for showing customers you are committed to helping the environment. Implement them, and you will notice a difference in your day-to-day operations and how customers will react to your business.

Read our next sustainability guide: Restaurant Sustainability Practices you can implement in your establishment to change it from within.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.

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