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Empowering Restaurants in America

10 Ways Restaurants Can Serve the Planet

Photo: Courtesy of Jakub Kapusnak

Americans’ enduring appetite for eating out creates not only super-size issues but also king-size opportunities. The problems facing our food system are complex and urgent and the health of our population and the planet have reached crisis point. There is a framework around ten key themes to help restaurants around the world be part of the solution. Good restaurants will:

1. Celebrate local and seasonal

Buying from local producers gives access to seasonal fresh food with a smaller carbon price tag. It also provides an investment in the local economy, helping establish thriving food networks. Serving locally sourced food also helps give customers the traceability they crave.

2. Serve more vegetables and better meat

Livestock production accounts for 15 percent of all carbon emissions. Increasing the proportion of plant-based dishes reduces the overall environmental impact of the menu and chimes with the 82 percent of diners who believe that a good meal doesn’t require meat.

3. Source fish responsibly

Ninety percent of stocks are overfished or fully exploited. The damage can be reversed. The key issues apart from the type of fish on the menu, are how, when and where it was caught, and the conditions for those catching them.

4. Support global farmers

More than 200 million people depend on tea, coffee and chocolate for their livelihood, but some farmers receive as little as 1 percent of the value their produce sells for in U.S. cafés. Certifications like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance help customers know farmers are receiving a fair price.

5. Treat staff fairly

The hospitality sector faces major staffing challenges with turnover at a near 10-year high. Successful businesses find a progressive approach to pay, tips and working conditions improves recruitment and retention and 70 percent of consumers would pay more to help workers receive higher wages.

6. Support the community

Kitchens that are connected to their communities are places that have loyal customers, loyal staff and some of the tastiest food. It’s a recipe for a sustainable and successful business as 9 out of 10 consumers stick with socially responsible businesses.

7. Feed people well

With half of food dollars now spent on restaurants and takeaway and more than a third of U.S. adults classified as obese, there’s a big opportunity to meet the demands of the 70 percent of consumers who want to eat more healthily by offering a range of healthy menu options.  

8. Value natural resources

Global temperatures are rising, damaging the planet and our food supply. Restaurants’ intensive are huge emitters of CO2. The interests of profit and planet align perfectly here, as a 20 percent cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom line benefit as a 5 percent increase in sales.

9. Waste no food

One-third of food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And yet, a 2017 study found that every dollar invested in a food waste reduction scheme results in a 14-fold saving.

10. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Thanks in part to the 50 billion plastic bottles and 175 billion straws used every year in the United States, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. Reducing and reusing all disposables can save money as well as the environment.

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