6 Ways to Go Green While Saving Green

Posted by Lisa Siddons

Lisa was the Technical Documentation Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2006 to 2022, which means she knows the pizza industry like the back of her hand.

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"Going green" always seems to be in the news, but is it a viable option for your restaurant business? Many operators find it not only makes for good press and creates goodwill with environmentally-conscious customers, but it also saves them money.

Today we look at six simple strategies for green restaurant operations—and how they can pay off:



1. Reduce Food Waste

No one likes to see food go to waste while many go hungry, and in your kitchen, food that is overportioned, dropped, or swept off the prep counter into the garbage is profit down the drain.

Inventory software can track food use by comparing what should have been used, according to the sales recorded in your POS, to what remains on shelves. The difference, called “usage variance,” is often due to waste, poor portion control, or theft. Minimizing this metric not only keeps food out of the landfill, but also increases profits.

Does your store occasionally make food that is never served because of mistakes or no-show pickups? Check local shelters and charities to see if they will accept it, and keep a record of what’s donated to include in newsletters and other publicity. For food prep scraps like produce trimmings, Lupi's Pizza formed a unique "table to farm/farm to table" partnership with a local farm. 

Eat-in and dine-in customers may sometimes over-order and leave food on their plates. Composting these food scraps helps the environment, because composting allows food to decompose more fully than landfills, reducing the production of methane, a greenhouse gas. If composting in your region isn’t already mandated, arranging compost pickup can make for good press and create goodwill with environmentally-conscious customers. 


2. Buy Local

Shipping the ingredients you stock long distances contributes to climate change. Sourcing local ingredients whenever possible can be a selling point, so mention it in your menu! Local food is usually fresher, and keeps money in your community. Seasonal menu items using local ingredients add interest to your menu, and tend to be popular with both locals and tourists.


3. Conserve Power

By reducing electricity usage, you can save money while going green at the same time:

Turn it down.

Try increasing the A/C thermostat by just 1 degree (or dropping it one degree in the winter). Your guests likely won't notice, and just that 1 degree difference will reduce your bill by about 1%.

Turn it off.

Add “turn on” and “turn off” equipment, heat, and lights to your opening and closing checklists for immediate savings with no cash outlay.

Update lighting.

Halogen spotlights and other incandescent lights waste energy and release heat (increasing your A/C cost). Replace them with energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Do an audit.

An hour or two spent doing an energy audit of your store could pay off in long-term energy savings. As a starting point, check out this food service-specific energy audit checklist.


4. Eliminate Single-Use Plastics

To-go packaging costs money, and according to MarketWatch, single-use food and beverage packaging is one of the largest sources of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Large chains are starting to make changes: McDonald’s has said by 2025 it will make all of its packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources, and Canadian burger chain, A & W, was the first in North America to eliminate plastic straws, which cannot be recycled, and now serves eat-in meals on ceramic plates with stainless steel cutlery.    

Some types of plastic cannot normally be recycled. Plastic “pizza savers” are one example. Try using a small ball of baked dough to keep box lids from collapsing instead, and have your customers fighting over who gets to eat the dough!


5. Save Paper

Save on paper and consumables by following the three "R's":


Reduce paper use while cutting printing costs by taking coupons and flyers online. Social media, online ordering sites, and email are low-cost, paperless ways to attract new customers and more frequent visits.


Using boxes made from recycled materials is another easy way to reduce your environmental impact. A company called Green Box takes this one step further: customers can reuse this pizza box as plates and a storage container for leftover slices. This innovative product has caught on with a number of pizza operators, including SpeedLine customer Ali Baba Pizza.


At restaurants that offer takeout and delivery, cardboard pizza boxes represent a lot of paper, and a lot of trees! Since food-contaminated cardboard can't be recycled, try adding a liner or insert to keep the box bottom cleaner. Liners can also give the added benefit of better enhanced presentation, and a crispier crust.

One Chicago sandwich restaurant took recycling and reduction to the extreme and went totally trash-free. The video of how they did it has garnered over 325,000 views (and a lot of positive word of mouth).


6. Burn Less Fuel

Use mapping software.

For a delivery operation, inefficient routing and lost drivers not only cost you money, but the extra time on the road also has a negative environmental impact in wasted fuel and increased greenhouse gases. New mapping software such as SpeedLine LiveMaps can look at current traffic, calculate the most efficient route for deliveries, and send the information to your drivers' smartphones. So they spend less time on the road, and more on-time deliveries make you money.


Tell Your Customers

Have another "green" idea? Please share it in the comments. And remember to tell your customers about your green initiatives. The "feel good" factor of patronizing a business that's making an effort to be environmentally friendly can't be underestimated, and green stories get great press.


Posted on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 @ 08:06 AM.
Updated on April 27, 2023 @ 7:02 PM PST.

Tags: Restaurant Management

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