Top 10 tips for launching a sustainable restaurant/cafe

Written by
February 22, 2024
6 min read

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, there is pressure on the hospitality industry to step up to the plate and embrace sustainability. For aspiring restaurateurs and cafe owners, launching a sustainable establishment is not only an opportunity to make a positive impact on the planet but also to attract eco-conscious customers who seek ethically-minded dining experiences. From energy-efficient lighting to community involvement, compostable packaging to vegan options, this article presents ten essential tips to help you kickstart your sustainability journey. By incorporating these practices from the beginning, you can build a greener future, one bite at a time.

1. Source locally

From the outset, establish relationships with local farmers and suppliers to source ingredients. Local British produce has been discovered to be one of the most important factors to consumers when deciding when and where to eat out, with more than a quarter of diners willing to spend 25% more on their food if they knew it contained British produce

Prioritise seasonal produce, which not only supports regional agriculture but also reduces the carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation and reduced food miles. Following Brexit, the pandemic and related supply-chain issues, it’s no longer the case that local produce is necessarily more expensive. Offering fresh and sustainable food options to customers enhances the quality and sustainability of your menu.

2. Engage customers through Eco-Contribution

Educate customers about your sustainability initiatives and integrate SKOOT’s Eco-Contribution - a straightforward yet powerful concept. For each cover or bill, trees are planted to counterbalance the carbon emissions associated with dining out, to make an instant impact each tree is “buddied” with a renewable climate project to remove 6kg of CO2 per diner with the potential for the tree to sequester anything up to 1 tonne of CO2 during its lifetime. 
The Eco-Contribution not only helps to minimise carbon emissions but also empowers businesses to demonstrate their commitment to a positive climate impact and sustainable practices. SKOOT can sit across any till system and is fully integrated with various hospitality POS systems including the Oracle Simphony and Micros system, which enables the venue to switch on SKOOT remotely making for a seamless experience. Best of all, there is no cost to the hospitality businesses.

3. Reduce food waste

Implement effective food waste reduction strategies from day one. According to the UN, an estimated 17% of total food available to consumers is wasted at household, food service and retail levels, and food that ends up in landfills generates 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Train staff on portion control, utilise proper storage methods and establish composting systems. Consider partnering with local charities or food banks such as the Felix Project to donate excess food, reducing waste while benefiting the community. By minimising food waste, your business can significantly decrease its environmental impact.

4. Water conservation

Incorporate water-efficient fixtures and provide staff training on water-saving practices right from the start. Water use efficiency worldwide rose from $17.4 per cubic metre in 2015 to $19.4 per cubic metre in 2019, a 12 per cent efficiency increase (UN), an effort that must be maintained. Encourage customers to use water sparingly and serve filtered tap water as an alternative to bottled water. Conserving water helps preserve this valuable resource and lowers costs.

5. Offer vegan and plant-based options

Ensure your menu includes a diverse range of vegan and plant-based dishes from the beginning. To meet the UK's climate goals, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommends a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030, rising to 35% by 2050 for meat. Catering to customers seeking sustainable and ethical dining choices reduces the environmental impact associated with meat and dairy production. 

“A strong, sustainable ethos at your core is critical. It’s about the intent. Know your suppliers personally, ensure they live by the same rules you do and make sure they’re local. We incorporate sustainable elements into our design and operations, such as using byproducts of other ingredients for food and cocktail garnishes and creating living herb walls on-site. Our FOH staff all receive sustainability training and our bar showcases art made from recyclable materials. We firmly reject single-use items, embodying our commitment to a greener future.”

Jimmy Garcia, SKOOT customer and founder of Jimmy Garcia Catering

6. Use compostable packaging

Choose compostable or biodegradable packaging materials for your takeout and delivery services. England uses about 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery, mostly plastic, a year, and 721 million single-use plates, according to estimates by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs. By using sustainable packaging, you reduce single-use plastic waste and contribute to a cleaner environment. 

7. Community involvement

Engage with local organisations that promote sustainability. Participate in community events, support local environmental causes, and collaborate with like-minded businesses. These partnerships help create a broader positive impact, increase community awareness, and contribute to a sustainable ecosystem. It’s why one of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals is ‘Partnership for the Goals’. Tackling climate change is a shared responsibility, and requires collaboration to succeed. 

8. Offset Your Employees' Commute for Climate-Positive Living 

Commuting emissions are on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s list of Scope 3 categories, that cover both upstream and downstream emissions. National estimates suggest that commuting accounts for about a quarter of the UK’s transport emissions. Consider implementing SKOOT’s employee offset programs where you calculate and offset the carbon emissions generated by your employees. For every life you offset, you will plant 12 mangrove trees every month. Not only do these trees absorb harmful carbon emissions, but they also restore damaged ecosystems and provide employment for local communities. 

9. Use energy-efficient lighting and appliances 

Choose energy-efficient options such as LED light bulbs and appliances with high energy ratings. Consider utilising renewable energy sources like solar power or wind energy. By reducing energy consumption, your restaurant/cafe can lower its carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future. 

According to research from the Department of Energy & Climate Change, the average small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) could reduce its energy bill by up to 25% by installing energy efficiency measures and implementing behavioural change, saving the environment and unnecessary overhead costs. 

10. Track your sustainability journey

From the start, keep a detailed record of your sustainability efforts and track key metrics such as energy usage, waste reduction, and water consumption. This data allows you to identify areas for improvement and showcase your commitment to sustainability. Utilise tools like SKOOT's digital forest, where diners can scan a QR code on their bill to track their sustainability impact when they dine with you and stay connected with your sustainability journey. By involving customers in your sustainability efforts, you foster a sense of shared responsibility and increase customer engagement.

So, what are you waiting for? 

As the demand for sustainable dining experiences continues to grow, it is crucial for restaurant and cafe startups to prioritise eco-conscious practices from day one. By integrating some or all these practices into your business ethos, you not only contribute to a healthier planet but also attract like-minded customers who appreciate and support your sustainability efforts. 

Together, we can create a more sustainable hospitality industry and pave the way for a greener and brighter future.

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Written by
February 22, 2024
6 min read