Four Ways to Practice Sustainability in Your Restaurant

To make sustainability a reality for your brand, consider adopting the following four technology measures for becoming leaner and greener.
a hand holding a green earth

From farm to fork, sustainability is quickly becoming a must-have for flourishing restaurants wanting to stand apart in a crowded landscape and make a difference toward contributing to a less wasteful, greener world.

Diners increasingly insist restaurants adopt sustainable initiatives that include less excess – whether food, paper, packaging or energy in the name of reducing their carbon footprint. Further, half of consumers said they would give their business to restaurants with eco-conscious models.

To make sustainability a reality for your brand, consider adopting the following four technology measures for becoming leaner and greener – boosting sales and customer loyalty along the way.

Go Paperless

The restaurant industry alone contributes 1.5 billion pounds of paper waste annually, and that’s just in receipts – adding paper menus, napkins, payroll and gift cards and the amount of paper waste becomes astounding. Paper receipts can cost your restaurant up to five cents and with 90% ending up in the trash anyway.

Tablets can help reduce this waste and offer substantial benefits beyond reducing paper use, including the ability to remove sold-out menu items, view table status across the entire restaurant and quickly add items to a check – all with the click of a button.

Also think about either printing your menu on recycled paper or providing it via a QR code – eliminating paper menus altogether. Ask customers if they are OK with emailing digital receipts rather than paper ones, explaining why you are doing so. Try also using paper-based compostable take-home containers and only providing straws when customers request them.

Going paperless and implementing digital payment systems not only reduces environmental impact but also increases its bottom line, improves customer loyalty and strengthens brand reputation.

Avoid Waste

Invest in a point-of-sale (POS) system that enables automated inventory management and provides first in first out (FIFO) ingredient availability. Perhaps a local fisherman provided you with fresh-caught shrimp that arrived today. Offer a signature dish or two featuring this local fare and move chicken to the back burner for a couple of days.

Your solution can pinpoint items nearing their expiration date, allowing your kitchen staff to come up with specials that include those fresh ingredients. Know, too, that some POS technology allows you to automate your inventory down to the ingredient level.

Sustainability for the Planet

Sustainability matters to today's consumers and restaurant operators. Two out of three (66%) consumers surveyed feel it’s important that restaurants are open about their practices to limit food wasteAccording to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, sustainability will continue to influence menus and how restaurants make decisions in 2022. 

Restaurants are touting their efforts. Recently HT  reported: Two Net-Zero KFC Locations opened in ChinaFor Taco Bell, sustainability is on its list of "guiding philosophies" for 2022.  Chipotle aims to reduce its carbon emissions 50% by 2030. Also leading the charge is Panera Bread, which has a goal to become climate positive by 2050. And to reduce the greenhouse  gas emissions of its supply chain fleet, McDonald’s Canada is testing the electric Volvo VNR Electric truck.

Up Your Digital Real Estate

Another sustainable technology investment available to your restaurant is kitchen display screens, which eliminate the need for paper tickets on the line. By creating a seamless order input and fulfillment process with a handheld point of sale in the front of house and kitchen display screens in the back of house, your restaurant can reduce paper waste while facilitating accurate and precise communication between front and back of house.

For example, Chipotle introduced a second make line for digital orders, which it calls Digital Kitchens, to ramp up off-premise expansion and to equip each kitchen station with a digital display screen. The chain’s digital sales skyrocketed 216% after implementation and digital orders now make up 60% of Chipotle’s total sales.

Save Time, Stress and the Environment

Still posting wait staff schedules in the break room? Instead, invest in a POS system that can easily allow staff to switch shifts, request off, change availability, track hours and view their schedule in the palm of their hand. Paper chart not included.

Use this same system to calculate wages, track overtime and administer payroll – making life easier for you and your employees, as well as saving paper.

There’s a whole new sustainable world out there waiting to be had. Adopt these strategies and you will be that much closer to being a leaner, greener, more sustainability-focused restaurant of choice.

About the Author

Kirstin Martin is vice president of NCR Hospitality Product Management. In that role, she leads product management for the NCR Aloha portfolio.