How Restaurants Can Become More Sustainable
April 22, 2021
Sustainable practices can cut costs, empower communities and drive brand loyalty.
Sustainable practices are increasingly found across all facets of our daily lives — from architecture to the packaging of our goods. It’s restaurants where sustainability is being adamantly seen as a must. With climate change and a swelling population globally, sustainability in our food supply chain is a non-contest. According to the United Nations, the global population is expected to be 9.7 billion by 2050. In order to supply enough food for the world, it will take action from everyone — from governments and manufacturers to farmers and suppliers. Ultimately, consumers will also be responsible for creating the demand that drives these changes. Restaurants share this responsibility as well.
Sustainability Is More Than a Trend, It’s the Future for Restaurants
As the world moves toward a greener, more sustainable future, restaurants are responsible for doing their part to lead the change. Incorporating sustainable practices into the restaurant space can be advantageous for many reasons. Giovanna Kupiec is the Sustainability & Marketing Manager at Seamore’s. She agrees that sustainability in the restaurant industry is a new frontier for restaurants to explore.
“In my opinion, sustainability just makes restaurants more flexible. It’s really about asking the question, ‘how are you helping to change the environment? Are you balancing out the way you impact the world?’ During the pandemic, we [Seamore’s] quickly learned that our sustainable sourcing was really beneficial for not only operations but also for guests coming in. It allowed them to not lose a lot of their favorite dishes and aspects of what we offer.”
What exactly are the advantages and what actionable steps can restaurants take to reduce their impact on the environment and benefit their bottom line?
Sustainable Practices Cut Down On Costs and Save Restaurants Money
It’s true. Even the most simple of actions can have great effects. For example, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Program, restaurants can save up to $400+ by fixing small leaks in the kitchen and saving an essential natural resource in the process. Another simple example is by shutting down a single piece of kitchen equipment for 30 minutes a day, which can save a restaurant $100 a year. These minute investments will provide long-term value for restaurants and contribute to a more sustainable world.
Compostable or recyclable packaging is an easy sustainable practice to implement
Easy Ways To Become a More Sustainable Restaurant
A few ways to become a more sustainable restaurant is by implementing greener solutions in common use items such as using recyclable packaging, integrating reusable serving vessels even starting a compost program. Giovanna agrees. “As a food lover, it's hard to serve food, knowing that you're not helping in the long term. That’s a very moral thing that sits with us here at Seamore’s. These small changes save money and it also saves us time and energy.”
Here are a few sustainable practices that restaurants can implement:
Eliminate single-use plastics
Find alternatives to plastic straws and cutlery
Use recycled paper bags for takeout
Source recycled to-go boxes and containers
Use plant-based alternatives to harmful cleaning agents
Reduce waste by revisiting how dishes are prepared or packaged
Source locally for meat and produce
Learn about local composting programs that take restaurant waste
Look into food donation programs in your area
Consider organizations you can partner or collaborate with. Rethink Food is a non-profit organization doing fantastic work at tackling food insecurity in impacted communities
Ask suppliers about what sustainable practices they’re taking as a company
While these steps require some amount of research, resources and time, they’ll benefit the restaurant in the long run. Also, implementing sustainability best practices will foster more brand affinity and loyalty for consumers that share the same brand values. This is also true for bringing in even more like-minded guests who value restaurants that practice sustainable sourcing and methodologies. While all of these steps are important in their own right, how and where restaurants source the food they serve is one of the most consequential aspects of striving toward sustainability. Giovanna agrees. “The way we think about climate change is gonna be a much larger part of restaurant sustainability, specifically with the food we serve at them.
Partner with Local Producers
Restaurants can look to their own backyard when sourcing ingredients and produce for their offerings. Sourcing locally supports the local economy, fosters growth in the community and creates jobs. Seamore’s is a leader in this space. They’re one of the first restaurants in New York City to sustainably source their seafood.
“We work with a single seafood market, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. Vinny Milburn is our sole fishmonger. He comes from the John Nagle family, which is five generations of seafood purveyors in Boston. He is the only thing in between us and the fishermen and growers.”
Seamore’s sources their seafood from a single local fishmonger
For the restaurant and its guests, tracing and transparency are the goals at the end of the day.
“We get a sheet with what we purchased that has exactly where the fish came from, the name of the boat, the time it was caught, and that changes all the time.” This level of detail is passed on to the guest which creates a deeper connection to the food and a deeper level of trust between the Seamore’s and their guests.
“As a team, we’re incredibly passionate about this stuff. We do this because we just feel it’s right. People feel like they're doing good things when they’re eating our food. At the end of the day, if you're not transparent about your sustainability initiatives, and you're doing things because it looks better, you're eventually going to get found out.”
But just like any good endeavor, spreading awareness about the mission of the restaurant and its practices should be prioritized.
Market Sustainability Practices
Sustainability is an important issue that more and more diners care about. Restaurants should be keenly aware that diners are looking and demanding more companies take steps toward social and environmental change. If the demand is there, why not capitalize on it? Being transparent about where a restaurant sources its ingredients can lead to greater loyalty from diners. But how do restaurants become transparent about sustainable practices and principles they implement into their restaurant? One simple, but essential place to start, is with the restaurant’s website.
Seamore’s spreads awareness about its sustainable sourcing methods and educates visitors through its website
Seamore’s take their mission of providing transparent sustainably-harvested seafood very seriously. Their entire brand identity is built around it. Giovanna admits, “when I joined Seamore’s, I thought, wow, we have this amazing supply chain, we have this amazing mission but we're not talking about it enough. How do we integrate this across social media? How do we integrate this on our menus? How do we engage guests? The website is the perfect starting point.
For those new to Seamore’s, their website is the first place that potential customers will learn about the brand and its mission. By highlighting its commitment to sustainability on the website, Seamore’s can not only showcase its hard work and efforts but educate visitors at the same time. “This is what I'm trying to talk about the most here at Seamore’s is how we define sustainable seafood. We define that clearly on our website and also in our communications (social media, email marketing, etc.).
Seamore’s spreads awareness about its sustainable sourcing methods and educates visitors through Instagram
As an example of how they define sustainability in their communications, Seamore’s uses Instagram to educate followers about the effects that fishing and harvesting have on our oceans and that affects climate change, all while educating them about new fish they’re serving — such as Porgy, seen here. Through education, Seamore’s is fostering a deeper connection between their guests and the brand which ultimately creates more loyalty, trust and brand recognition.
Restaurants can take small steps to become more sustainable. It’s not only beneficial for their bottom line, it’s also beneficial for guests. From reducing the use of single-use plastics to redefining who and where food is sourced and produced, sustainability is an achievable goal for any restaurant that is willing to put in the time and effort. To learn more about Seamore’s mission, visit their website and be sure to follow them across social media.
How Restaurants Can Continue to Maximize Takeout
October 2, 2020
MustHaveMenus offers tips and insights into how restaurants can streamline to-go operations during COVID-19.
Q&A with Emily Hyland on Adapting Her Restaurants during COVID-19
November 9, 2020
The co-founder of Emmy Squared and Emily talks pivoting her business during COVID-19, putting employees first and getting creative.
Q&A with Chef Chris Scott and Eugenie Woo of Butterfunk Kitchen
January 18, 2018
How appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef has impacted their restaurant, their website and more