How to… become more sustainable

09 May 2011
How to… become more sustainable

For some restaurants sustainability is a must, but for the majority pressures on time and turnover mean it's only an aspiration. However, an increasing number of restaurants are realising that a commitment to greater sustainability isn't just good for the planet but is bolstering the bottom line - saving money and attracting new customers.

A recent survey found 70% of diners would be more likely to eat at a sustainable restaurant. So by adopting more sustainable practices, restaurants will be meeting customer demand.

And while the sustainability of the food on the plate is the most significant issue for customers, there are a range of other actions restaurants can take that will have popular appeal and deliver genuine cost benefits.

A 20% reduction in food waste can save a restaurant at least £2,000 annually. While installing more energy-efficient kitchen equipment can reduce gas and electricity bills by as much as 60%.

In these austere times, finding a point of difference can really help restaurants stand out from their competitors - being more sustainable than your neighbour can help you do that.

Case Study

Cafe St Honoré in Edinburgh was a founder member of the SRA. Twelve months on and Neil Forbes has just been crowned Scottish chef of the year.

Forbes has long been committed to becoming more sustainable, as well as producing high quality food for his loyal following. Since joining the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) he's been able to concentrate on the cooking while the SRA has taken the sustainable strain across a range of issues.

He explains: "We're currently working on recycling, which can be a really time-consuming task. The SRA has pointed us in the right direction and we're now able to recycle our peelings into compost that we use in our new kitchen garden - keeping everything local."

According to the report Too Good to Waste, published by the SRA last year, a 20% reduction in waste could save Cafe St Honoré at least £2,000 annually.

Sourcing fish more sustainably has been another priority for Forbes. But tackling this complicated subject was another matter.

"Fish is also another major issue for chefs as there's so much conflicting information out there; but the SRA do all the research, so we don't have to."

Like all other member restaurants, Cafe St Honoré makes three annual pledges, and one of the ways it fulfilled its commitment was to source more organic, free range and local produce - organic lamb from Perthshire, organic free range chicken and eggs from a local farm and organic fruit and veg.

Ten tips for being more sustainable

1 Get to know your producers and suppliers, don't be afraid to ask questions to make sure they're matching your sustainable priorities and standards

2 Take advantage of the terrific variety on offer by planning your menu according to the seasonal availability of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and game

3 Source, offer and promote more sustainable fish - follow Hugh's Fish Fight and swap cod for mackerel

4 Take a look at your environmental impact across the whole supply chain; you'll be surprised at how often your suppliers will respond to your request to use less packaging

5 Measure your current energy use, target efficiencies and get your staff to join in with straightforward money-saving changes

6 Draw up a water-saving policy, monitor water use across the business and stop your profits flowing down the drain

7 Save up to £2,000 a year reducing spoilage, plate and prep waste by ordering more strategically, using as much of the produce as you can and considering different portion sizes

8 Enhance your reputation in the area by supporting a local charity or community-based organisation

9 Reap the benefits of better employee relations by working out a fair tips policy with your staff

10 Write a responsible marketing policy, to ensure that any of your sustainability claims are fair, truthful and sensitive to the views of different groups in society

The Sustainable Restaurant Association

sustainable restaurant association logo
sustainable restaurant association logo
The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit organisation helping restaurants become more sustainable and diners make more sustainable choices when dining out." target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Can restaurants afford not to be sustainable? >>

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