1. Cook what’s in season.
Keeping your menu seasonal means you can serve the freshest possible produce at its peak. This can also apply to cheese and seafood. Accommodating ingredients with short growing seasons, such as asparagus or rhubarb, can keep your menu creative and fresh.
2. Grow it yourself.
Take local sourcing to the next level and start your own kitchen garden. This provides the opportunity for your chefs to learn about how ingredients grow and give the cooks a new appreciation for those items in your cooking. Any food waste they might have can now go back into the garden as compost.
3. Manage your waste – all of it.
General waste, or landfill, is the most expensive kind of waste for restaurants, so find every opportunity to reduce it. Food waste can weighed, measured and go to compost so you know it’s being utilized elsewhere. Recycle glass and cardboard, and return packaging to your suppliers to be reused.
4. Partner with the right producers.
Connect with responsible suppliers and operators to create a network of sustainable vendors. When possible, partner with local businesses that you’ll be able to visit in person. Consumers are interested in knowing the source of their food, and you’ll be utilizing people who care about what they do.
5. Buy locally, in bulk.
Source as much product locally as you can. Also consider purchasing peak-season produce in bulk (when it’s delicious and inexpensive) and find creative ways to use it, such as drying, freezing and preserving.
6. Think beyond the food.
Sustainability doesn’t stop with your menu. Think about using non-toxic cleaners and pest control products, like Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch! and hard-working, vinegar cleansers. The last thing you want to do is leave behind toxic residue on the tables where your customer eats.
7. Start small.
Think about your goals and break them down into what is achievable now versus the future. Start by printing your menu on recycled paper and using linen napkins instead of paper ones. Find out what it will cost to invest in energy-efficient equipment. Get creative!
8. Plan for the long haul.
Up front, it is more expensive to buy energy-efficient equipment than standard equipment – but you have to think long term to see the full value. If you buy a cheap item, you’ll be replacing it very quickly, so look at the depreciation over a multi-year period. While you may pay an extra 30% for a better product upfront, but it will be better made, have a better warranty, and will depreciate more slowly.
9. Prioritize customer satisfaction above everything else.
It’s important for your staff to be able to communicate your restaurant’s mission and vision, but your first priority as a restaurateur should always be delivering an exceptional guest experience. Offer enough information – through staff education, your website, or even your menu – so that guests can ask for more details about sourcing and sustainability if they want them, but don’t shove the message down their throats.