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Gabriela Anez-Lobon
By Gabriela Anez-Lobon on December 03, 2020

Restaurant Sustainability Trends in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the restaurant industry especially hard in 2020. All types of food and beverage establishments -- from fast-casual to fine dining -- are looking for ways to build back foot (and drive-thru) traffic, trim costs without sacrificing quality, and ensure their diners and staff stay healthy and happy.

Although sit-down dining declined a whopping 50 percent, take-out and delivery are on the upswing. 

Another consumer trend that has had a significant impact on the restaurant business is concern about our planet, with 77 percent of people wanting to learn more about how they can live more sustainably. 


Why Move to Sustainability in Restaurant Management?

First, your diners want it. Showing customers that you’re committed to the health of the environment differentiates you from other options. 81 percent of consumers want more food options that protect the environment. 

Reducing waste in your business operations can save you thousands of dollars every year. Sustainable practices can reduce costs overall by as much as 30 percent

Consumers are willing to pay more to eat in restaurants that follow sustainable practices. 26 percent are open to spending 10 percent more if they know a restaurant is helping the planet.

26 Bright Savings Ideas for SMBs

The 6 Ways Restaurants Can Help the Environment in 2021

Although the movement toward restaurant sustainability began a few years ago, it is now time for restaurants to take an even closer look at steps they can take to delight customers and reduce costs.

Here are the six key areas you should focus on for 2021 and beyond:

Food Waste Management

Many restaurants already reduced their menu options over the past year to improve margins. A staggering 80 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year across the U.S., and restaurants can play a significant role in reducing that number.

Technology can play a role in managing waste. Use all available systems to understand better ingredient usage, most popular menu items, and order volumes and make adjustments to reduce your food costs. 

Donate leftovers to local food banks and other charitable outlets.

Plant-Based Options

The food industry is just beginning to educate consumers on the connection between food and the environment, and sales of plant-based alternatives prove that this movement is taking hold. 

Switching to a plant-based diet can reduce carbon emissions by thousands of tons. Reducing meat, poultry, and fish consumption also saves water.

Sales of plant-based food grew 29 percent over the past two years, proving that consumers are more than willing to adapt to a change in eating habits. 

Sustainable Packaging

Rather than automatically packing take-out and delivery bags with extra utensils, condiments, and napkins, restaurants are taking a hard look at how they package their food and beverages. They have begun to ask customers if they want or need these items and sometimes offer incentives for reusable cups.

Options abound for packaging that is recyclable, compostable, and reusable. The pandemic has put a damper on the adoption of reusable serving options but heading into 2021. Restaurants need to get creative and resourceful in adapting to trends and finding earth-friendly, safe, and cost-effective alternatives. 

Hyper-Local Sourcing

The locavore movement (sourcing food that is grown or created within 400 miles) began in 2007 and will be alive and thriving throughout 2021. Although some restaurants have planted rooftop gardens, most establishments don’t have space or the weather to go all the way to green. 

Even big chains like Chipotle have taken steps toward more local sourcing of ingredients. Not only do efforts like this preserve the environment, but they also help communities.

Cleaning Products and Systems

Sanitizing has been a keyword of 2020, as consumers choose to work, eat, and shop at businesses that value their health. State guidelines for cleaning are more stringent than ever, but using harsh chemicals can be dangerous to employees, diners, and the environment.

Savvy restaurant owners will be looking for solutions that keep their businesses safe but minimize toxic materials.


Each year, the commercial foodservice sector spends $10 billion on energy, of which 80 percent is related to inefficient use of cooking, holding, and storage equipment. 

Lighting is also a massive drain on energy in restaurants -- approximately $3 per square foot. 

These 10 steps can radically reduce your restaurant’s energy usage and help you run a more sustainable business -- economically and environmentally.


Build and Engage a Green Team

Ensure your staff and customers are aware of the steps you’re taking to run your restaurant in more environmentally-friendly ways. You’ll find that employees respect your efforts, you’ll support local farmers and producers, and customers will look more favorably on your business.

Plus, you can potentially save thousands of dollars each year by reducing food, energy, and supply waste and can invest that into growth and expansion for years to come.

Make your way to becoming a more sustainable business by  scheduling a free energy audit today.

26 Bright Savings Ideas for SMBs

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Published by Gabriela Anez-Lobon December 3, 2020
Gabriela Anez-Lobon

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