Zero waste restaurants — This term has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent times. And rightly so, considering it highlights the importance of conservation of resources which is the need of the hour. Especially for restaurants, going ‘zero-waste’ is vital to improving their bottom line.
According to FAO, approximately 1/3rd of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year. After agricultural production, restaurants are the next biggest source of global food waste generation. So clearly restaurants are a heavily wasteful business that can accelerate climate change.
Zero waste restaurants focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling their collective resources. Zero waste ideas and practices also encourage a circular economy, which is sustainable and improves profits. One study found that for every $1 that a restaurant invested in food-waste reduction strategies, it saved $7 on average.
Let’s look at the concept of zero waste restaurants in more detail.
→If restaurants don’t reduce food wastage and don’t control their inventory, they will kill their profit margins and lead to irreversible ecological harm. Use EagleOwl to track your inventory levels, optimize food purchases and portion sizes, and reduce spoilage.
What are the 5 R’s of zero waste?
With environmental waste piling up, and the deadly repercussions on our planet, eco-consciousness is more vital than ever. This is where the 5 R’s of zero waste guide restaurants on how to manage their waste sustainably. These R’s stand for:
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot
Starting with the 1st R, this step involves refusing items with negative environmental impacts. It suggests carefully evaluating every purchase you make for your restaurant to eliminate items that you don’t need and don’t want piling in the garbage bins.
For example, refuse to use all kinds of single-use disposable items like cutlery, straws, cups, bags, etc. Instead, switch to sustainable and green alternatives. Refuse to print hard copies of bills and instead offer to share it online with your customers.
Saying NO may seem challenging considering a lot of these practices are widely common in most restaurants. But the ladder to zero waste starts with saying NO to everything that isn’t absolutely necessary.
Once you have aced the first step, the next thing is to reduce your current consumption of resources. Practice portion control and rotate your stock regularly to reduce the chances of ingredient and food wastage.
Remember a big part of becoming a zero waste restaurant involves understanding how much stock you need to order. Very often we overestimate consumption and want to leverage discounts on bulk buying that suppliers offer. This leads to over-stocking.
Order smartly to ensure you are not left with extra food supplies that will eventually get spoiled. Use a restaurant management software like EagleOwl to get insights into your daily/weekly/monthly consumption of ingredients to reduce the chances of over-stocking.
Step 3 can be tricky for restaurants but is an important measure to get tangible results. This step dictates investing in reusable items. This could mean housing more products to ensure you reuse more and discard less.
For example, instead of serving plastic water bottles that immediately go to the trash bin, you use glass bottles to serve water to customers. Encourage guests to take their leftovers home when they can’t finish their meal.
You can switch to reusable containers when guests want to take leftover food. Another great idea is to request them to get their own containers from home to take leftover food. This helps create a responsible customer base and not just a responsible restaurant.
The fourth step is for all those things that cannot be refused, reduced, or even reused. This makes recycling a very important step of the zero waste process as it allows you to create something else.
Find recycling plants in your area to get items like plastic, aluminum cans, glass containers, etc processed the right way. Failing to do so may lead to them ending up in landfills.
Lastly, you can opt for composting to rot your waste. Most restaurants just discard food waste in the garbage bins. Instead, they can be used to create organic fertilizer and reduce your restaurant waste footprint.
For example, vegetable peels, scraps, and food leftovers can be used to create compost that can be used to improve the quality of the soil. Many restaurants use this compost in their in-house and outdoor plant soil.
It is crucial to understand what items can be composted and which can’t. For instance, meat, bones, and eggshells cannot be used in composting. If you don’t want to do composting in your restaurant, you can hand over your compostable items to a waste management company.
Is zero waste possible in real life?
Is zero waste really ZERO? Or is there some waste percentage above which the restaurant is considered zero-waste? To qualify as zero-waste, a restaurant must divert 90% or more of its waste from going into the trash. This means, the restaurant has to ensure that there are no leftovers of any sort, be it the food or the food waste.
From an ecological point of view, going zero-waste is a necessity. We recommend it not just to minimize food wastage but also to reduce your restaurant’s environmental impact. But if you look at it from an economical point of view, it’s not cheap to implement waste prevention practices.
In short, going zero-waste is theoretically possible but it sometimes comes with high expenses and a high sense of responsibility that people should develop.
For instance, let’s take the most common example of single-use plastic. To avoid using non-biodegradable single-use plastic straws, restaurants can turn to wooden or stainless steel ones. But then they cost more in comparison and have to be washed for reuse. Not every restaurant can afford the price hike and take the extra effort of washing these straws.
If reducing waste is not possible, the next option is to try to recycle it. Again, recycling doesn’t come cheap. Be it waste collection vehicles or building a recycling plant, everything requires significant investment. So getting rid of trash entirely may not be everyone’s choice even though the concept sounds very appealing.
If you’re new to this concept, there are many ways to start reducing your restaurant’s waste. To help you out, we have shared below examples of restaurants already implementing these waste reduction practices. And the best part is, that these tips are easily manageable. Let’s take a look at these inspiring zero waste restaurants.
2 Examples of Zero Waste Restaurants in India
As mentioned above, going zero-waste is actually possible. Here are a few examples of India-based restaurants that made it happen.
1. New Krishna Bhavan- Bengaluru
Who they are: New Krishna Bhavan is among the oldest restaurants in Bengaluru and is known for its one-rupee-meals.
Best waste reduction practices: The restaurant manages its dry and wet organic wastes responsibly. It also donates items like plastic bottles and cardboard to rag pickers who take them for recycling. Prabhu, the restaurant owner, keeps a log of the establishment’s daily food waste and tries to eliminate it by ordering the right amount of perishables.
What makes them inspiring: New Krishna Bhavan is one of the few zero-waste restaurants in Bengaluru. The restaurant donates 300-400 Kgs of wet waste to a local piggery every week and composts the dry waste.
2. Eat Raaja – Bengaluru
Who they are: Eat Raaja is a zero-food waste café and fresh-juice bar run by a former radio jockey – RJ Raaj.
Best waste reduction practices: The eatery’s best zero-waste practices include composting the wet waste and using sustainable serving techniques. The restaurant owner turns the citrus waste into natural bio-enzyme cleaners.
What makes them inspiring: Eat Raaja serves fresh, unsweetened, natural juices. What makes the juice bar stand out is its use of fruit shells, steel, paper, and banana leaves for serving delicious drinks.
4 Examples of Zero Waste Restaurants in the US
Let’s continue our list with US-based restaurants:
1. Rhodora Wine Bar – Brooklyn
Who they are: Based in Brooklyn, Rhodora is an entirely waste-free wine bar serving delectable, carbon neutral, and natural wines.
Best waste reduction practices: Rhodora became a 100% sustainable restaurant by implementing an on-site composter that converts diners’ leftovers into mulch.
In addition, they are committed to reducing food and beverage waste by utilizing only those products which can be recycled, upcycled, or composted. This means that they aren’t producing any landfill waste and instead generating organic mulch for the mini-gardens surrounding their restaurant. They do not accept or use any single-use plastic items in their space.
Moreover, their food packaging mainly involves aluminium and tin as these are the most easily recyclable materials.
What makes them inspiring: To avoid the harmful impacts of large-scale wine manufacturing, they work only with natural winemakers with small farms who share their vision of reducing environmental impact and don’t use chemical fertilizers.
2. Harbour House Inn – California
Who they are: Harbour House Inn is a fine-dining and zero-food waste restaurant with a Michelin star.
Best waste reduction practices: On top of their Michelin star, Harbour House Inn has earned a Michelin Green star for its sustainability and green economy efforts. The Inn has its own farm and an EcoRich Elite II composter for the organic refuse.
Situated beside the Mendocino coastline, the Inn offers seasonal and coastal cuisine to its customers. The menus are written daily by the restaurant’s executive chefs. These menus are based on the availability of produce from the Inn’s farm and the harvest from the local tide pools.
What makes them inspiring: Most of the Inn’s produce is organic or ethically and locally sourced. The restaurant composts any organic waste it produces.
3. Osteria Mozza – Los Angeles
Who they are: Osteria Mozza is an award-winning, zero-food waste Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.
Best waste reduction practices: The restaurant’s best sustainability practices include smart water usage, using locally sourced and organic produce, energy-efficient appliances, and its efforts to reduce waste. Osteria Mozza has collaborated with Foodprint Group – a certified advisor for zero-waste.
What makes them inspiring: All of the restaurant’s pre-consumer food waste is composted, including cardboard and plastic packaging. In addition, Osteria Mozza limits its post-consumer waste by offering customers recycled take-out containers for their leftovers.
4. Lionfish– San Diego
Who they are: Lionfish is a zero-waste restaurant with a focus on coastal cuisine.
Best waste reduction practices: The restaurant serves small portions that use sustainably sourced- seasonal ingredients. Additionally, the eatery stands out for producing minimal disposable waste and using eco-friendly supplies.
What makes them inspiring: Lionfish serves alternate seafood varieties to reduce the burden on overfished species. Furthermore, it has an elaborate recycling scheme that ensures minimal waste production.
Conclusion: Are you joining the army of zero waste restaurants?
Simply put, reducing waste or going zero waste reaps multiple benefits for restaurants. Managing your restaurant food well automatically increases your profit percentage. Becoming a waste free restaurant isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary step for business owners to take.
Fortunately, there are many successful zero waste restaurants that we can look to for inspiration. By following the zero waste ideas that these businesses are using, you too can achieve zero waste.
Are you the owner of a zero food waste restaurant, or in the process of achieving a waste free restaurant? If there’s a zero waste idea missing on this list that’s worked for you, let us know!
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