How Sustainable is Your Takeout Operation?
Sustainability and environmental impact are on a lot of peoples’ minds and are not so much trends but important needs. With many municipalities, provinces and even the federal government working on legislation and policy changes, not to mention consumer demand, these can be confusing to get into.
There are many variables at play but here is a rundown of how to assess and adjust your own environmental impact.
Packaging is one of the most visible impacts of your operation, and probably the trickiest when it comes to takeout as you need to balance the cost, food quality and consumer safety demands.
The vast majority of plastic containers do not, or cannot, get recycled, so looking at paper and aluminum options can reduce landfill amounts. Looking to the future, companies like Suppli and reusables are trying to popularize reusable and returnable takeout containers.
Plus, asking guests if they need napkins, condiments, straws and utensils, instead of automatically packing all of the above, is another way to reduce waste while saving on costs. Plastic straws in particular might soon be a thing of the past, so switching to paper or other alternatives early is a wise move.
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Now more than ever, delivery is a big part of restaurant operation. With each order, it’s another car on the road, and that can add up.
Many delivery apps allow you to prioritize bike and E-Bike couriers which can make a small but meaningful impact. You can also limit your geographic reach on your delivery network to lessen the reliance on cars.
The best solution might be to incentivize pick-up and focus on your immediate trade area. Early bird and pick-up specials can drive local traffic, neighbourhood loyalty, and have the fringe benefit of saving on expensive delivery fees.
Food waste is one of the biggest issues operators face from a cost perspective, but it’s also a large environmental and social issue as well. Smart ordering and inventory can only do so much as the predictability of business is tough.
Selling staple and specialty grocery items can be a good way to keep fresh products moving while being an alternate revenue source for your business. There are even apps like Too Good to Go that help connect people to products that might be reaching their best before date.
Don’t want to sell but don’t want to toss good product either? Donations of excess prepared foods can be donated to shelters and charities with many offering a tax receipt for your efforts.
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A lot of the ingredients used out there may have a problematic origin story, and it seems every day something new is exposed – be it tomatoes from forced labour camps to creatively labelled seafood. Knowing the origin of your ingredients is important, not just environmentally but because consumers deserve to know.
For seafood, refer to the Marine Stewardship Council for tips as to how to source. Read the labels on prepared foods to avoid products like palm oil, non-fair trade coffee, and other commodities that contribute to deforestation and habitat loss.