By Pursuing “Sustainable” and “Organic” Are Restaurants Missing the Energy factor?

Posted on 08. Oct, 2009 by in Entrepreneurship, Services


Restaurants meet a wide range of needs, from daily visits to special occasions and events across government, business, and private sectors.  A working network of sustainable professionals will help recognize successful models and discard the bad ones.Through the human-cultural element of food, the restaurant industry can serve as a generative point for sustainable business and green operations.

 The restaurant industry is the second largest employer in the United States, second only to the government.  In 2005, the restaurant industry did $476 billion dollars in sales.   With over 900,000 restaurants throughout the United States, green business models are emerging as a critical concept in the restaurant industry.  A large amount of waste usually is produced by large systems.  Applying sustainable models and concepts to the restaurant industry reveals the tremendous potential for the development of comprehensive sustainable models within and outside the food-service industry.

The problem is waste: wasted food and wasted energy. Energy isn’t the only thing being wasted. Restaurants throw away approximately 30% of their food, about $48.2 billion worth a year, according to the Green Restaurant Association.    Restaurants also produce far more garbage on a daily basis than most other retail businesses — typically 100,000 pounds of garbage per location per year.  The development of successful models of restaurant composting programs and policies could redirect billions of dollars of food waste into compostable resources. Nearly 80% of the $10 billion dollars that the commercial food service sector spends annually for its energy use is lost in inefficient food cooking, holding and storage, says PG&E’s tech division. They use almost five times more energy per square foot than any other type of commercial building, says Pacific Gas & Electric’s Food Service Technology Center (FSTC).   Restaurants produce far more garbage on a daily basis than most other retail businesses. A typical restaurant generates 100,000 pounds of garbage per location per year, the Green Restaurant Association estimates. However, 70% of wasted food is estimated to be organic and compostable.

A New Green Frontier? Government agencies, and non-profits like the Green Restaurant Association, have begun to address the industry’s waste problem. For instance, the California Integrated Waste Management Board provides a guide for restaurant owners showing ways to increase efficiency in purchasing, product handling and storage, food preparation and storage, and production and services. Energy Star has a website has for restaurants on how to successfully adopt, maintain, and grow sustainable business practices, even a step-by-step, equipment-by-equipment guide to greening one’s restaurant.  Media-mogul, Ted Turner, is opening a chain of green restaurants called Ted’s Montana Grill. Recently, McDonald’s announced a green business model.

Successful adoption of sustainable restaurants starts with aligning the interests of business owners and consumers alike.  If sustainability is both internal and external, trust among and between businesses, customers, and government is essential.   Identifying the leaders and pioneers in the sustainability movement and green restaurants is a solid starting point.  From here, models can be adopted, tested, fine tuned, and eventually evolve into long lasting, sustainable operations. Overtime, sustainable practices through both the bottom-up and top-down processes will evolve.

Photo courtesy of: Gruczi via flickr

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One Response to “By Pursuing “Sustainable” and “Organic” Are Restaurants Missing the Energy factor?”

  1. [...] way to live green is to eat green.  Restaurant sustainability is on the rise, yet there are a limited number of leaders and pioneers in the the Green Restaurant [...]

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