Sustainability is fast becoming one of the biggest considerations for business owners, across almost all sectors. As many as two-thirds of consumers are now prepared to pay more for environmentally-friendly products and consider sustainability before making a purchase.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the food industry has revolved mainly around takeaway for most of the past year. While customers want food delivery services, there is also the growing concern of the environmental impact of this business model.
However, a few simple changes for restaurants offering delivery can help to increase your sustainability. By implementing eco-friendly business ideas, you’ll be helping the planet and keeping your customers happy.
One simple way of making your business eco-friendlier is to introduce e-receipts as an alternative to paper. E-receipts reduce both costs to the business and the amount of wastepaper generated. A Green America survey found that as many as 90% of all consumers would prefer the option of an e-receipt, with the majority citing concerns for the environment and personal convenience as the key reasons for their choice.
Introducing a payment system that offers e-receipts for customers can both improve the customer experience and lower the levels of waste generated by your business.
Options to opt-out of receiving cutlery
Giving customers the choice to opt-out of receiving plastic cutlery with a takeout order can reduce your plastic waste generation.
Most people who order takeout plan to eat at home, where they already have cutlery to hand. While single-use utensils should be provided as an option for those eating on the go, restaurants offering takeaway services no longer need to provide this as standard.
Consumers today are increasingly concerned about plastic waste entering the oceans. Single-use cutlery has been identified by The Ocean Conservancy as one of the deadliest items threatening ocean life. Takeaway restaurants advertising a policy of cutlery on request rather than as standard increase their sustainability credentials in a big way.
Removing excess packaging
Packaging, in particular plastic packaging, is one of the biggest contributors to landfill and plastic in the oceans.
Restaurants can reduce their levels of waste hugely by auditing their supply chain and looking to lower the levels of unnecessary plastic packaging that enter the business.
In the kitchen, this could be requesting loose fruit and vegetables rather than plastic wrapped packages or asking for returnable trays rather than single-use boxes. For delivery services, excess packaging that can easily be removed include wrappers for cutlery or straws.
Many consumers already work to reduce plastic waste by bringing their own bags, so carrier bags should only be provided upon request too, and if possible, opt for paper bags.
Switching to online menus
Another eco-friendly business idea is changing your menu. Paper menus can contribute to a large part of the cost of running any form of restaurant or food delivery services. Paper menus easily become damaged and require replacing, need reprinting each time there is a menu alteration and, in the current COVID-safe environment, are only single-use. This generates a lot of waste every day that could be avoided.
The online barcode generator tool from Square allows businesses of any size to take their menus fully online. This drastically reduces waste from paper menus and helps streamline customer service at a time when employees have more work to do than ever.
POS software for restaurants allows customers to browse the menu and place their order online from their own devices. It also facilitates rapid menu updates without costly printing fees, as business owners can add and remove dishes to correspond with what is currently available at the touch of a button – ideal for adding daily specials too.
Creating eco-friendly packaging
A certain amount of packaging is unavoidable when offering food to take away. However, you can source sustainable materials for that packaging wherever possible.
Eco-friendly business ideas for takeaway packaging include using paper over plastic for takeaway bags and recycled and recyclable materials wherever possible. Biodegradable packaging materials such as bagasse may be suitable for a variety of takeaway food products, including hot foods – provided they are not liquid-based. Bagasse is formed from pulped sugar cane and is fully biodegradable. There are numerous other takeaway container products on the market that are vegetable-based and compostable after use – online research can help in this area.
Trade in programmes
When looking at eco-friendly business ideas, you could also consider initiatives to encourage customers to recycle and reuse.
This could involve offering loyalty points or rewards each time a customer brings their own containers or providing recycling points on-site to encourage careful disposal of packaging materials and food waste.
Most people already want to reduce their environmental impact but are not sure how to go about it. By providing recycling solutions and incentives to use them, restaurants can tap into that desire and improve the customer experience.
Refining your menu to avoid food waste
Food waste is one of the biggest issues within the food service industry. The UK food industry as a whole generates around 3.6 million tonnes of food waste every year and more than two billion tonnes of that food is still edible.
Restaurants can help reduce waste and reduce their own operating costs through more effective menu management. This means refining a menu to minimise ways helps protect both the business and the environment.
Menu management is made simple with POS software from Square. The digital tools provide business owners and chefs with all the information they need to see what products sell well and which are less popular – this can help with ordering the right quantity of ingredients to avoid waste. You can also partner with a business like Too Good to Go and offer leftover meals or ingredients at a discounted price to locals in your area at the end of service, cutting down even more on food waste.
Embracing sustainability is not only better for the environment – it also appeals to the ever-widening demographic of consumers who want to see sustainability in action from a business before deciding to buy.
Using Square for Restaurants can equip you with the data and tech you need to start taking those steps towards offering more sustainable takeaway and delivery for customers and becoming an eco-friendly business.