Prior to COVID-19, sustainability and plant-based dishes were top of mind for consumers. As COVID-19 rocked the foodservice industry, sustainable practices might have been placed on the back burner but as restaurants reopen, sustainability will once again increase in consumer interest. Ensuring your restaurant is leveraging best practices is not only key to meeting shifts in consumer demand but can also contribute to a positive bottom line – which is essential at this time.
While restaurant owners want to make their kitchens more sustainable, there’s still a lot of confusion about what sustainable gastronomy really means and how to make an impact.
For instance, many may think that sustainable gastronomy means automatically turning to vegan dishes – this isn’t the case.
Sustainable gastronomy is so much more than this. So with the help of Chef’s Pencil, a foodie magazine that supports the sustainable gastronomy movement, we want to provide a few actionable tips on how to make your professional kitchens more sustainable.
1. Go Local
This one is easy and complicated at the same time. Using local ingredients will help local farmers and local communities, which is one of the staples of sustainable gastronomy.
Using local ingredients not only helps your local communities thrive, but they also reduce carbon emissions by reducing supply chains.
It sounds easy, but it takes time to establish relationships with local farmers and fishermen. And sometimes the menu also needs to be redesigned to account for the change in ingredients.
However, it will pay off: not only are you doing something good, but it can also help you drive more business. Clients, especially millennials, are looking for more than just a meal. They are looking for an experience, for a story – and providing dishes based on local ingredients is what many are looking for.
2. Create a Seasonal Menu
This goes hand in hand with using local ingredients – use ingredients that are fresh and readily available. This way you help reduce food waste and the energy required for longer food storage.
Seasonal menus will be appreciated by your customers as they offer the variety that keeps them excited about coming back. Moreover, you can tell a story through your seasonal menu – you will probably have sensed by now that there is a recurrent storytelling theme.
3. Sustainable Seafood Options
If you’re serving seafood, consider opting for species that are not threatened by over-fishing. Over-fishing is driven by consumer demand, but most seafood is consumed while eating out. As a restaurateur, you have the power to impact demand and shift consumer preferences.
There plentiful local (Canadian) fish species that would make a welcome choice for your customers. Check out this list provided by the Marine Conservation Society.
Also consider working with frozen fish. Flash-frozen fish ensures freshness is kept, while offering a way to reduce food waste.
4. Offer Plant-Based Choices
We also don’t think eliminating meat from our diets is something feasible anytime soon, or even desirable. However, many people are cutting back on eating meat and Canada is at the forefront of this trend. Offering more vegan or vegetarian options, or even blended meat and plant-based protein options is great for keeping up with the new demands, while also providing a more sustainable dining experience.
“Create plant-strong dishes where the emphasis is on vegetables rather than meat or fish. Or you could have a vegan/vegetarian menu to which you can add meat or fish. Traditionally, vegan dishes are put together by removing other components. If you showcase a dish which is complete without animal products, you encourage people to eat more sustainably”, says Natasha Tatton of Bred, a 100% plant-based organic sourdough bakery in Whistler, BC, Canada.
5. Reduce Food Waste
This is one area where you can have the biggest impact, but it is also one that is hardest to master and maintain. Food waste is a challenge for the foodservice industry but having someone in place, preferably a team, responsible for reducing food waste in your restaurant can be a benefit.
Then you need to understand and track all the food waste that is currently being created and keep a log. Analyze the log and see what your biggest source of food waste is. Go here for a great guide on how to tackle this complex issue.
6. Buy From Farms That Adhere to Sustainable Practices
Sustainable gastronomy is an ecosystem and the more you support it, the stronger it becomes. And being in Canada, you don’t need to look too far away, as many Canadian farmers have already taken big steps toward sustainable farming.
7. Grow Your Own Produce
This is taking sustainable gastronomy to the next level. Look around you for space you can use to grow things that you use a lot, such as herbs and salad greens. You could even keep bees in a roof garden. Perhaps use a cultivator.
8. Reconsider Single-Use Items
During COVID-19, single-use items were needed in order to ensure health and safety of both customers and employees. Coming into the ‘new normal’, reusable items will once again take priority.
It’s daunting and maybe unrealistic to reduce all single-use items but you can start with baby steps. Try to start by using washable serving equipment, glassware, or reusable dishware. Make a statement by not selling water in plastic bottles. And opt to use bio-friendly alternatives to plastic straws.
9. Water Waste Management
Water is a big source of waste in professional kitchens and while Canada has plenty of freshwater sources, it’s still mindful of reducing water waste.
Leaky pipes and faucets are probably the biggest sources of water waste, but there are other ways to cut down on water consumption.
Check out what the sustainable friendly people behind the Michelin-rated Relae Restaurant in Copenhagen are doing:
“We don’t sell pre-packaged bottled water at our restaurants. We use a filter system and we serve water in empty wine bottles. This means we have no transportation costs, no plastic waste, and we have a way to recycle used glass bottles.”
“We have a policy of never pouring this drinking water into the sink, so when bottles return from the tables untouched, or partially consumed, we consolidate it and reuse it for cleaning the floor.” Read their sustainability report here.
10. Spread the Word
Make sure you let your clients and business partners know what you are doing. Awareness is key and can lead to more people taking action. Your clients will appreciate you for that and this appreciation will likely translate into more business.
But some things have to be done regardless of profit because they benefit our lives and our communities, so keep this as your main motivation.