Restaurants ready for a flavor of sustainability

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When it comes to dining out, most people have eyes bigger than their bellies. As a result, restaurants across the world are becoming hubs of food waste.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly one-third of the world’s food goes to waste every year. That’s 1.3 trillion kilograms of food–enough to feed the 800 million people who go hungry worldwide, twice over. Further, when food rots it creates methane, which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

The consequences of waste have been food for thought for the hospitality industry, which needs sincere involvement from restaurants and retailers to adopt innovative solutions, cut food waste and practice sustainability measures.

Sustainable thinking gathers steam

As consumers are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and where the waste goes, big food service brands are taking a greener approach.

“We’re seeing a push for food service sustainability from customers, landlords and legislators,” says Paulina Herrmann of JLL’s Foodservice Consulting team.

A new study from the National Restaurant Association shows that the U.S. restaurant industry is boosting its sustainability efforts, including energy-saving equipment, food waste reduction and water conservation. According to the report, energy-efficient equipment and practices are becoming commonplace. Eight in 10 restaurant operators use energy-efficient lighting, while six in 10 use programmable heating, ventilation and air conditioning thermostats. More than four in 10 use ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerators, freezers and ice makers.

“The equipment revolution – which is key in food service – has been a long time coming. Vital solutions such as cross ventilation or heat retention are becoming ever more efficient and cheaper,” Herrmann adds.

There is also a growing awareness among landlords who are playing their part by launching sustainability initiatives. UK-based Land Securities is working towards 100-percent renewable electricity and an 18-percent reduction in carbon intensity across its portfolio. European developer Hammerson is aiming for net positivity in resource use, water and socio-economic impacts by 2030.

“Sustainability goals demand a lot from tenants,” says Herrmann. “Whether they’re set by governments or landlords, they require a big transformation in equipment and resources. This, in turn, affects how real estate is fitted out.”

Yet, Herrmann believes that the industry is making a concerted effort to work together to drive positive change. “There’s also support coming from landlords to make sure that tenants can achieve the set goals.”

More work ahead

Despite these advances, there are many challenges along the road to transformation. A key issue is addressing deeply ingrained habits within the industry. “Training staff to turn off a dishwasher that’s running 24/7 can have a huge impact,” says Herrmann. “Likewise, consumers piling their plates at buffet style restaurants can also led to huge amounts of waste. Changing behavior is key to creating a truly sustainable industry.”

Nevertheless she believes that the outlook is promising. “Big companies are showing it can be done, and customers will demand it from others,” concludes Herrmann. “There’s going to be a major push; sustainability will become non-negotiable.”

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