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Restaurants are Prioritizing Sustainability in 2017

When you study recent trends in the food and restaurant industry, it's obvious that sustainability is more than a passing fad. We're seeing more and more partners in the industry turning towards efficiency in how they source, create, and deliver food - and consumers are demanding it.

But what does this mean for the future of restaurants?

Sustainability in the Restaurant Industry

The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is widely seen as the leading voice in the movement for better restaurant practices. When discussing sustainability, they like to break the concept down into three simple areas: society, environment, and sourcing.

Each of these areas has four or five different key points, but the SRA's objective is to focus on society, environment, and sourcing above all else. That said, let's check out some of the things many restaurants are doing/can do this year to become more sustainable.

1. Cleaner Supply Chains

According to a recent food safety report from Cornerstone Capital Group (CCP), consumers are becoming increasingly aware of food safety issues and are interested in seeing more transparency from the restaurants they frequent.

Specifically, 74 percent of consumers believe this is something that restaurants should be responsible for providing.

One way companies can respond is by investing in clean supply chains. While still a relatively new idea, it's catching on with a number of leading brands.

"Panera is one example," notes Evan Kubitschek of FoodLogiQ. "They have long been dedicated to a cleaner supply chain, with their 'No No' list of over 80 ingredients that have been phased / are being phased out of their supply chain."

2. Healthier Eating

"Restaurants have a critical role to play in preparing food that is nutritious and wholesome," says Freddie Rohner of iHireChefs. "Eating out doesn't have to be overly indulgent or unhealthy, and chefs have a duty and responsibility to help their customers make the right choices about the foods they eat."

While some restaurants are naturally healthier than others – (there aren't many ways to make fried food healthy) – there are always ways for restaurants to offer better menu options that prioritize fresh over frozen. Sourcing can make a huge difference in quality, and customers can appreciate food supporting their local economy.

3. Local Sourcing

Few things impact the restaurant supply chain like sourcing. A restaurant in Ohio may source ingredients from a China, while a restaurant in Florida sources items from Maine. In most cases, these restaurants are only saving a few pennies by sourcing far away.

In 2017, restaurants should place more emphasis on local sourcing. This could mean buying from the farmer's market down the street or even growing fresh produce in a "kitchen garden." For restaurants, traceability software can help keep suppliers honest. Farm-to-fork traceability lets the restaurant operator see exactly where the food originates.

4. Food Waste

The old mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle is great, but it doesn't say a whole lot in regard to specifics. Each year, $218 billion of food is wasted in the United States. That represents roughly 1,250 calories per person, per day. Restaurants play a large role here.

Instead of just tossing food scraps into the trash, restaurants need to get creative. From donating food to local non-profits to creating unique food dishes with food scraps that aren't used, there are numerous ways to reduce waste with very little effort.

Sustainability is Good News for All

A lot of restaurateurs scoff at the notion of sustainability. They see it as something that stands in between them and profitability. In reality, sustainability is good for everyone. It can increase trust in the marketplace, encourage healthier eating, benefit local businesses, and reduce waste.