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Menu Management

7 Ways to Create a Sustainable Menu at Your Restaurant

by Antasha Solomon

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, sustainability ranks as the third most popular food trend. Sixty five percent of diners surveyed want to know where their food comes from and how it was sourced. Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the food production process and the story behind what they’re eating.

Creating a sustainable menu for your restaurant can have an impact on your bottom line. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it’s also what diners are growing to expect, and a major deciding factor in where they choose to eat.

Is Your Menu Sustainable?

Look at your current menu and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your ingredients sourced from local and organic suppliers?
  • Do you grow any of your own ingredients?
  • Is your menu adaptable to seasonal changes?
  • Are your portions sized correctly?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, your menu isn’t as sustainable as it could be. This means you are losing money in the immediate term due to food waste and higher food costs, and potentially customers as well — not to mention the negative environmental impacts an unsustainable menu creates. But, don’t worry, that’s why we created this list! If you want to go green consider implementing some or all of the following seven suggestions into your menu.

Buy Local and Organic

Whenever possible, source your produce and ingredients locally from farmer’s markets or suppliers who buy from local, organic farmers. Not only will this cut down on transportation costs and pollution, but it will also ensure your local farmers are supported. In addition to this, local food is proven to be fresher because the distance between the farm to your kitchen to your customers fork is shorter.

Update Your Menu Seasonally

Sync your menu with in-season produce (meaning food grown at the same time of the year you consume it) to adapt your menu to the flow of nature, and purchase food at its peak supply. In-season produce is generally grown closer to where it’s sold, meaning it won’t travel across the world or spoil on it’s way to your kitchen. Now, this isn’t to suggest you should totally re-write your menu every season (although you certainly can) but you should substitute seasonal produce for anything out-of-season.

In-House Production

If you really want to separate your restaurant and menu offerings from every other restaurant in the neighborhood, make some of your own items in-house. For example, perhaps you pickle your own vegetables, or make your own salad dressings from fresh ingredients. With in-house production, your dishes will come out with a fresh, homemade taste and be healthy and sustainable to boot!

Start an Onsite Garden

You can start an onsite garden almost anywhere — in a backyard, a rooftop or on a window sill. This could be as simple as a small herb garden with chives, mint, rosemary, and parsley, or a more complex garden full of seasonal fruits and vegetables. One of the major benefits of having an onsite garden is you can control what you grow, and you’ll have a selection of homegrown ingredients onsite at all times. In addition to this, starting a garden will result in less spend on produce and increased profits for your venue.

Reduce Portion Sizes

While super-sized portions have become the norm for many Western countries, the reality is the only thing larger portions increase is your customers waistlines. A quick and easy way to reduce portion sizes is by using smaller plates. On a smaller plate, even when you serve less food it will still look full to your customers — resulting in a satisfying optical illusion for patrons (not to mention a healthy serving of food) and immediate savings for you.

Serve Less Meat

Reduce the amount of meat you serve to three ounces or less (this is the correct serving size of protein for an adult) per plate and opt instead to serve increased portions of vegetarian options. Source your meat from local, organic farmers who allow their cattle and poultry to be free-range. Beef should be grass-fed and poultry should be pasteurized. This will ensure customers are eating the healthiest versions of these meat options and lessen your overall food costs and your restaurant’s carbon footprint. On average it takes about 1,800 gallons of water to harvest a single pound of meat, and the meat industry is responsible for around one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gasses which are directly contributing to climate change. Cutting back meat portions will make your menu more sustainable, and the planet as well!

Have a Smaller Menu

In the case of a restaurant’s menu, less is truly more. It’s much better to do a handful of things exceptionally well as opposed to an encyclopedia of mediocre items. A small menu is less intimidating to customers and makes for an easier decision-making process. As well, staff will appreciate having to remember fewer items, but excited about selling the features of each one. In addition, a smaller menu is less expensive to maintain as a small inventory is easier to manage than a large one.

Creating a sustainable menu for your restaurant doesn’t have to be a daunting task — it can be fun, exciting, and profitable. So try our seven suggestions and let the green roll in.

Antasha is a Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she spends her days advising restaurateurs on their point of sale systems and her nights writing hospitality-related content. A veteran bartender and server, Antasha enjoys bringing her industry experiences to life through blogging. Her three-year-old son and BFF, Elijah, is her self-proclaimed muse for all things creative.

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