Restaurants Serve New Sustainability Initiatives

Restaurants Serve New Sustainability Initiatives

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) wants to lighten its industry's environmental impacts with a new initiative aimed at helping restaurateurs implement eco-friendly business practices.

The industry group unveiled "Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability" at its annual trade show Monday, the same day PepsiCo Foodservice entered a partnership with the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) to help customers operate more efficiently. A Chicago culinary school also said Monday it would incorporate sustainability education into its curriculum.

"All restaurants, no matter how large or small -- from big corporations with thousands of franchised locations to small, independent neighborhood eateries -- can do their part, at the pace they can sustain, to reduce our industry's impact on the environment and conserve resources for future generations," Niki Leondakis, chairman of the NRA's Green Task Force and COO of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, said in a statement.

The blizzard of announcements comes at a time when roughly a third of restaurants from a recent NRA survey indicated plans to spend more money greening their operations. Environmentally friendly attributes are the second hottest trend in kitchen equipment, according to the NRA.

The NRA's Conserve initiative will include a website with advice for restaurants, as well as case studies, best practices and no-cost ideas. The website will first focus on energy, water and construction before eventually including resources on recycling, packaging, cleaning supplies and food and beverages.

The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) also made headlines at the trade show with the announcement of two partnerships to drive sustainability in the food service sector. First, it has teamed with Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts in Chicago to create sustainability-related training materials for foodservice workers, in addition to producing a brief instructional video.

The GRA also will serve as a resource for PepsiCo Foodservice customers interested in environmental site assessments, cost-benefit analyses and opportunities to incorporate sustainability into their operations.

"We work with vendors, property managers and manufacturers to implement those steps, while maintaining an ongoing client relationship to ensure success," said GRA Executive Director Michael Oshman. "We also help the operators realize the economic advantages of being environmentally responsible."

Monday's developments follow a workshop in San Francisco Friday aimed at helping the city's restaurant operators understand sustainability trends, drive efficiency and reduce waste while growing their customer base, according to Shell Thomas, a consultant who spoke at the workshop. It was presented as part of Small Business Week Green Program and Green Vendor Expo.

Restaurants need to react to the changing marketplace where customers are demanding more earth friendly products and business practices, Thomas said. "Business as usual will not be acceptable or will be less profitable," Thomas said.