Sustainability practices that restaurants can learn from hotels

By Peter Dougherty

Adopting sustainability practices is important for restaurants to stay relevant, and there’s a lot to be learned from hotels. Getting away to a hotel is the ultimate luxury for most people: with the big, comfy bed and crisp white sheets, and leaving towels behind to be “magically” replaced with fresh, clean versions. The price of these luxuries used to be far from the guests’ minds. However, green practices are not simply measured these days to mitigate the effects of climate change, but also to address increasing client preferences.

Prioritizing sustainability is good for business.

From water reduction to energy conservation and limiting food waste, technology has made adopting more sustainable practices within reach for restaurants, and the hotel sector is leading the way.

Tourism is responsible for 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions and the hospitality industry accounts for one per cent of this environmental impact. Some of the largest hotel chains have implemented implementing a greener approach and stricter waste and energy conservation regulations, even eliminating single-use toiletries as a way to lessen their impact and cut costs. Similarly, restaurants have the ability to think beyond their menus to include greener washroom products, invest in energy-efficient equipment, use recycled materials, and more.

These measures are steps in the right direction, however, finding long-term sustainable solutions from the outset is the way of the future.

Hotel restaurants play a pivotal role in both water and energy conservation. As of 2023, food waste is responsible for six per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste and that in the US alone, restaurants account for 22-33 billion pounds of food waste annually. Restaurants can take small steps to become more sustainable and adopt greener practices.

Two priorities that make sustainability goals more achievable are sourcing local menu items and reducing overall food waste. There are a variety of ways to reduce waste and energy consumption. According to Lightspeed’s 2022 Report: State of the Global Hospitality Industry, 81 per cent of hotel operators in Canada have begun integrating more local, farm-fresh foods into their menus. For those restaurateurs who are hesitant in making this transition, buying locally and seasonally can also improve your menu, help support your community, and make it more cost-efficient to purchase smaller amounts and reduce waste.

RELATED: Restaurants looking to lower food waste can turn to tech

One of the most efficient ways to create sustainable practices is making more strategic choices. Investing in tools like a property management system and a POS system with advanced insights gives you an overview of day-to-day operations will keep you one step ahead. For example, depending on your payment system, it can even tell you which menu items are selling fast, highlight seasonal ordering trends, and put a spotlight on items that might need to be retired.

Advanced data reveals peak traffic times, giving you a nuanced picture of restaurant flow, which can inform energy consumption and conservation, from lights to linen replenishment. Most guests will appreciate these steps as a way to reduce unnecessary waste.

There are many tactics that can be used to guide guests toward more sustainable choices when they visit that don’t take away from the experience. Hotels use towel reuse programs in that way, where guests can be influenced through suggestive messaging to make more environmentally sound choices. In a study conducted at two Swiss and Austrian ski resorts, three different signs were used to encourage their guests to participate in reusing their towels. They found that when the signs’ language highlighted it as the ‘social norm,’ it significantly reduced the use of towels.

In cafes and restaurants, consider mitigating unnecessary waste by offering takeaway cutlery, napkins, and straws only when requested and switching to reusable or biodegradable options. As well, some spaces choose to install filtered water options, rather than offering plastic bottles. Even setting up a simple water station for guests can minimize some of the excess waste.

Guests are not looking to visit hotels and restaurants that align with their values. One poll found that 53 per cent of guests want to visit more sustainable spots, thereby reducing environmental and societal impact, making efforts to preserve biodiversity, and limiting overconsuming helps to address sustainability goals and to improve the hospitality industry as a whole.

Ultimately, being green is good for both the planet and for business. Implementing practices like biodegradable packaging, using locally sourced items, or setting up a food recycling program affords restaurants bragging rights, connects them with their customers, and attracts consumers looking to align with companies that have their eye on the future.

Peter Dougherty is the Global GM of Hospitality for Lightspeed. He has worked with the company in a variety of roles since 2011 and was previously VP of Partnerships and Head of Sales for Hospitality.

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