Making Restaurants Sustainable: Some People You Should Know

Making Restaurants Sustainable: Some People You Should Know

Nutrition experts predict that sustainability and plant-based protein will be the most important restaurant trends in 2017. Plant-based protein, primarily pulses, continues its popularity from 2016, which the United Nations declared the Year of the Pulse. Organics continues to trend as well. Both organics and plant-based protein are closely tied to sustainability.

Sustainability is a critical issue in our world as we anticipate almost 10 billion on the planet by 2050. How will we feed all those people without depleting our resources? We’re all concerned about it! Yet anyone who has ever owned or worked in a restaurant knows how difficult it is to maintain a “sustainable consciousness” in the current environment.

Consider, for example, disposables, a significant budget item in any place that includes carry-out or catering as part of their business model. If well-meaning operators try to move away from styrofoam to something more environmentally friendly, they can anticipate sticker-shock. On the other hand, washing real dishes isn’t automatically more sustainable. Restaurants use 5,800 gallons of water per day on average.

Or consider health department rules that require leaving the water running while a worker dries hands with a single-use towel so the towel can act as a barrier between clean hands and shutting off the faucet. Then there’s recycling that requires washing recyclables before adding them to the recycling bin. Regulations that prevent people from bringing in their own dishes to fill. Air-conditioning and heating that runs as people enter and leave.

We haven’t even gotten to the food yet! Food that has already been wasted in its path to the restaurant, culled in the fields, in grocery stores and by other handlers. Food that is rarely from local farmers. Food that travels a long way, using precious resources. City regulations that don’t allow composting vegetable waste within city limits — and who can come and pick it up to take out-of-town? Frying oil and other grease.

Most restaurants, to keep their prices down, build on a scaffold of unfairly priced food, food that relies on a farm work force that in the U.S. is 70% low-paid undocumented migrant workers, food that with current practices adds to environmental degradation without paying for restoration. Food that uses (and wastes) increasingly precious water resources.

A few leaders in the U.S. and other countries are setting off boldly in new directions. Meet some of them:

Laura Abshire, Director of Sustainability Policy and Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association. According to Laura, consumers are driving the trend toward more sustainability in restaurants. “People like local sourcing, and like knowing where their food comes from,” said Abshire. “They like knowing that they’re helping their community and that their food didn’t travel very far and hasn’t been packaged as long.” The National Restaurant Association proactively established its own environmental education program called Conserve. Information on this initiative is online at The program is free and open to anyone looking for information on running a sustainable restaurant. As Laura says, “You can save a little bit on your bottom line, and you can show your customers that you really care about them and their values while also doing something good for the environment as well.”

Jack Cheney, graduate student at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Affairs, studies Washington’s raw oyster industry, the largest in the U.S. and home to Taylor Fish Farms in operation for five generations supplying fish bars, shipping worldwide and always sustainable. Of oyster farming, Jack says, “What’s more farm to table than a raw oyster? There’s nothing that’s done to an oyster from the time it’s taken out of the water to the time it’s put on your plate at the restaurant.” Cheney talks about the positive environmental impact of oyster farming in addition to a minimal carbon footprint: “Oysters are sustainable. They’re clean for water. One oyster filters 50 gallons of water per day. It provides a wide berth of environmental benefits to the ecosystem.”

Arthur Potts Dawson, owner of acclaimed London restaurants Acorn House and Water House, opened in 2006. Potts Dawson hit the international scene in 2010 with his Ted Talk, A vision for sustainable restaurants. He “wants us to take responsibility not just for the food we eat, but how we shop for and even dispose of it.” His restaurants feature rooftop gardens, low-energy refrigerators and wormeries that turn food waste into compost, proving a sustainable approach is profitable and serving as training grounds for the next generation of green chefs.

Betsy Fink, co-founder of Millstone Farm, an incubator for community-based food systems. Betsy works with local markets and restaurants to expand local food networks. Through the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, she combats food waste.

Fedele Bauccio & Ernie Collins are the founders and owners of Bon Appétit Management in California. Frank and Ernie believed the restaurant industry, colleges and corporate cafeterias wanted and needed something other than what they were getting in the 1980s. What they needed was real food, freshly prepared. Their made-from-scratch food goes out to a contract market and 650 restaurants with which they work. They have been committed to health since their beginning and pioneered environmentally and socially responsible practices designed to create a more sustainable food system. In 1999, they launched Farm to Fork, widening their focus to the communities in which they operate. They have been front-runners in all the issues related to sustainability including antibiotic use in farm animals (2003), switching to rBGH-free milk (2003) and cage-free shell eggs (2005), food’s role in climate change (2007), farmworker rights(2009) and animal welfare (2012). Many nonprofit and industry groups honor Fedele’s work.

Douglas McMaster, owner and operator of The Silo in Brighton, UK, is the first zero-waste restaurant in the UK. Features he introduced in this minimalist environment include a special compost machine displayed near the entrance that will process all the restaurant’s food scraps, supplies delivered in reusable containers, ingredients mostly from local farmers and producers, flour milled on site and booze brewed in the basement. Meals come on plates made from recycled plastic and drinks in recycled jam jars. A chef and activist, McMaster says, “Choice is something which is wrong with the food industry. The places with more choice create more waste and have lower standards, that’s an absolute fact.” He offers just six daily main courses at Silo.

Ted Turner & George W. McKerrow, founders and owners of Ted’s Montana Grill, are passionately committed to Planet, Plate and People. Their motto is, “Eat Great. Do Good.” Their Sustainability Metrics are impressive. Further, they work hard to engage other restaurants in the idea of “going green.” In 2008, McKerrow and Turner visited five cities as part of a national tour, “The Green Restaurant Revolution.” Created to heighten awareness about the restaurant and hospitality industry’s environmental impact on the planet, the tour brought together industry leaders and future influencers to talk about the opportunities and challenges of going green and to stimulate conversation and ideas on solutions. More than 800 restaurateurs, hospitality leaders and culinary professionals attended five industry events. A front page USA Today article featured the company’s environmental commitment: Can restaurants go green, earn green?

What Can You Do? Every restaurant can contribute to sustainability by raising consciousness throughout its operation and paying attention to four areas:

  • Waste reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy

Experiment with locally sourced and seasonal foods. Engage your customers in your effort to create a more sustainable experience. Take advantage of free resources like Conserve from the National Restaurant Association. Find out what is available in your community to assist you in your efforts. And while you’re doing all that, remember that appreciating beautiful, delicious, fresh food is the first step toward a conservation program in your restaurant.

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Why Half of Your New Hires Could Leave in Less Than a Year

Why Half of Your New Hires Could Leave in Less Than a Year

Some hospitality businesses are beginning to notice a trend. Of all new hires made within the previous twelve months, only half of them are choosing to stay on at their jobs. Most who leave do so before the one-year mark, which adds to the pressure being placed upon businesses. To understand why an online staff management company studied their 2016 employee retention report.

More than thirty thousand employees from almost two thousand small businesses were surveyed. The data clarified the challenges that numerous establishments face in regards to keeping and losing staff.

Hospitality businesses were compared with those in construction and manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. Healthcare retained employees the longest, with the average tenure lasting fifteen months. Retail and construction and manufacturing tied for second with twelve months each, while hospitality only reached an average of eight months.

Employees are in need of incentives to encourage them to maintain a high level of efficiency.

Regardless of the industry, all employees experience “life cycles” throughout the course of the job. The first few weeks – and sometimes months – are spent settling in and learning the required tasks. It is during this time that business owners invest in the worker’s development and training. As the employee learns and grows, he or she gradually becomes more proficient and reaches peak productivity. Employers like to see new hires reach this point as quickly as possible.

However, employees are in need of incentives to encourage them to maintain that level of efficiency. When this does not happen, they begin to disengage from their job. Eventually, they become bored and dissatisfied with their role in the establishment, and many choose to seek employment elsewhere.

Businesses with low staff retention rates see a very short period of peak employee productivity.

Businesses with low staff retention rates see a very short period of peak employee productivity. The business owner spends the time and money for hiring and training, yet within a matter of months, workers disengage and begin to consider leaving the job.

What does this mean for these businesses? Ultimately, it all translates into higher overheads, diminished customer service, lower employee morale, and less focus placed on the business itself. All of these factors can be detrimental to the establishment’s success and future growth.

It can be tough to place a strict figure on hiring and training new workers. Consequently, the true cost of low employee retention is often difficult to identify. Studies in the United States estimate that the cost of replacing a worker who earns $8 per hour sits at nearly $10,000. Additionally, that narrow window of peak job engagement can damage the overall productivity of the business. Too much time is spent managing new hires and recruitment, and disengaged workers can have a negative effect on customer service and loyalty.

One of the main reasons behind high turnover rates in the hospitality sector may have to do with the age of new hires.

One of the main reasons behind high turnover rates in the hospitality sector may have to do with the age of new hires. There is a prominent reliance on the employment of younger workers, many of whom are trying to fit in their work between studying and classes. Several establishments also hire seasonally, which causes a fluctuation in new hires at certain times throughout the year. In hindsight, it really is no wonder why there is such an alarming drain on employees.

So how can hospitality establishments improve employee retention?

  • Do not use the trend as an excuse. While this particular sector is known for high turnover and low retention, simply accepting it as fact puts the business at risk and impedes growth.
  • Look at how it is done in other industries. Most sectors look for employee commitment and skills, not necessarily youthful faces. Some retail businesses actually prefer older workers because they are viewed as more mature and therefore more likely to consistently deliver better customer service. They also tend to be more loyal to their employers than their younger counterparts.
  • Change the overall mindset. Retention should be viewed as a strategic investment for the continued growth of an establishment.
  • Consider offering recognition and rewards to employees. All workers want to be acknowledged that they are doing well at their job. In doing so, it will boost morale and motivate employees to keep performing at their best.
  • Consider promoting the best talent. Most workers want to advance through the ranks rather than return to the same routine tasks for the rest of their lives. Promotions give them the opportunity to develop and can mean the difference between a career and “just a job.”

At the end of the day, a number of new hires will leave early on no matter what. The key is to focus on retaining those that are more likely to stay and optimizing hiring practices so that you’re attracting long-term employees.

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4 Reasons a Social Media Strategy is Vital to Your Restaurant

4 Reasons a Social Media Strategy is Vital to Your Restaurant

When marketing your restaurant, you may treat social media as an afterthought. After all, does having a Facebook page or Pinterest account really matter when it comes to attracting new guests?

In short, the answer is a clear yes. Social media, when done correctly, can play a significant part in helping you grow awareness of your restaurant in the area. The key, of course, is to take a strategic approach to marketing. Here are 4 reasons a social media strategy is vital to the success of your restaurant.

1. Reach your audience where they spend their time

Social media has long moved beyond a fad that only a defined audience uses. Today, 78% of the United States population has a social media profile. More than 200 million people hop on Facebook or other networks for almost two hours every day to engage and interact with friends and family.

Through a strategic social media presence, you can become a part of that conversation. By creating relevant content for your target audience, you begin to establish yourself as a resource worth following. Sooner or later, your restaurant becomes a natural part of your guests’ social media feeds anytime they log in.

Through your social media presence, you can share visuals and attract guests to your restaurant.

2. Create a visual presence of your restaurant online

We’re visual beings. Research has long shown that if we have the choice between reading content and viewing the same content in a visual format, we will choose the latter every time. Through social media, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this tendency.

Restaurants have plenty of content to share on a regular basis. Pictures of meals, full dining rooms, desert tables, and outside space on a summer day all lend themselves to making your restaurant look attractive. Through your social media presence, you can share these visuals and attract guests to your restaurant.

3. Allow guests to share their experiences 

A major benefit of social media is in its name. Rather than being limited to a one-way communication channel, Twitter, Instagram, and other networks allow your guests to have a voice and share their thoughts about their experience at your restaurant.

Through a social media presence (and a social listening strategy), you can jump into these conversations and further broaden your reach. Not everything your guests share about your restaurant will be positive. But even for the occasional negative comment, wouldn’t you prefer to know about it and be able to address it?

By their nature, social media networks are more intimate and personal than print ads or other traditional promotions would be.

4. Offer a glimpse behind the scenes

Finally, don’t underestimate another benefit of a social media strategy for your restaurant: it’s ability to go beyond the types of messages that other marketing channels have to offer. By their nature, social media networks are more intimate and personal than print ads or other traditional promotions would be. If you approach social media strategically, you can take advantage of that expectation.

Find out how Sirvo can help your business utilize social media to hire top industry talent.

The most natural way to endear yourself to your audience on social media is to share content that offers a glimpse behind the scenes of your restaurant. Who are your chefs? What’s their favorite meal to cook, and how do they cook it? What does your kitchen actually look like? If your social presence can answer these types of questions, you’re well on your way to executing a strategy that promotes both first-time and return visits to your restaurant.

In short, social media can and should be a core part of your digital efforts. The above-mentioned points are just some of the benefits it offers. As long as you understand both your audience and the medium in which you operate, you can take advantage of its benefits to strategically reach out to potential visitors and grow your restaurant.

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So The Holidays Are Over, Now What? Tips to Keep The Money Flowing

So The Holidays Are Over, Now What? Tips to Keep The Money Flowing

The holidays are great for the hospitality and service industry. Sure, you’ll hear the occasional grinch toned story of bad luck or holiday heartache. But for the most part, business will be booming no matter what aspect of the industry you work in. The increased business can be a boon for your income with customers willing to be more relaxed in their spending habits. So how can you prepare yourself for the slow season? Here’s what to do when business dies down.

“When you have money, think of the time when you had none.” – Japanese Proverb

Even though everyone knows they should put money aside for a rainy day, it’s not always done. When business slows down, it’s a good idea to slow down on the spending in your personal life, too. You may be tempted to let loose now that your schedule has relaxed, but resist the urge.

Setting money away is the hardest thing on this list to do so here’s a good rule of thumb: Put your paychecks aside and live off your tips. You’ll want to have three to six months of living expenses saved up for emergencies. The worst thing you can do is to put yourself in the position of living shift to shift.

Use the time to relax and reset

The essence of hospitality is staying one step ahead, anticipating needs, and getting things done as quickly as possible. Many employees find themselves working full time or even overtime during the busy season to ensure such great service.

Even though everyone knows they should put money aside for a rainy day, it’s not always done.

While this may be great for your bank account, it’s hard for your body and mind and this can quickly lead to burnout. Take the time to catch your breath. Also, the downtime after the holidays is ideal for returning to any healthy habits you’ve put aside.

Perfect your craft

Hospitality and service industry employees increasingly have their sights set on becoming authorities (even celebrities) for what they do. If you plan on progressing past casually working weekend shifts, it’s a good idea to use the slower pace to perfect your technique.

Use the tranquility after the holidays to learn about and experiment with new products and innovations. Who knows? You may come up with a new recipe that turns into the next big thing.

…after the holidays is ideal for returning to any healthy habits you’ve put aside.

It’s a good time to bond with co-workers

Chances are the busy season brought a lot of new faces into the building. But with guests coming and going constantly, it’s hard to find a moment to talk about anything besides work.

Now you can take the time to connect (or reconnect) with your coworkers. In turn, this makes your work environment less stressful and fosters organic teamwork. Better teamwork equals better service which equals better tips, reviews, and ultimately increased business.

Pick up shifts at another location

There will be times when one employer can’t offer you enough hours. Luckily, it’s common practice for employees to work part-time at more than one location. And after the holidays or busy season, some staff members are likely to ask for time off. This opens up possibilities around town for you to earn extra income. Check out Sirvo for all the best job opportunities.

Even though it may be a slower time, these opportunities are always available and managers may be looking for reliable help to fill open shifts. This could be your chance to finally get your foot in the door at your dream job. Use these tips to help you weather the post-holiday season. One great thing about the hospitality industry is its seasonality. Take advantage of that benefit.

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Why Your Restaurant Should Focus on Kids (Hint: To Increase Profits)

Why Your Restaurant Should Focus on Kids (Hint: To Increase Profits)

Want to increase your restaurant’s bottom line?  Consider making your eatery kid-friendly. According to Bloomberg, Americans’ spending on dining out has outpaced their spending on groceries for the first time. This includes parents taking their children out to eat in restaurants. With dining out becoming more popular, catering to families makes financial sense. Kids might not eat as much as adults, but making your restaurant kid-friendly can increase your overall volume.  

Include a Variety of Kids’ Options on the Menu

Recent surveys by the American Culinary Federation show that healthy, locally grown menu items are a top choice when eating in a restaurant. This applies to parents as much as anyone else, particularly when they read news stories about the dangers of childhood obesity. Offering healthy menu items for children does not mean that you have to ditch the hot dogs, French fries and macaroni and cheese, but it does mean that adding items like sliced fruit, whole grain bread, low-fat milk and lean meats are a good idea. Parents are more likely to return to a restaurant where they know that they can feed their kids a delicious healthy meal.

With dining out becoming more popular, catering to families makes financial sense.

Pay Attention to Service

Remember that kids are customers, too. They should not just be an afterthought. Respect all customers, regardless of age. Warmly greet parents with children in tow and give them a larger table so that they have room to store all of their gear. A larger table also gives parents room to move items out of kids’ reach if necessary. If appropriate, ask the parents if their kids would like a high chair or booster seat.

Children, depending on age, want to be treated like adults and appreciate being asked directly what they would like to order. Serve kids’ meals quickly, even if the adult food is not ready. Parents very much appreciate speedy service. Show flexibility when it comes to food items, since many children these days have food allergies. Be ready to offer substitutions and give information about food ingredients if needed.

  • Make sure every bathroom has a changing station. Put a short stool under the sink so that children can stand on it when they wash their hands.
  • Offer an online menu. Parents appreciate knowing what options are available for their kids ahead of time.
  • Have kids-eat-free days. Offer a free child meal for every adult meal purchased. This is a simple way to attract more families.

Ensure that Children Have Plenty to Do 

Children become bored easily and quickly. Ensure that they have plenty to do while waiting for their food to keep them from acting out. Provide child-friendly appetizers, paper tablecloths, coloring books and crayons. Make the menus colorful, entertaining and even interactive. They might have a word search game, a crossword puzzle or a fun worksheet on the back. You can also hand these out to kids and their parents while they wait for a table.

Remember that kids are customers, too.

Consider creating a kids’ corner. It should be a place that is visible from every angle in the restaurant so that parents can see their kids at all times. Add pillows, coloring books, drawing papers, Lego blocks, reading books and other kid favorites to give children a place to play while waiting for their meal. While these areas can often be tedious to manage, they serve as great ways for parents to offer their kids distractions when patience runs short. Rotate the toys out to avoid old ones getting grimy.

Making your restaurant a child-friendly place takes a little work but is worth the effort.  Parents will appreciate it, and children will, too. They might even become lifelong customers.

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