Green Dining: Best Practices with Restaurant Association

The opportunity

Americans are increasingly eating away from home and choosing restaurants, cafeterias and other eateries to meet their dining needs. Restaurants and dining facilities can have a significant impact upon the environment, through their food purchasing decisions and facility operations.  For example, restaurants use nearly five times the energy of a conventional office building and purchase thousands of pounds of meat and seafood each year.  Dining managers can play a critical role in improving their facilities’ environmental performance, which can also cut costs and enhance the customer experience.

Our strategy

In January 2008, Restaurant Associates* and Environmental Defense Fund partnered to develop and test a comprehensive set of cost-effective Green Dining Best Practices to help dining managers green their food and facilities.  With the help of consulting firms SustainAbility and ERM, the team identified science-based best practices with the most significant environmental results and piloted those practices at two of Restaurant Associates’ client locations in New York City: Hearst Corporation and Random House.  Over the coming months, Restaurant Associates will continue to implement these best practices at their remaining client facilities, which include over 100 leading corporate, university and cultural institution sites.

The partnership identified best practices that address both environmental and human health concerns associated with food purchasing and dining operations, including:

  • Minimizing the use of energy, waste and water in dining facilities;
  • Reducing the environmental impact of food production and transport;
  • Improving the healthfulness of seafood, meat and produce by reducing the use of antibiotics and other contaminants and
  • Promoting sustainable fisheries and farmed seafood operations.

Pilot Phase Results

In addition to developing the Green Dining Best Practices, the partnership achieved early results at two of Restaurant Associates’ client locations in New York City – Hearst Corporation and Random House – including:

  • Avoiding 275 tons of CO2 emissions each year through improved kitchen energy efficiency and appliance use, including turning off equipment when not in use and unplugging underutilized appliances,
  • Reducing waste by over 60 tons each year through the use of reusable dishware and composting of kitchen food waste,
  • Increasing the amount of seafood purchased each year from more sustainable sources by 4000 pounds,
  • Reducing carbon-intensive red meat purchases each year by over 5,000 pounds and
  • Saving over $85,000 per year through improved food purchasing and facility operation.

Following the pilot phase at Hearst and Random House, in June 2009, Restaurant Associates instituted new purchasing and operating policies [PDF] for all client sites that commit them to:

  • Implement the green dining best practices in client facilities, with certification of those efforts by a 3rd party standards organization,
  • Increase the amount of seafood served from EDF’s Seafood Selector “green” list while discontinuing the use of seafood from unsustainable fisheries listed on EDF’s “red” list,
  • Assist clients in installing “bottleless” water dispensers to mitigate the environmental impact of bottled beverage offerings,
  • Reduce facility energy consumption and the carbon footprint of protein offerings by 20% and
  • Require all major distributors to participate in EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership to reduce emissions associated with Restaurant Associates’ food transport.

*Restaurant Associates is a subsidiary of Compass Group, the world’s leading foodservice provider.