NRA We Serve America's Restaurants Representing nearly 500,000 restaurant businesses, we advocate for restaurant and foodservice industry interests and provide tools and systems that help members of all sizes achieve success.
    NRAEF Building & Retaining Talent The NRAEF is focused on developing a stronger workforce and building the next generation of industry leaders through education, scholarships and community engagement.
  • NRA Show
    NRA Show May 18-21, 2013 As the international foodservice marketplace, the NRA Show provides unparalleled opportunities for buyers and sellers to come together, conduct business and learn from each other.
  • ServSafe
    ServSafe Minimize Risk. Maximize Protection. For over 40 years, ServSafe® training programs have delivered the knowledge, leadership and protection that have earned the trust and confidence of business leaders everywhere.

Getting Started

You’ve decided to embrace the concept of sustainability. Now where do you go from here? Start with a plan. You didn’t open your restaurant without one, and you didn't start serving without a menu. Don't stumble blindly into sustainability. Use these five steps as a start:


Step 1: Do your research and network

Every restaurant is a local institution. Even large chain restaurants must cater to local customer tastes and interests. Your environmental efforts are no different. Learn what’s going on in your community. Find out what local groups are doing on sustainability:

  • A basic Web search will go a long way!
  • Meet with a local university or college.
  • Network through your state and local restaurant associations.
  • Contact local government agencies and organizations.
  • Reach out to local vendors.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you offer sustainability education and assistance for local businesses?
  • To get assistance, does my business need to make a certain commitment?
  • How can we work with your organization and promote our efforts to our customers?


Step 2: Introspection and self-assessment

You’ve collected ideas and contacts. Now it’s time to look inside. How can you incorporate environmental efforts into your daily work?

Chris Koetke, dean of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, explains how incorporating a few sustainably-driven words in your mission statement can make a world of difference.

What you should do:

  • Review your business plan and mission statement. Incorporate environmental efforts into the language.
  • Review your current environmental practices. Ask how this compares with where you want to be. Are you tracking waste, water and energy bills? This can help you identify where to start.
  • Where do you stand compared with other restaurants? Benchmark against similar operations if you can. Conduct a meeting with employees to brainstorm ideas.
  • Ask your utility company if they do energy audits; many offer these for free. If not, check out this do-it-yourself energy audit.


Step 3: Find your story and prepare to implement. Set goals!

Decide what practices make sense to implement based on your corporate goals, business environment, and local circumstances. Think about what you can achieve if you start small and local.

The following can help you craft a plan for success:

  • Grow an organic, honest sustainability story you can share with confidence.
  • Start a pilot project: this is a great way to try something new.
  • Employees are your champions. How will you educate and train them to tell your sustainability story?
  • Who will you contact for networking? Who will initiate contact and when?
  • How will you communicate with any key stakeholders across your community? Who will handle that communication and how often?

Chris Koetke, dean of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, offers tips on how launching a green team can be empowering and motivate your staff.

Step 4: Set short- and long-term goals

You can’t manage what you don't measure. Outline a series of small goals that you can achieve. Make sure they are measurable.

Develop a short plan for achieving your goals. Remember, stick to your plan. You may need to revise the plan, but don’t waver from it.

Example: Decide to focus on water efficiency for the first 12 months. Fix leaks, track your water bills, and train employees.

Gale Gand, executive pastry chef at Chicago’sTRU restaurant, shares secrets on tracking water and energy use.

Things to think about: How will you measure success? Who is responsible for tracking? How frequently will this be done?


Step 5: Tactical efforts

How are you going to achieve your goals? What specific steps will you and your staff take, and when?

Again, keep it small, achievable and focused. Don’t diverge from your story and mission statement.

Mapping out an action plan takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. A measurable action plan — that involves your employees, outlines a strategy for implementation, and tells a personal story — can’t be undervalued.

Learn more best practices and action items by exploring Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste & Recycle, and Save Water.

The National Restaurant Association thanks HMSHost for inspiring the five-step process.