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Every restaurant practices different degrees of sustainability

October 16, 2014

By Heidi Minora

Every restaurant practices different degrees of sustainability.

Some try to conserve energy or water. Others recycle and compost. Some grow a good portion of the produce they serve at their restaurants. At EatWell DC, we do all of that, and more.

Many restaurant operators try to find new and exciting sustainability trends they can focus on. Right now, many restaurateurs are looking at including seasonal, local and sustainable food on menus. People want to know the story behind their food. We — the restaurateurs — are expected to share it with them.

What have we learned in all of this? Sharing information with staff and guests about our efforts is one way to ignite their passion for the environmentally responsible work we’re doing. You can talk the talk if you actually walk the talk.

At EatWell DC, we’ve been making these efforts for more than two yearsand it’s paying off. We serve our guests special items made with fresh produce grown on our 12-acre working farm in La Plata, Md. Our guests love hearing that their food was made from vegetables and fruits we grew pesticide-free, that were picked that day. They’re definitely not shy about telling us they’re excited to patronize a business that has taken steps to provide them with food that is as fresh and natural as possible.

That said, if I were to advise any restaurateur just starting his or her own sustainability program – food-based or otherwise   I’d tell him or her to do these three things:

  1. Communicate with your staff. Educating every last employee is critical. Take them to the physical space where your food comes from, whether it’s a local farm or sustainable fishery. Showing them the products always makes a huge difference. By doing this, they will learn and be able to share that knowledge with your guests.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk about your sustainability efforts and the pride you take in them. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. Come out and talk to your customers about your work. Standing or sitting in the office won’t help to get the word out.
  3. Use social media channels as much as possible to tell your story. I am always on Facebook or our Twitter feed. Instagram is great, too, especially for marketing our farm-grown produce with beautiful photos.

Remember: Being sustainable is not only personally gratifying but also something your guests want to know about. It’s a great advertisement for what makes your restaurant special — whether it’s the food, where it comes from, your conservation efforts, or all of those things.

Heidi Minora is marketing director for the EatWell DC Restaurant Group and assistant general manager of Commissary restaurant in Washington, D.C.
 

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