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.

Don’t drain profits or resources: save water

May 13, 2013


By Richard Young

At a restaurant, water is the most important ingredient used every day.

If you run out of onions you can usually find a work-around, but it is game over if your water supply runs dry. And while that fact may be obvious, most operators don’t consider that water is a commodity purchased from a supplier and it is growing more expensive all the time.

Not only that, but water reserves throughout the United States are challenged now so it’s important we be  mindful of how much we use — and how much we waste.

So what’s the big takeaway here? It’s to recognize that water is not an infinite or free resource and shouldn’t be treated as such. For those of you who are looking for easy, affordable ways to conserve water at your restaurants, here are some tips we’d like to share:

Track your water bills. By incorporating your water bills into a spreadsheet, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you pay for water and sewer as well as spot costly leaks and equipment failures that could end up draining your profits.

Find and fix all leaks. Even a small leak can add up to hundreds of dollars of profit flushed down the drain. Remember, every drop of hot water costs you in three different ways: water in, sewer out, and water heating. Find out how much you are saving by using our free leak calculator at http://www.fishnick.com/savewater/tools/leakcalculator/.

Maintain your dish machines. The Food Service Technology Center's dish machine field monitoring project is finding machines that waste thousands of gallons of water a day because of poorly adjusted, worn or broken components. Water-wasting dishwashers can also waste your expensive chemicals, so make sure your machines are operating to spec.

Install a low-flow pre-rinse spray valve. High-pressure low-flow valves combine cleaning performance, water and energy savings into one low-cost, easy-to- install device. If you have not upgraded to a low-flow valve, do it now. This is one of the most cost effective ways to save big money in your kitchen. For performance data and to calculate your savings visit http://www.fishnick.com/savewater/tools/watercalculator.

Use a refrigerator to thaw food. Sticking frozen food under running water is wasteful. Plan ahead and thaw your food in a refrigerator. Depending on your daily production, you might be able save enough on your water bill to buy a dedicated refrigerator just for thawing.

All the indicators point towards tighter water supplies and higher costs nationwide. If you use water carefully and treat it like the valuable commodity it is, you’ll be more profitable, prepared for rising costs and doing your part to conserve resources.


Richard Young is senior engineer and educational director for the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif., and a member of the Conserve Sustainability Advisory Committee.

Be a net giver; practice sustainability

May 7, 2013


By George McKerrow

There are some who say our industry isn’t sustainable enough, but the truth is many companies are committed to being more efficient, preserving the environment, and saving money.

I’m already so impressed with what our industry has done, but am confident there is even more to come.

When we started Ted’s Montana Grill 12 years ago, we were determined to be sustainable and create a great environment for our 2,700 employees. That was largely responsible for creating a customer base proud to come in and spend money with us.

Since then, we’ve seen sustainability move up from an unknown entity to become one of the Top 5 reasons why people choose the restaurants they dine in. They are looking for good stewards involved in their communities who are willing to do what is good for the earth.

In 2002, when we started Ted’s, I found out our industry created five times as much garbage than other industries did, wasted five times as much energy, used five times as much water, and was a major pollutant and problem child in our communities. As good as we’ve been — and I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than 45 years and witnessed many of the great things we’ve done — when it comes to the environment, we’ve been net users or neutral. But now we have an opportunity to think differently about how we can recycle and reuse the materials in our restaurants.

We set out to create restaurants where everything could be recycled. There would be no plastic, no Styrofoam, nothing not recyclable. Where we could, we would be energy efficient. We built the restaurants with materials purchased within 300 miles of where we were building. We also opted to compost where possible. And those are just a few of the things we did and still do.

The fact is our industry has come a long way regarding sustainability. We know it’s good for business and the planet, but for those who are still deciding whether or not to be greener, I say it’s time to be net givers. We already create hospitality, make people happy and offer gastronomic pleasure every day. Now we have to help create cleaner water, air and a happier earth. At the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do. If everyone starts with just one thing, we can all make a difference.


George McKerrow Jr. is co-founder and CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill restaurants. An environmentalist and entrepreneur, he is a big supporter of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve sustainability program and is committed to helping others be greener and protect our natural resources.

Want to learn more? View George McKerrow's Conserve Conversations here.

The carrot or the stick: Behavior is the key to change

May 22, 2013


By Christy Cook

How do you affect real change? It’s an age-old question.

In order to make longstanding changes in the areas of waste and sustainability, we need behavior change. We’ve known this for a while, so it might not seem surprising or novel, but we haven’t yet fully cracked the code on how to generate waste reducing behaviors. To change, we must shift the culture within our communities, our homes and our businesses.

Culture change can be hard to pinpoint or observe, but the most profound moment of my career happened in 2012 at Emory University in Atlanta, when I was fortunate enough to witness change in action. I just completed waste training for Sodexo’s team members at Dobbs University Center and I stepped back to observe how they would apply what they’d just learned.

Later that day a cook and line server were discussing the 15 pounds of leftover carrots remaining after the meal service. The cook instructed the line server to throw the carrots away, and then this great moment happened. The light bulb went off. The server initiated a deeper conversation with the cook and the two of them immediately realized the value of the wasted food from an environmental, financial, and social aspect. They tapped into the training and created a solution together. The two discussed customer flow, the challenges of kitchen design and equipment and together created a process to communicate with one another on how to prepare the food just in time for service — thereby creating no waste. They shared this with all the team members so this process was implemented everywhere. I believe this is profound because not only did they affect behavior for themselves, they shared it with others. They became the leaders and change agents in that kitchen, cultivating new behaviors in others every day. Just like that….magic. That connection was made not just because of education, but also by presenting the material in a way that showed everyone they, too, could make positive change.

As individuals, we can make change. But with that said, source and food waste
reduction, recycling and waste minimization are big issues that require diligence and commitment. It takes a concerted effort from everyone to achieve meaningful impact. Work with those around you for positive changes, and think about the decisions you make and the consequences involved. Take simple steps and ensure a better quality of life for yourself — and generations to come.


Christy Cook is the senior manager of sustainability field support at the contract foodservice firm Sodexo USA and a member of the Conserve Sustainability Advisory Committee

How to pick a distributor to further your sustainability goals

May 25, 2013


By Dave Scholten

If you are looking to become more sustainable at your restaurant, selecting a distributor that can meet those needs is a particularly important part of achieving that goal. There’s a lot that goes into developing a sustainability plan and we think it’s essential that certain questions be asked to help determine how effective a partner your distributor will be as you embark on your environmentally responsible journey. So, ask yourself the following:

1. Does the distributor have a sustainability strategy? Every link in the supply chain contributes to the ultimate sustainability of the products you and your restaurant use. For that very reason, it is vitally important you ask prospective distributors what they do to make their operations more sustainable. After you’ve determined that they do implement sustainable activities and find out what they are, demand they provide you with regular progress updates.

2. When it comes to sustainability, how transparent is the distributor? The best advice I can offer is to tell you to make sure your distributor’s sustainable practices are verified constantly and consistently. Choose a company that is willing — and able — to share its sustainability endeavors, and outline its capabilities regarding local sourcing, energy conservation, waste management, product tracking, and any other sustainability-related issues that are important to you.

3. Is your potential distributor connected to sustainability leaders in the industry? Participation in industry groups that support sustainable measures and programs indicates the distributor’s commitment will extend beyond making a sale. The distributor you choose must be able to “walk the talk” before being hired.

4. Can the distributor provide you with additional sustainability tools? Beyond product, distributors also should offer a variety of resources for you to access. Ask if they offer waste management or energy audit programs and whether they have product tracking or local sourcing capabilities? Those are the types of tools that will help guide you and your operation down a more sustainable path.

5. Does the potential distributor offer a broad range of sustainable product options? Sustainability means different things to different people. For some, sustainability refers only to environmental issues, but others equate it with other things, like support of local communities. Many look at it from the standpoint of health and nutrition. I’m personally partial to a definition that encompasses all of those perspectives and more. Sustainability refers to meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. That covers everything from recycling waste materials and buying local ingredients to offering more healthful options, among other things. Ultimately, it is up to you to develop your own philosophies and rationale on sustainable issues, and it is your responsibility to choose the distributor whose product offerings encompass the various levels of environmental, social, and economic sustainability you are interested in practicing at your restaurant operation.

By posing those questions to distributors during the evaluation process, you will be able to better define ‑ and refine ‑ your own sustainability goals. It will also leave you better able to communicate your sustainable strategies to your customers, staff members and other vendors.

Dave Scholten is commercial segment manager for Gordon Food Service and a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Sustainability Advisory Council, which offers restaurateurs a better understanding of environmental awareness and resource efficiency.

Sustainability is tough, but pays dividends if done right

May 14, 2013


By Jeff Clark

Practicing sustainability can be challenging, but if you stay true to your goals, employees and customers, success will be achieved and worth the effort.

But in order to attain sustainable success, you, first and foremost, have to be authentic. That is essential because in this day and age when social media is so in vogue — everyone from your customers to your employees are tweeting and posting photos, videos and messages online — you’ve got to be truthful. If you’re not, you’ll be found out and the repercussions will be costly to your reputation and your bottom line.

The message here is to ensure you DO NOT practice green washing. Ever.

If you say you are practicing sustainability, but you’re not being honest about your sustainable push, you eventually will be found out and that will be bad for business and your brand. It also will be bruising to the rest of the industry.

So maybe you’re thinking it is too complicated and you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew. To those of you who are having second thoughts, don’t be afraid; move forward, but be smart about how you do it. Perhaps the first step is to embrace your story, tell it to your staff and customers and make it an integral part of your business plan.

If you state you will grow vegetables or herbs on top of your roof, or start a recycling program, or swap out your light bulbs for LEDs, they then will become your own sustainable business practices and you must commit to following them.

If you’ve told your story and implemented your sustainable practices into your business plan, remember to stay focused on what you’ve chosen to implement. It’s very important you don’t go too broad. Take on only what you are able to do.

As long as you stay focused, you will do well and grow your efforts and sustainability impact over time.


Jeff Clark is the program director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve sustainability program.