3 Sustainable Restaurant Trends to Watch in 2021

While no industry came out of the COVID-19 pandemic of last year unscathed, the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard. The strictest lockdown restrictions led to many small restaurants closing their doors since on-premises dining wasn't allowed, and even large restaurant businesses had to adapt to new ways by changing how they handle orders and appeal to customers.


Despite all the restrictions, there was no shortage of hungry customers, as people become more reliant on restaurants and convenient pickup options all the time. This is particularly true for young professionals, who tend to live fast-paced work-oriented lives and often don't know where they could even fit in time to shop for groceries. There's one thing that these young customers look for on a restaurant website that many restaurant owners have recently learned the value of—sustainability.


Basically, sustainability refers to practices that protect or restore the natural environment. Sustainable practices meet future needs without compromising the ability to fill similar needs in the future. It's also a way for restaurants to reduce waste, lower operating costs, and boost efficiency. These are all points that improve a restaurant's bottom line, and showing off your sustainability efforts on your own website or social media is a great way to bring in new customers who are environmentally conscious. Here are three restaurant sustainability trends you can expect to see a rise in popularity as the year continues.


1. Reducing Paper Waste

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Paper waste is one of the biggest environmental issues caused by restaurants. Each year, it's estimated that paper receipts account for roughly 1.5 billion pounds of environmental waste, and that's just in the United States alone. You also can't forget the napkins that come with takeout and delivery orders. Receipts almost always head directly for the trash, and there's no reliable way to know if customers really use other paper products or not. Fortunately, the paper receipts issue can be solved by a customer-facing point of sale (POS) system.


A POS system generally comes equipped with a computer, monitor, cash drawer, credit card/debit card reader, barcode scanner, and yes, a receipt printer. If customers can place their food orders via a digital customer-facing tablet or kiosk, however, then bills and receipts can be digitized as well. Customers can have their receipts sent to an email address or attached to their account on a mobile app.


Digital receipts are fine to send to the IRS as well, as long as they include the vendor name, the vendor's address, and the transaction fees. This solution isn't perfect, though. Independent restaurants may have a hard time making the investment, and not every customer has a smartphone or is comfortable using digital technology to place new orders. This is why you may still need to provide paper receipts as an opt-in practice, but you'll still greatly reduce paper waste.


2. Integrated Solutions

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Reduced paper waste isn't the only takeaway for POS systems. If you opt to go with a SaaS option in the cloud, you can expect POS integration with other services that will benefit your restaurant and your customers. For example, portals that link your ordering tools with a kitchen display helps to eliminate misunderstandings between your customers and staff, thus boosting customer service. This reduces paper waste even further by eliminating the need for tickets.


You can also integrate your restaurant POS with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. This makes it easy to collect and retrieve customer data in real-time, so it's easier to assist customers with orders and other questions. You can even use your customer data to determine who your best customers are and send them personalized promotions and email marketing messages to invite them to your loyalty program for discounts, digital coupons, and other benefits. This is an environmentally friendly way to advertise, and you'll likely see an increase in customer satisfaction. If your restaurant offers plant-based alternatives to meat, itself a great practice in sustainability, you can easily track sales data of these items and use it to create better marketing materials for the niche.


A restaurant POS integrated with your inventory tracking software is likely your best way to reduce food waste as well. Becoming overstocked means that you won't be able to use all the products you ordered, and it will simply waste perfectly good food. With reliable inventory tracking, your POS system will automatically notify your vendors of any products you're running low on, so you only stock up when you really need to.


3. Online Ordering

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If there's one thing that exploded during COVID-19, it's online food ordering. Whether it's from food delivery, curbside pickup, or in-store pickup, online food sales have spiked in the past year. In fact, online grocery shopping jumped by 300% early into the pandemic, and customers have come to rely more on restaurant online ordering systems than ever. Online sales are crucial for your bottom line, and the only way to take proper advantage of them is with your own online food ordering system.


You've likely provided delivery options, at least with phone orders, for a long time now. You could always expand online ordering with your restaurant's website, but keeping up with direct orders this way might be a bit much for independent restaurants. You may also be able to take a large number of orders through a POS like UpMenu, Restolabs, iMenu360, GloriaFood, or Ordering.App. Some restaurants also choose to partner with delivery apps like GrubHub, ChowNow, and DoorDash. The problem with relying on third-party apps like this is that you may be charged a commission on each sale through your online ordering tool, and working with a lot of these can be challenging and eat into your bottom line.


That's why the best solution to commit to an online ordering platform is with our solution that connects all of your delivery apps on a single device. The best online ordering system makes it easy to track all your orders and deliveries, while also giving you real-time updates on sales, so you'll know when it's time to start scaling your business. You'll also have a simple flat monthly fee for all services, including customer support. In addition to the convenience you'll get, many restaurants are using online ordering as a way to cut down on plastic waste as well. If you turn plastic cutlery and other individually wrapped items into opt-ins, you won't waste these items on customers who throw them away.


Sustainability is popular with both restaurant owners and customers alike, and for good reason. You'll need to take advantage of these trends if you want to ensure your restaurant can survive in the future.


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