There's no doubt about it, the crazy uptick in takeout and delivery from restaurants has made the need for improved food tech and virtual brands a near necessity to fully capitalize on the situation. Sweeping changes due to the pandemic turned even the most traditional eatery into a temporary dark kitchen, or one that operates solely through delivery and takeout.
Now that regular dine-in customers are using plastic to-go boxes instead of dishes and flatware that simply need washed, plastic use has skyrocketed with most customers unsure about what is and isn't recyclable, leaving it on the kitchen's to seek out the newest in restaurant technology in order to adapt and answer the call.
Virtual Brands and Traditional Kitchens Alike Are Looking To the Future
Thinking about everything that goes into just a single shift of a kitchen can fill your mind with images of hundreds of ingredients and orders, flying around the kitchen like a chaotic orchestra that somehow stays on beat. Now, take each of those items and think about the waste that comes with it.
Every ingredient purchased has packaging, wrapping and sometimes multiple layers of each depending on how the distributor ships. Stack that on top of takeout containers such as bags and boxes, plastic cutlery, napkins and sauces and before long you'll have a small landfill worth of items that can't be reused or recycled. No matter what style of kitchen you run, it's important to regularly audit your practices and make sure everything is in alignment with sustainability goals.
There Are Multiple Options To Fit Your Budget and Style
Recyclable products are the most popular, having a great balance between affordability and performance. Compostable takeout containers have even less of an environmental impact but only if your customers can actually compost them. Lastly, reusable products are the best option and don't have to break the bank with many kitchens having excellent feedback from their customers.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The original campaign by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to help everyone from individuals up to corporations look at the way goods and materials are used and disposed of. Recyclable products are one of the easier ways to improve eco-friendly practices even in the newest dark kitchens that support multiple virtual brands. Aluminum and plastic numbers one and five can all be recycled and has their labeling clearly marked to make sorting simple.
Composting Materials Back To the Earth
Composting has been around for thousands of years, used by farmers to put food waste to use by creating fertilizer out of it. The practice has now been spread to all levels of consumer, including commercial facilities dedicated to the practice. It's important to remember that compostable doesn't mean it simply breaks down with the other garbage. A composting facility is needed to provide the proper environment. While some municipalities offer these services at the local landfill, it's important to see if your kitchen has a composting option inside of your customers' footprint.
Maximum Sustainability, Reusable Takeout Containers
BYOC, or bring your own container, started with some small chains looking to lower their carbon footprint but now is spreading more and more due to restaurants not being able to offer single-serve containers during peak pandemic. Customers can even be sold specific dishes such as salad and noodle bowls or takeout boxes made from durable plastics.
Modern Food Tech Letting You Have Your Packaging and Eat It Too
The idea of using plant material to package food is nothing new. Corn husks are the traditional vehicle for tamales and banana leaves can be used to serve, transport or even cook on in many areas of the world. Where this comes in today is the use of edible rice paper that more commonly finds a home in spring rolls. The paper's formula has been dialed in to provide enough strength to wrap sandwiches and other dry foods in while still being edible and fully biodegradable.
Other Ways to Improve Your Kitchen's Sustainability
While the takeout and delivery side of waste is a significant factor in how eco-friendly your establishment is, there are some other quick tips you should employ to start covering all of your kitchen's processes.
A tactic that saves money, time and customer satisfaction is limiting food waste through proper inventory management. Gathering all of your orders and inventory using a restaurant SaaS can make tracking easy, letting you focus on pushing products that use ingredients nearing the end of their edible life.
Make sure you're also changing as the seasons do by updating your menu to include locally sourced ingredients that can be purchased fresh, getting you the most time to use them compared to ingredients shipped in from elsewhere. Employ some or all of these eco-friendly practices and you'll notice how quickly the savings start coming in, especially as you share your endeavors and get your customers excited to support your kitchen.