Sustainability in the restaurant industry refers to practices that preserve or restore the natural environment, produce less waste (or none at all), support the community, and even help local farmers. In other words, a sustainable restaurant is one that gives more than it takes. While sustainability has been a buzzword surrounding all types of businesses for the past few years, there are real opportunities to implement sustainable food and ordering trends in the restaurant industry. In fact, a top-down commitment to sustainability can help restaurants address many of their most common problems, including high operating costs, recruitment and employee retention, and attracting additional customers.
The benefits of sustainable practices have become abundantly clear in the past year. While virtually every industry was negatively impacted by COVID-19, restaurants were hit especially hard. Without the ability to serve customers indoors, or at all during the strictest lockdown regulations, many small restaurants were forced to close their doors. Even large chains had to adapt and change the way they handled food ordering and delivery to the customer, and many of these trends are sticking around. There's likely no full return to "normal," but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. At least for food service, restaurants have been gathering insights into more sustainable practices, and it can even lead to positive overall change. Here are just a few sustainable food trends you can expect to see more of.
Customer Facing Point of Sale Systems
These days, it's common to see point of sale (POS) systems in virtually any retail store, and they've become popular in restaurants as well. The typical POS system comes equipped with a computer, monitor, cash drawer, credit card/debit card reader, barcode scanner, and a receipt printer. Environmentally conscious restaurants are finding ways to modify POS systems to be more sustainable, however. A great example of this is how they're reducing paper waste by eliminating the need for a printed receipt for each new order.
It's estimated that the printing and disposal of paper receipts result in approximately 302 million pounds of solid waste being produced each year, not to mention the millions of trees it costs to print these things each year. By using customer-facing displays, or even kiosks in fast-serving restaurants, it's possible to use digital receipts to dramatically cut down on paper waste.
Digital receipts are also fine to turn into the IRS, as long as they include the vendor, the vendor's address, and the transaction fee. Of course, digital receipts may not be an option for customers who don't have mobile devices for your mobile app or who choose not to use the internet, so it's a good idea to still leave paper receipts as an opt-in practice.
Restaurants that have adopted these practices have seen great success in reducing waste with no negative change in customer satisfaction or profits. Using an electronic display for ordering, as opposed to a traditional menu, also helps to reduce any miscommunication between the customer and the kitchen staff, since kitchen workers will also be able to see the orders on their own displays. This reduces paper waste further by eliminating the need for order tickets.
The benefits of POS don't end here, either. Payment processing is much easier through electronic means, and you can use a POS solution to collect customer data in real-time. This can be used to assist your regular customers, and once you determine who your best customers are, you can even create personalized promotions and email marketing materials that make special offers or invite them to join your customer loyalty program for coupons or other benefits. You could even launch marketing campaigns showing off your sustainability efforts to appeal to younger customers and increase monthly sales. If you use a POS with an open API, you can even integrate it with other systems.
If you could single out one thing that surged in popularity during COVID-19, it would be online delivery platforms like ChowNow, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Facebook Ordering. Even curbside pickup at restaurants has proven to be more convenient to customers than other options. So many people live work-oriented lives these days that allow little focus for anything else, so an online order system for food is a great option for customers who don't know when they can squeeze in time for grocery shopping.
Customers have had food delivery options for decades with phone orders, but online ordering platforms have made things so much more convenient. Just like a POS and kitchen display, online ordering also reduces errors in communication between customers and staff. You have plenty of options for setting up an online order system in your restaurant such as running one on your own website or partnering with an online food ordering system like GloriaFood or iMenu360. You could also just handle delivery orders through services like Uber Eats and DoorDash. The problem with these online ordering options is that your restaurant will be charged a commission on each order, which may not be great for your bottom line.
If you want to avoid additional costs, then consider our online ordering for restaurants solution, which collects all of your mobile ordering and delivery systems on one device. You'll get all services, including real-time data analytics, customer support, and unlimited online ordering for a flat monthly fee. Data analytics will let you check on delivery times for each delivery option, so you can make sure you're using only the best for customer satisfaction.
With sales data at your fingertips, it will also be easy to see when you'll need to start scaling your restaurant to keep up with customer demand. All of this can be done with no paper waste and limited complex restaurant website management. Online menus and ordering can even help your restaurant reduce plastic waste since you can make items like plastic cutlery and other individually wrapped items opt-in choices just for the customers who actually need them.
Your restaurant already delights your customers' taste buds. Now you can delight them with the best online ordering system that ensures as little waste as possible and shows your commitment to your customers and the environment.