Kitchen and Food Services

Most major hotels offer restaurant and/or catering services for their guests. The restaurant industry generates a significant amount of solid waste from its operations. However, with some thought and careful planning, restaurants can not only reduce their waste – and save on disposal costs – but they can also become more environmentally efficient. Below is a basic plan developed by the Greater Vancouver Regional District (Canada) on how a hotel restaurant can become more environmentally conscience and improve operational efficiency. Chances are that your hotel already has a facility-wide environmental policy in place. If it does, consider the following steps to “greenify” the restaurant.

  1. Create a Team – Any good manager understands that the most important resource a restaurant has is its employees. Not only will they have many ideas for reducing waste, but without their support it would be difficult to implement any changes successfully. Train and educate your staff about the importance of waste reduction, and solicit ideas and recommendations from them. Creating an incentive program for the employees is always a good idea. A manager can supply incentives that will keep your staff interested and motivated in helping your business achieve its aims
  2. Packaging – Reduce excess packaging. Let your supplier know that you are serious about cutting down on unnecessary waste, and ask him or her to keep you informed of new and existing products that meet your requirements but are minimally packaged. When possible, ask suppliers to take back and reuse their shipping boxes and pallets.
  3. Beverages, Sauces, Dressings and Oils — Serve carbonated beverages from a beverage gun or dispenser rather than from a bottle or can. If you must use bottles or cans, recycle them along with your liquor bottles. Buy and use dispenser beverages (i.e. juice, iced tea, hot chocolate) in concentrated or bulk form. When possible, use refillable condiment bottles and refill them from condiments purchased in bulk. This can apply to ketchup, coffee cream, sugar and other items.
  4. Grocery, Meat, Dairy and Produce — All foods in a restaurant must come from approved sources, so consider offering organically-grown foods in your menu. Ensure that your source of organically-grown foods is approved by a health inspection agency. Buying organically-grown goods helps alleviate problems around pesticide residues, decreasing soil vitality, erosion, and farm worker health concerns. Organically produced meat, eggs, wine, coffee, fruit and vegetables are all available. When storage capacity permits, try to buy shelf-stable foods in bulk.
  5. Paper Supplies — Purchase paper products made from recycled materials. This could include toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, placemats, bags, menus and more. Try to find products that contain a high percentage of “post-consumer, chlorine-free” waste: that means it’s made from paper collected from residential and business recycling programs, not just from trimmings and paper scraps from within the paper mill. Use reusable coasters (or nothing at all) instead of paper napkins when serving beverages from the bar. Choose reusable coffee filters over paper ones, and unbleached paper coffee filters over bleached ones.
  6. Janitorial and Restaurant Supplies — Use reusable table linen, china, glass and silverware. Replace disposable stir sticks with washable spoons for coffee and tea drinkers. In the washrooms, use cloth roller-toweling instead of paper-toweling. Similarly, use cloth for kitchen and restaurant cleaning purposes, rather than paper. Purchase cleaning supplies in concentrate, rather than ready-to-use form. This reduces packaging waste and saves money. Use multi-purpose cleaners that can be used for various surfaces, rather than cleaners that are job-specific. Whenever possible, consider using cleaning agents that are either non-toxic or the least-toxic in nature. Use washable and reusable hats for kitchen employees instead of disposable paper ones. Hot air hand dryers in staff washrooms can also be considered in addition to cloth roller toweling to reduce re-contamination of hands. Although multi-purpose cleaners are generally acceptable, tasks that require sanitizing of surfaces or utensils will require the use of approved sanitizers. When using cleaners from concentrate ensure that the diluted produce is properly labeled and stored safely away from food and food preparation areas.
  7. Product Handling & Storage — Check your produce deliveries carefully for rotten or damaged product, and let your supplier know if you are dissatisfied with the quality you are receiving. Rotate perishable stocks at every delivery to minimize waste due to spoilage. Date all products when you receive them, and put new products at the back of the shelf so older stock gets used first. Clean your coolers and freezers regularly to ensure that food has not fallen behind the shelving and spoiled. Once washed, store raw vegetables and other perishables in reusable airtight containers to prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage. Wrap freezer products tightly, date them, and make sure they are used in a timely fashion, to minimize waste due to freezer burn. Freeze and thaw prepared food in portion sizes that are appropriate to your needs for the day. Don’t thaw a greater quantity than you’ll use!
  8. Food Preparation & Storage — Adjust inventory levels on perishables to minimize waste due to spoilage. If you are constantly throwing out a particular item that has spoiled, you are probably stocking too much of it. Develop hourly or daily production charts to minimize over-prepping and unnecessary waste.
  9. Equipment — Develop and implement a monthly cleaning and maintenance program for all your equipment. If your refrigerator, freezer, or air conditioners are being serviced, ensure that the CFCs are being treated in accordance with new provincial regulations that require recovery of ozone-depleting substances. Remember to check the air intakes on your appliances, too, where dust can cover openings. Regular maintenance of your refrigerators and freezers extends the life of the compressors, reduces energy costs and avoids food spoilages caused by breakdowns. Keep oven equipment calibrated to prevent over-baked products. Clean your fryers and filter the oil daily. This extends the life of both the fryer and the oil. Built-up carbon deposits on the bottom of the fryer act as an insulator that forces the fryer to heat longer, thus causing the oil to break down sooner. Use a test kit supplied by your grocery distributor in order to determine when to change your fryer oil. This is more accurate than judging by the appearance of the oil.
  10. Recycling Activities — Set up a rendering service for your waste grease, fat or used cooking oil. Set up a cardboard and/or glass recycling program with a local recycler. Make sure staff is flattening tin and aluminum cans before putting them in the recycling bin. By reducing the volume of recyclables, you will save money by decreasing the frequency of pick-ups by your recycling contractor. Donate empty plastic pails or buckets to schools, nurseries or churches, or offer them to your customers. Donate old uniforms to theatre companies and thrift shops.
  11. Miscellaneous – It’s a shame to throw out food that has been carefully prepared by kitchen staff. It represents invested dollars and staff time, and a wasted resource. Avoid throwing out unused food by considering the following: Evaluate and adjust the size of your meal portions if they are consistently being returned unfinished. Offer half-portions to your guests, and a children’s menu for younger diners. Donate any extra food to a community meal service (only if local codes and regulations permit). Most often than not, those services will pick up your un-served portions of food. If local regulations disallow food donations, see if you can help animals. If your restaurant is located in a rural area, there may be a nearby working or hobby farm that would be happy to use some of your leftovers, or your kitchen prep scraps. Ask your customers, or put a note on your cash register, and always check with your local authorities if these practices are lawful.

Additional Resources

Green Restaurant Association — The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national non-profit organization, provides services in research, consulting, education, marketing and community organizing. The GRA utilizes a collaborative strategy that involves restaurants, manufacturers, vendors, grassroots organizations, government, media, and restaurant customers. The GRA’s model provides a convenient way for all sectors of the restaurant industry, which represents 10% of the U.S. economy, to become more environmentally sustainable.

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California Integrated Waste Management Board — The “Restaurant Guide to Waste Reduction and Recycling” resource was developed for food service establishments. This guide presents a variety of suggestions that restaurants can use to reduce the amount of garbage they throw away. The information presented in this guide is not meant to be, nor is by any means, complete. It is, however, a tool that we hope you will look at and use as food for thought on how your business can positively impact our environment and, potentially, your pocket book.

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San Francisco Green Business Program – The Green Business Toolkitwas developed by the San Francisco Green Business Program to serve as a guide for the enrolled businesses participating in the program for the process of Green Business recognition. The toolkit also serves as a good measuring stick and guide for those restaurants that are not located in the San Francisco area but still want to become green.

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Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – The DEQ has a good website dedicated to Restaurants and P2. It has a collection of resources and assistance for use by the restaurant industry to promote pollution prevention.

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The Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) – GLRPPR, a P2Rx center, has developed an online repository of good links of food service and restaurant pollution prevention resources.

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