By Rick Braa, CHAE

Q: We’ve recently completed our values statements and one value that is still at the aspirational level is our commitment to the environment and sustainability. Our millennial generation employees are insistent this value is extremely important to them. Where do we start to have an impact?

A: Sustainability and going green have been gaining momentum over the last two decades. Virtually every hotel has a statement posted regarding protecting the environment by reusing towels in a hotel room. Not only does reducing laundry activities benefit the environment by saving soap, water, and utilities, it saves labor and expense creating a more sustainable profitability. Here are some areas that can have an impact on restaurants:

Set a zero-waste policy and monitor progress monthly with monetary calculation — leadership must be bought into redesigning processes and procedure to support zero waste. One objective of the Total Resource Use and Efficiency Zero Waste Scorecard requires leadership to, “Provide a narrative describing the adoption of the goal and…describe the timeline and/or plan to reach the goal. Leadership will also review the activities of the plan with management monthly.” With buy-in at every level of the team, sustainability is quickly adopted throughout the organization as a value (how we act).

Encourage and incentivize employee participation —ask employees, listen, and implement recommendations made by staff. Engage employees, listen, and implement recommendations made by staff. Engage employees is sustainability efforts from all areas of the business. Front-of-house and back-of-house teams can break down processes and create discussions around sustainability opportunities. Reward and recognize sustainability ideas by employees and let them share the spotlight of being the individuals who brought an idea to fruition.

Accurately record and measure waste — start in the purchasing process and ensure the right amount of product is purchased in the right pack size minimizing packing materials. Over purchasing food produces waste, two much beverage inventory leads to exposed risk and waste, and working capital sits on the shelf or lands in the garbage. Ensure prep lists are accurate to business levels daily. Require all waste to be deposited into a separate, clear container or clear bag that can be viewed at the end of the day, audit the contents, review with the team, then deposit to the compost. The visual is impactful and will lead to reduced waste. Keep an accurate log of waste, total it for dollar amounts and post weekly. Set a goal to zero waste. Remember to monitor garbage collection. As waste is reduced to the need for different sizes and pick-up frequency changes saving money.

Eliminate paper chits and checks — many POS systems work with handheld devices or tablets that can be used at the table for electronic ordering and signing. Digital receipts can be ignored or emailed to the guest. Kitchen display systems (KDS) eliminate chits for food orders. Paper, ink, and check printers all cost money that can be saved by a modern POS and KDS. The amount can be substantial when calculating savings over years as well as tons of chits and receipts.

Reduce energy costs — audit every energy source in the business. Change light bulbs where appropriate to LED, use shop lights for the cleaning crew rather than restaurant lighting. Turn every appliance on/off at the last minute. For example, leaving the hoods on when not necessary draws heat or air conditioning up and out increasing costs and wasting energy. Be careful with water and don’t use it to thaw product. Monitor dishwashing equipment for chemical and water use militantly. Check toilets and water spouts frequently to prevent or fix malfunctions. Automate restrooms to provide the proper amount of chemicals, flushing, and drying to minimize utility costs.

A recent Nielson Company study revealed over 70 percent of millennials and Generation Z consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. The research further points to the social consciousness of these generations and the importance of commitment to sustainability. These generations want to work and stay with companies that make a difference in the world. Be sure to tell the story internally and externally as 86 percent of consumers are will to switch to a brand associated with a good cause given similar price and quality, according to a Cone Communications CSR Study. Sales, profit, recruiting and retention have a popular partner — sustainability.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, and accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.