Restrooms, floor care, strategic sourcing, towels and wipes, and cleaning chemicals are five commonly overlooked areas where restaurants can improve their commitment to sustainability, according to business service provider Cintas Corporation.
Identified by the National Restaurant Association as a top trend for 2013, sustainability continues to rank high on the list of what consumers expect most from restaurants. From locally sourced food to recyclable and compostable products, many quick-service restaurants are looking for innovative strategies to build their sustainability story, but a large number are still missing opportunities.
Restroom maintenance is often an afterthought for many quick-service restaurants, Cintas says. However, an ongoing restroom maintenance program that keeps surfaces clean from build-up extends the life of fixtures and dispensing units and can prevent landfill waste. In addition, metered air fresheners, soap and towel dispensers limit the amount of product guests use, which reduces waste, the company says.
To reduce water and energy use, restaurants can implement programs to protect and maintain floors. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, mats that extend 6 to 15 feet inside an entryway will trap 80 percent of soil and moisture before it is tracked into the building. In addition, an effective matting program that protects entryways and transitional areas will limit the transfer of internal contaminants, such as dirt from the kitchen into the dining room areas. This reduces water and energy waste because floors stay in better condition and require less maintenance. It also offsets carpet or floor replacement, Cintas says.
By streamlining vendors, restaurants can limit transportation, shipping, energy and paper waste. By communicating sustainability goals with the vendor, restaurants can find further ways to reduce their environmental impact. In addition, strategic sourcing is an effective strategy for reducing cost, since it optimizes spend by better integrating suppliers into the purchasing process, Cintas says.
While sanitizing wipes may be a quick way to keep hard surfaces clean throughout a restaurant, they aren’t the most sustainable option and can contribute to excess landfill waste. Consider alternatives to disposables such as microfiber wipes, which can be laundered and re-used many times, extending the product lifecycle and diverting products from the waste stream. Microfiber wipes also reduce up to 98 percent of bacteria from the surface, thereby improving food safety efforts, Cintas says.
Many foodservice operators purchase cleaning chemicals in ready-to-use form, which creates unnecessary packaging, transportation and waste. Using a package-free chemical top-off service ensures chemicals are always available, and reduces waste associated with storing chemicals or improperly diluting chemical concentrates. Using Green Seal- or Design for the Environment-certified chemicals also limits the amount of caustic materials released into the environment, Cintas says.