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Think Beyond The Menu and Help the Planet

mcclendon-roger-yumImagine strolling into your favorite restaurant. You probably walk through the door focused on what food to order, which table to take and how much it will all cost. Yet there is actually a lot going on behind the scenes you may have no idea about, and it affects the future of the planet.

Many restaurants are looking to reduce their environmental footprint. You may be surprised to learn that environmental sustainability ranks as the third top trend out of 198 according to a new survey from the National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation. Four out of ten survey respondents think environmental sustainability will be the hottest menu trend a decade from now.

Reducing energy consumption is a key part of green building design. Restaurants use a lot of energy due to their relatively small size and nearly continuous cooking, ventilation and refrigeration. Many are open long hours or even operate 24-7 and have heavy foot traffic from customers. Reducing energy consumption helps the environment and also saves costs, which helps improve profitability too. Looking at all aspects of sustainable building innovation including energy savings, water conservation, sensible material use, sites and interior environments is vital to reducing a restaurant’s environmental footprint.

The restaurant industry is making headway but still has far to go. For example, palm oil, a globally traded commodity used in many different products from cooking oil to cookies, is commonly produced in ways that involve the destruction of tropical forests and peat lands. The good news is that palm oil can be produced without deforestation — and many companies have begun to make public commitments to use deforestation-free palm oil in their products. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is asking consumers to tell restaurant companies that deforestation is an unacceptable ingredient in their products. I couldn’t agree more.

I would argue that environmental sustainability is no longer a fad in the industry. It’s becoming the way restaurant companies are operating to benefit customers, employees, shareholders and the planet. In optimizing how restaurateurs can be more efficient and minimize environmental impact though innovation, powerful business cases can be created to become more environmentally responsible, raise social consciousness and reduce expenses.

Through energy-saving efforts and certifying or building to LEED standards, restaurants have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment in not only energy efficiency but in other categories such as water conservation, materials use, site sensitivity and the well-being of building occupants.

Roger McClendon
Roger McClendon is chief sustainability officer for Louisville-based Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and one of the top 100 Corporate Citizens by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. Yum! Brands is listed on the 2014 Newsweek Green Rankings and participates annually in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
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2 thoughts on “Think Beyond The Menu and Help the Planet

  1. As a consumer in north America, I applaud your new commitment to using RSPO certified palm oil worldwide by 2017.

    I do realise that global goal will be a challenge to put in place but please start with north America. Certified palm oil, especially the basic oils for cooking or deep frying is readily available.
    A north American switch to certified palm oil from Yum! brands will encourage the palm oil companies that have invested in sustainable palm oil to forge on with their initiatives.

  2. Roger-looks like you missed one of the biggest and most obvious ways to make restaurants more sustainable-to eat less or no meat. But that doesn’t sit very well with your corporate sponsors of KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.

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