Twenty-five years ago, most chefs wrote menus according to what they liked to cook and what they knew guests would like to eat. Few people considered the seasonality of items or the consequences of importing ingredients from across the globe.
Now, of course, the landscape has changed dramatically, with guests more conscious than ever before of where their food comes from. And with increased awareness comes an increase in responsibility for restaurants to be more careful in their sourcing and more responsible in how they operate their businesses.
In our conversations with these leaders, we learned that changing restaurant operations to be more sustainable is a process and an evolution, and your team must be committed to make it work. Here are 12 things you can do to get started.
1. Cook what’s in season
You’ve heard it before, but the number one thing you can do make your restaurant more sustainable is to keep your menu seasonal. At the Gate, the team changes the menu four times a year — one for each season — and rotates in two new dishes every six weeks to accommodate ingredients with short growing seasons, such as asparagus.
Menu monthly so she can serve the freshest possible produce at its peak. And she doesn’t stop with produce — even proteins such as seafood and cheese are removed from the menu when she can’t find a good, sustainable source. When fish or squid are in a period of regrowth, for example, she’ll swap in smoked salmon. Operating this way requires a certain amount of flexibility and creativity on the part of the kitchen staff, but the quality is well worth the effort.
2. Partner with the right producers
Restaurant, has set up an accredited sustainable supply chain for the industry, a network in which he connects restaurants to responsible suppliers and operators. Suppliers take an online test to show that they are following sustainable practices, and restaurants have ethical partners to choose from, as well as opportunities to tap into sharing and discount programs.
The owners of the Gate have been working with one of their vegetable producers, Nature’s Choice, for 25 years, and they make regular visits to the farms to understand the ingredients better. Just as consumers are interesting in knowing the source of their meat and fish, they can identify and learn about the specific farms that grow their vegetables.
“For us, it’s our core value: utilizing people who are still caring about what they do. “We’re not a number, we’re a person.”