Sustainability in Businesses That Serve Food
How can food-serving businesses operate more sustainably?
That’s the question explored by a Lehigh University MBA candidate this summer, and here’s what he found.
What is sustainability? Considered from an economic perspective, sustainable businesses seek to maximize stakeholder value (owners, employees, customers, suppliers, community, environment) while conventional businesses seek to maximize only shareholder value (owners and shareholders). Many businesses lie at various points on a sustainability continuum; few are purely conventional, but few have managed to grasp the true meaning and transformative power of a sustainable model. The transition to a sustainable business model does not happen overnight, but can be approached in a methodical and step-wise manner. This report identifies major sustainability issues of concern to the food service industry, and provides actionable guidelines on how organizations can reduce waste, decrease costs, and increase quality and customer satisfaction by managing their businesses from a stakeholder perspective. Sustainable improvements in the food service industry should be evaluated, tracked and communicated along the following dimensions:
- Responsible Food Sourcing
- Waste Reduction
- Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation & Building Construction
- Community and Stakeholder Involvement
The US restaurant industry includes approximately 945,000 restaurants with a projected 2010 annual revenue of $580 billion, representing 70 billion meal or snack occasions. It is projected that in 2010, consumers’ restaurant spend will represent 49% of every food dollar (“Facts at a Glance”, 2010). The past two years have forced many restaurant owners to critically evaluate their standard practices in the face of rising food and energy costs. Developing sustainable business strategies is a pressing goal for many businesses that have understood the financial, environmental, and psychological capital to be gained from greater resource stewardship and operational transparency. A restaurant’s food quality and sourcing, waste management, and energy demands are major aspects of a sustainable strategy that seeks to increase quality while reducing both individual and systematic costs.
If you want one year of prosperity, plant corn.
If you want ten years of prosperity, plant trees.
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, educate people.
— Chinese proverb