4 Ways Restaurants Can Embrace ESG

March 28, 2022

At a glance

  • The main takeaway: More restaurants are embracing environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts to create a positive impact on their communities and the world at large.
  • Impact on your business: There are a few steps restaurants can take today to make a better ESG imprint, including reducing waste; using sustainable ingredients and materials; and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in their business practices.
  • Next steps: Aprio’s Retail, Franchise and Hospitality team can connect you with the right resources and tools to start your sustainability journey.

Schedule a consultation with an Aprio advisor!

The full story:

Over the past 10 years, companies across industries have been galvanized to focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues — and the push toward sustainability includes the food and beverage industry.

According to a recent report from Kerry, 49% of global consumers consider sustainability attributes when purchasing food and beverages. What’s more, the survey found that the topic of sustainability is evolving to include a “wider range of associations and expectations,” with consumers actively focused on finding products that have a positive impact on the planet as well as on their personal health and well-being.[1]

Here are four ideas you can use to incorporate ESG best practices into your restaurant’s operations.

1. Reassess your menu

There are simple tweaks you can make to your menu that will boost sustainability. For instance, try to introduce a few more meatless meal options. According to many environmental experts, reducing meat and even dairy consumption can go a long way toward decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint. Incorporating more non-meat options also has a positive impact on your bottom line, since plant-based ingredients are often less costly.

In addition, you might decide to source more of your ingredients from local producers or reduce the number of out-of-season products you purchase on a regular basis. Purchasing more items that don’t necessarily have to be shipped can help reduce transportation-driven pollution and eliminate excess packing waste, among other benefits.

2. Reduce waste

From leftover food to packaging from inventory and supplies, waste can pile up quickly in a restaurant setting. There are a few creative strategies you can use to reduce waste and become more sustainable with the ingredients and products you need to keep your business running:

  • Conduct a food waste audit and adjust your inventory and supply orders so that you aren’t ordering more than you need
  • Repurpose ingredients you can no longer use (such as overripe fruits or excess stocks and sauces) into menu items for daily specials before they expire
  • Consider reducing portion sizes for certain menu items that guests may leave unfinished frequently
  • Research local shelters, soup kitchens and organizations dedicated to helping people in need, and donate leftover food on a regular basis

To include your customers in your sustainability efforts, set up convenient recycling stations and bins around your premises to encourage the proper disposal of waste.

3. Embrace eco-friendly products, tools and practices

If you haven’t done so already, consider replacing restaurant tools, products or utensils (for instance, straws, plastic bags, takeout boxes and table settings) with those made from biodegradable or compostable materials. Many restaurants are making the switch to natural products like bamboo to help cut down on plastic usage.

In addition, you may also consider using green cleaning products or swapping out traditional restaurant features with more eco-friendly pieces. For example, many restaurants have eliminated paper menus entirely and have switched to using QR codes to display menu items. What’s more, some restaurants are embracing repurposed décor from vintage shops, thrift stores or auctions, instead of buying trimmings that are brand new (think using an old chalkboard to feature daily specials versus paper table cards).

4. Prioritize DEI

ESG extends beyond the confines of environmental best practices; it also encompasses diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. There are basic strides you can take to help further your DEI initiatives — whether that’s reassessing your workforce and prioritizing diversity and inclusion in your hiring efforts, or re-evaluating your benefits programs to ensure you’re providing support in areas like parental leave.

But aside from those tactical efforts, it’s crucial to remember that DEI is more than a once-and-done endeavor. It starts from the top down and needs to be a strategic priority. It requires organizational reflection and open conversations with your team members, particularly people of color and women, to ensure you are creating an environment that is inclusive of everyone.

The bottom line

If you need professional advice and guidance as you kick-start your ESG initiatives, look no further than Aprio. We are proud to have an ESG practice and knowledgeable specialists who can help you navigate every milestone on your sustainability journey — from building your ESG roadmap to advancing corporate social responsibility programs.

Schedule a consultation with us today.


[1] Sam Danley, “Consumers seek more significant sustainability benefits,” Food Business News, July 6, 2021, https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/19026-consumers-seek-more-significant-sustainability-benefits, accessed March 2022.

Recent Articles

About the Author

Jessica Hussain

Jessica is a Partner in Retail, Franchise & Hospitality for Aprio. She has 15 years of experience in public accounting and works with clients in the real estate and retail, franchising and hospitality industries. In her role as senior manager, Jessica manages a team of five professionals, supervising their day-to-day activities, assigning work and reviewing all tax returns.

(770) 353-3051