Perhaps it is my increased sensitivity to restaurant waste but I have noticed a worrisome trend happening. Restaurant servers seem to feel they are providing better service to me by placing straws and lemons in my glass when I ask for tap water. In fact a recent trip to one of my favorite cafe’s found the server bringing water with a straw and lemon wedge without me even asking for it.
Once produced and shipped to us, plastic straws are with us for 600 years and even though many restaurants have started using recyclable offerings, these in fact have to find their way back to recycling facilities to have any benefit over non-recyclable and this is not often the case. Consuming lemons on the other hand is a more obvious hit on our environment, especially when they are shipped 2000 km from the citrus belt to southwestern Ontario. As well as the environmental outcomes there is also a business case for stopping this practice of ‘over accerizing”of tap water. Although a straw only costs a penny and an eighth of a lemon roughly a nickel, six cents per guest at a time when operators are being squeezed by increasing food, labour and utility prices is a considerable amount. Some quick math shows that if you can stop this from happening at your operation 500 times a week you can incur a cost savings of over $1500 a year. The question of whether or not to use straws at all has been an increasingly discussed question amongst food-service operators . There is in fact a movement called ‘Be Straw Free” that has been gaining some serious momentum the past year from restaurateurs who have joined their ranks. http://bestrawfree.org/Home.html One operator who owned three restaurants calculated his straw usage at 180,000 in a year. Listen to his case for change in the following clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA4-8rxztXc&feature=player_embedded
Straws and lemons are only a symptom of a bigger issue. Waste in general has become an acceptable consequence of doing business, as long as we build the cost of such waste into the price of our product. The answer, we not only have to stop serving straws and lemons with our glasses of tap water, we have to re-engineer the behaviour of our staff and management to be looking at areas of waste in our operations. Eliminating waste can help us provide more value to our customers in the form of lower pricing. For a more positive example of the use of plastic straws check out this website. http://www.strawbags.org/
Be sure to mention ‘no straw’ next time you order a soft drink or water at your local restaurant!