Sustainable Restaurant Project – One Year In

It was about a year ago that Bruce McAdams asked me if I was interested in participating in the development of a project on sustainability in food service.  I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into – I’m not sure any of us did.  One year on we’ve come a long way and see an interesting and exciting path forward.

We’ve gotten a lot done, including:

1 – Our panel on food service sustainability was very well attended and we’re planning more

2 – Students undertook nutritional analyses (thanks Simon and Emma at PJ’s) of their menu items.  They also undertook lifecycle analyses (more info to come) on their menu items to improve their understanding of the path the food takes from production to plate and the cost of that journey.

3 – We undertook a comprehensive study of plate waste a PJ’s and are developing a framework that restaurants can use to reduce plate waste (reducing cost and improving guest experience).

4 – We conducted a survey of the industry on sustainability initiatives and innovation.  This was very interesting and a report will be forthcoming shortly.

There is more that I haven’t covered and definitely more to come.  One of the biggest steps for me is the jump from environmental sustainability to thinking about the broad definition of sustainability.  Kristen wrote about social sustainability in her last post.  Its clear how important this is.  In our sustainability survey, two thirds of respondents said attracting and keeping people was one of their top three challenges – and the proportion was higher if we took out QSR and institutional food service.  In that area we developed and conducted a survey of restaurant staff – front and back of house – and had almost 500 responses.  These interesting results will be out over the summer.

Economic sustainability is also critical.  Profitability has been squeezed and restaurants are looking for ways to meet these challenges.  The Sustainable Restaurant Project team is working a number of initiatives with respect to finance and revenue management.  Stay tuned.

The vision for the project was to be a source of research and information for students, industry and others.  Simply put our vision is To Learn, To Teach, To Share.  Its been a great first year which has exceeded my expectations.  I’m excited about whats to come as we build momentum.

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