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  • Michael Oshman

2019 Green Restaurant Trends

1. The goal of zero food waste

There was a lot of growing awareness around food waste in 2018, and all indicators show that will continue to be a strong trend through 2019. In the past, waste was often seen as an isolated issue. Restaurants are now becoming more aware that addressing food waste is not just a matter of installing a compost bin. It requires a strategy to minimize the food waste in the first place, which can entail:

  • Adding smaller portion options for people who eat less than the regular-sized portions.

  • Creating menu items that incorporate food prep items that were previously discarded.

  • Considering any disposables that are used in conjunction with food to be compostable to make it easy for employees and customers to discard items into one compost bin, rather than sorting.

The key driving factors for this trend are:

  1. Legislation:Requiring restaurant composting is creating a solid motivation for restaurants to tackle this issue comprehensively, while it also provides the support for growth and ingenuity in the marketplace to create solutions to make it easier for restaurants to achieve this goal.

  2. Education and Awareness: The UN, EPA, and many countries have educated consumers and businesses that food waste needs to be addressed to help slow down climate change. This increased awareness is making food waste a topic of conversation, such as at trade shows and in articles, which is propelling the market forward.

  3. Customer Demand: What was once acceptable to customers is now making the dining experience less pleasurable for a significant part of the population. People want to dine at restaurants without contributing to landfills and climate change. This creates a pressure for restaurants to move towards zero food waste and communicate that to their customers.

2. Minimizing Single-Use Disposables

Consumers are fed up with single use plastics and expect restaurants to take their concerns seriously. In 2019, more restaurants will phase out:

  • Bottled Water

  • Straws

  • Plastic Bags

  • Disposables In-House

  • Automatic utensil, napkin, condiment take-out bag placement

We’ve already seen big entities adopt these changes:

  • Starbucks says they will be strawless by 2020 and McDonalds UK says it’ll go strawless by 2019.

  • The National Park Service does not sell bottled water in their parks.

  • India passed a law that will ban all single use plastics by 2020.

  • Ikea will phase out all single use plastics in their stores and restaurants by 2020.

To help this shift from disposables to reusables, innovative companies, such as GO Box and OZZI are helping corporate and university campuses integrate reusables in a convenient way. More reusable mug and take-out container systems will make this shift one that works for consumers need for sustainability and convenience.

3. Green restaurant legislation

Consumers aren’t the only ones shifting the green restaurant landscape. Numerous cities and states are passing legislation such asfoam, plastic straw, and plastic bag bans. They are also implementing mandatory composting and recycling laws.

  • In October, DC announced it will begin to officially enforce their 2014 ban on plastic straws.

  • San Diego passed a polystyrene foam ban in early January.

  • In July, Seattle became the first major city to ban straws and plastic utensils.

  • New York City banned polystyrene foam starting on January 1st, 2019.

  • In October, Austin required all restaurants to compost their food scraps.

We recommend that restaurants get ahead of the curve by implementing composting and recycling programs. Other recommendations include: switching over your foam products to items that contain post-consumer recycled content, offering incentives for customers to bring in reusable bags, mugs, and containers, and finding plastic straw alternatives, such as reusable durable straws.

4. Plant-based meats go mainstream

Hundreds of millions of dollars have recently poured into investing in companies that are finding plant-based alternatives to steak, chicken, hamburgers, and our general preference for animal protein. When we started this organization almost 30 years ago, vegetarian and vegan protein was almost impossible to come by. It was popular among a small counter-culture demographic. Now, it’s all about the plant-based burgers, such as the Impossible Burger. And, soon lab-grown meat will be one of many options for low carbon meat alternatives. The number of vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians keeps growing, and it’ll be imperative for all restaurants to add these options to their menus.

5. 360-degree sustainability

More restaurants will start implementing sustainability in all aspect in their operation and supply chain, instead of just adopting a few practices. From purchasing more local products, to reducing food waste, to serving smaller portions, and implementing a composting program. But just integrating these practices is not always enough. By partnering with a certification organization like the Green Restaurant Association, restaurants will be able to assess their sustainable steps based on standards that encompass all aspects of sustainability (from water and energy consumption to disposables and chemical usage). Having a third-party evaluate your sustainable practices will create the transparency that the customer wants and deserves.

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