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National Restaurant Association - Sustainability is on the menu

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Sustainability is on the menu

As tastes change, restaurant and foodservice companies are serving up sustainability to satisfy guests and reduce costs.

Darden Restaurants, McDonald’s, Yum Brands and Aramark joined the National Restaurant Association’s Laura Abshire at a recent sustainability summit in New Orleans. Here’s what they said they’re working on:

  • Darden Restaurants set goals in 2009 to reduce water and energy consumption by 15 percent.  Sustainability manager Kristine Young reports that by the end of 2015, Darden had met those goals, reducing water use at its 1,500 restaurants by 22.5 percent, cutting energy use by 17 percent and reducing food waste sent to landfill by 29 percent. The company also announced its new “Food Principles” in April. These principles guide Darden’s actions in sourcing, purchasing and preparing safe and wholesome meals.

  • Kathy Cacciola, senior director of environmental sustainability for Aramark, said the foodservice and facilities management company is focused on minimizing waste and practicing food sustainability. It also is stressing the importance of health and wellness at all of its locations. Aramark is making measurable progress in meeting specific seafood sustainability commitments, she said, thanks to a partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Aramark also is working on responsible sourcing and using local and fair-trade ingredients. In addition, the company is scaling back its environmental footprint, managing transportation better and ensuring its protein sources have been humanely raised.

  • McDonald’s sustainability director Ian Olson said the company’s 14,500 U.S. and 38,000 worldwide restaurants provide opportunity to make some positive changes in its supply chain and franchise communities. Its’ food-sustainability efforts are focused on fish, coffee, beef and fiber supply. The company is now recycling over 90 percent of its used fryer oil and corrugate in its U.S. restaurants, Olson said. It also is working with the Marine Stewardship Council to help ensure the seafood in its Filet O Fish sandwiches comes from certified sustainable fisheries. McDonald’s is also increasing its purchase of verified sustainable coffee and espresso beans and has invested in a farmer technical assistance program for coffee farmers.

  • Yum! Brands, parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, reduced energy use at its company-owned restaurants 17 percent between 2005 and 2015, exceeding its goal of 15 percent, associate sustainability manager Jessica Rosen said. The company also developed its own “Blueline” green building standard, which improves energy and water efficiency, reduces waste, uses sustainable materials and sets restaurants on a path to be LEED-certifiable. So far, 5,600 of its restaurants around the world use Blueline solutions. Other efforts include conducting a global water assessment to better understand and reduce water risk; diverting 50 percent of back-of-house waste at U.S. stores by the end of 2020; recycling used cooking oil, grease and cardboard; and working to reduce food waste and increase food donations companywide through its Harvest Food Donation program.
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