Sustainability practices and technology have permeated many facets of business but going green for the restaurant business can equal savings on long-term investments. Sustainability for restaurants has evolved beyond recyclable or compostable packaging or reducing waste in the kitchen.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, an independent news publication covering the food service industry, a new generation of smart technology and digitization has emerged for restaurants to take their sustainability practices to the next level.
Where restaurants are going green
The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the evolution of many technologies, including the increased use of QR codes for ordering and providing digital receipts. Using less paper not only helps restaurants be more sustainable but utilizing QR codes also allow restaurants to use less thermal paper—for receipts—which doesn’t easily decompose and can release chemicals into the atmosphere.
Despite tech evolving sustainability in other areas of the restaurant business, carryout waste is still an important variable—one that became more critical due to COVID-19 dramatically increasing food delivery. One company, Vytal, has developed a system that uses data to create sustainable take-out food packaging. Through digital technology and AI, the company has made it commercially possible to offer an alternative, sustainable and deposit-free recyclable system for take-out food.
According to the Harvard Business Review, Vytal has suppliers rent their packages to restaurants and end users can pick up their desired take-out and then return the packaging within a specified time period free of charge. The restaurant then cleans the packaging and reuses it.
Vytal now has 3,500 partners across Germany and has delivered over 320,00 items of usable packaging, preventing the use of more than 4.7 million disposable packaging containers.
Industry-wide sustainability efforts
Sustainability practices have also expanded from the individual restaurant level to food suppliers, making food and beverage processing not only safer, but greener.
According to a report by the Association for Packaging and Processing, larger consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies automate and integrate digital transformation solutions at a faster rate than small- and medium-sized operations, but smaller CPGs are investing in smart manufacturing technologies at a steady rate.
Among advancements for CPG companies include Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensor and device improvements for more effective measurement, tracking and data collection. In addition, AI and machine learning are delivering more effective analysis data to streamline and optimize processes among the digital transformation technologies that CPG manufacturers expect to incorporate in the next few years.
HVAC systems and inventory management software are also getting smarter with digital developments, helping with energy efficiency and supplier bills. The innovative systems also have a positive impact on food safety, which has also become a key driver for the restaurant industry during the pandemic.
The CEO of International Product Safety Consultants Larry Keener told the Institute of Food Technologists that light-based disinfection technology is another example of food safety innovation, with sustainability applications. It can simultaneously deliver on food safety and reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing food.
“UV and LED disinfection treatments require less chemical usage in food processing and environmental sanitation applications and have been shown to reduce water usage,” said Keener. “The pandemic also exposed the poor air quality in food processing plants and some of these light-based technologies that were integrated with the HVAC systems were shown to effectively eliminate molds and viruses. I think these light technologies have a big future in advancing food safety, and I expect these will continue to be developed in the coming year and beyond.”
Sustainable solutions from HCLTech
Organizations across sectors, including the food and restaurant industry, are utilizing green technology and sustainability solutions that result in economic and social sustainability. Investor interest and consumer affinity for smart and energy-efficient products are drivers of this transition, and HCLTech’s Sustainability Engineering Offering portfolio offers end-to-end sustainability solutions and services.
HCLTech’s solution provides services across the value chain from the product ideation and design phase to end-of-life and sustenance. The offering provides complete customized services across all stages of the transformation journey to sustain and support your business.