How to Achieve Foodservice Industry Sustainability Goals

Foodservice providers are reevaluating their operations with manufacturing and logistics playing a key role in driving sustainable change.

Sustainability is a top priority in the foodservice industry, as consumers increasingly gravitate toward businesses that prioritize eco-friendly practices. This has led to foodservice providers reevaluating their operations with manufacturing and logistics playing a key role in driving sustainable change.

One of the most prevalent issues facing the industry is food waste, with a staggering 40 percent of all food in the U.S. going unsold or uneaten.

As food decomposes in landfills, it releases hot and potentially explosive methane. This dangerous greenhouse gas is more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), making food waste reduction a top strategy for combating climate change.

According to Green Restaurant Association, a single U.S. restaurant can generate up to 75,000 pounds of food waste per year – 84% of unused restaurant food is thrown away, while 14% is recycled, and only 1.4% donated. These statistics underscore the magnitude of the problem, which costs the U.S. restaurant industry more than $162 billion annually.


Another pressing concern is the proliferation of single-use plastics in the foodservice industry. From disposable cutlery to takeout containers, these items contribute to a growing environmental crisis. Plastic waste takes hundreds of years to break down and often ends up in oceans and waterways, causing devastating harm to marine ecosystems.

Even in industries not traditionally associated with sustainability, significant progress can be made. Sea World, known for its marine attractions, has taken steps to reduce single-use plastics in its parks. By phasing out plastic straws and cutlery, they are contributing to the reduction of plastic waste in oceans and demonstrating their commitment to environmental responsibility.

Manufacturers can make a huge impact by focusing on eco-friendly packaging options. Innovations in packaging design include compostable materials, reusable containers, and packaging made from minimalistic and biodegradable materials.

Logistics Solutions

Sustainable logistics practices are key to reducing the environmental impact of food transportation. Advanced logistics software has transformed route optimization by identifying the most efficient routes, which reduces delivery times and the associated carbon footprint.

Managing returns and minimizing waste in the supply chain is another way to practice sustainable logistics but it requires manufacturers, suppliers, and foodservice providers to all work together to address the issue.

Rather than discarding unsold or returned products, redistributing excess food to charities and food banks is an effective reverse logistics strategy that reduces waste while also benefiting local communities.

Foodservice providers can make an impact by encouraging suppliers to adopt eco-friendly sourcing and transportation methods, thus creating a more sustainable supply chain. If current suppliers are unwilling to change their practices, foodservice providers have ample opportunity to choose new providers that are more aligned with their sustainability goals.

Collaborative logistics solutions, such as shared transportation networks, can also help by reducing empty trips and optimizing delivery routes. By sharing transportation resources with other companies—even competitors for the greater good of their shared industry—foodservice providers can lower costs, reduce emissions, and enhance sustainability.

Chipotle Mexican Grill prioritizes responsible sourcing of ingredients from responsible suppliers, reducing food waste, and implementing energy-efficient practices in their restaurants. Chipotle’s commitment to sustainability has not only improved its environmental impact but also resonated with its customer base, enhancing brand loyalty.

Increased education, collaboration, and adoption will drive positive change but it’s important to understand that sustainability is no longer an option in the foodservice industry, but a necessity.

Business owners and employees across the entire supply chain ecosystem must be educated on the long-term benefits of sustainable practices. This is a step that cannot be skipped in order to gain support for eco-friendly efforts. A concerted effort to reduce waste, energy consumption, and plastic usage must be made as foodservice providers adopt new packaging designs, optimize transportation routes, and collaborate with suppliers and partners. Staying informed about regulations and incentives, along with sharing success stories and best practices, can inspire others to follow suit.

Remy Garson is the CEO of Remcoda, a division of the family-led IBrands Global corporation.