PRESS RELEASE: Climate-friendly menu in restaurants is within reach

More vegetables and less red meat on everyone’s plate is good for 51% less CO2-emission.

Utrecht, 27 August 2019. Research points out that Dutch restaurants can achieve plenty of climate and health gains by adjusting their menu’s. More vegetables on the plate and smaller portions of meat. More creative vegetable dishes and a lower amount of dishes with red meat. Doing so, restaurants reduce the CO2-emission of their menu with 51%. This came forward in research on the climate impact of dishes conducted by Natuur & Milieu and Greendish. The research was executed at restaurants within ‘Regio Foodvalley’. 

The research was conducted at restaurants with traditional French-Dutch cuisine, such as bistros. 23 restaurants let their menu get screened. In this screening, the following were examined: the climate impact of the dishes, purchasing of products and the degree of food waste. A climate-friendly menu appears to be within reach and the potential impact for the Netherlands in its whole is big. The analysis is part of the initiative ‘Restaurants van Morgen’ (Restaurants of Tomorrow), a transition program from Greendish and Natuur & Milieu that targets sustainable development within the food service industry.    

Climate boost: restrain the offer of red meat
The research shows that 20% less animal-based protein and 30% more vegetables on a plate leads to a saving of 18% of CO2. This can happen while maintaining guest satisfaction. Besides adjusting the portions on the plate, there is also plenty of opportunities regarding the composition of the menu. At the moment, the ratio of most ordered dishes is as follows: 37% red meat, 43% white meat (chicken, pork), 13% fish and 7% vegetarian/vegan. Of these, red meat is the main culprit for the climate. If chefs manage to adjust the served dishes to 15% red meat, 30% white meat, 15% fish and 40% vegetarian/vegan, this would result in a saving of 43% CO2. The Netherlands counts 5150 restaurants with a French-Dutch cuisine. Hence, together they could save approximately 135 million kg CO2 per year by taking both measures.

Spotlight for vegetables
Solely offering more vegetarian dishes is not sufficient. Something also has to change in the offer and diversity of vegetable dishes. Vegetarian dishes are often placed at the end of a menu and appeared to lack nutritional value or originality. The participating chefs see opportunities to become more skilled in preparing more creative and nutritional dishes. Dorien Ackerman of Natuur & Milieu emphasizes the importance of climate-conscious chefs: “Restaurants are true tastemakers. They are essential in changing our dietary patterns from animal-based proteins to more plant-based proteins. High chance that when you enjoy delicious dishes with seaweed, oyster mushrooms or a lentil burger out of your home, you will try out these dishes at home.” Tips to create an original and sustainable menu can be found in the factsheet of ‘Restaurants van Morgen’ (Restaurants of Tomorrow).

Food waste
Within restaurants, plenty of food is wasted. It is estimated that 12% of the total amount of food waste happens in the food service industry as a consequence of spoilage, overproduction or portions that are too large. An increasing amount of food service entrepreneurs are aware of this and are willing to take action. In practice, it appears that a few simple solutions work very well. Think for example about smaller portion-sizes with the opportunity of extra ordering, offering a daily menu to purchase products effectively, and a doggybag for leftovers on the plate.

‘Restaurants van Morgen’ (Restaurants of Tomorrow)
 “Restaurants of Tomorrow offers food service entrepreneurs knowledge and practical tools to become more sustainable step by step. This local approach, where municipalities and restaurants together put shoulders to the heel, appears to be a successful formula. Together we map where we can win for the environment, the guest and the entrepreneur”, says Joris Heijnen, director of Greendish.

Restaurants who are willing to get started with Restaurants of Tomorrow can contact Greendish. Besides, the Food Waste Challenge ‘Meten is weten’ (Measuring is knowing) starts on September 2 for chefs who are willing to fight food waste. Want to start working quickly? Take a look at the factsheet with practical tips and recommendations.

The potential impact for the Netherlands is big. However, the CO2-savings will not be realized overnight. Restaurants of Tomorrow offers food service entrepreneurs the tools and knowledge to develop sustainably step by step. It is a multi-year program and is being supported by more and more municipalities who see that the regional approach is successful. “Restaurants need a little helping hand to start taking action and to see where the wins are in the menu, for the guest, the environment and the entrepreneur” says Joris Heijnen. Municipalities and restaurants who are interested can contact Greendish and download the factsheet with research results and practical tips.