Admittedly sustainability as an umbrella term is overused and misused, and can be open to misunderstanding. Having said that, what is needed for a restaurant to be sustainable or sustain itself into the future with regard to the economy, society and the environment?

Most restaurants operate as businesses and need to sustain themselves financially by being profitable. With increasing food prices margins become tighter. StatsSA * (P6421) report on the food and beverage industry reflects a 1% net profit rate on average showing how tight margins are. Restaurant closures are often a reflection of this.

Restaurants don’t exist in isolation – they occupy a space within a community and are connected to farmers, producers, suppliers, communicators, employees and customers.

A restaurant is part of the food system and uses resources such as energy and water, as well as producing waste. The sector also employs people in a range of positions from dishwashers, cleaners, waiters and managers.

It thereby creates employment opportunities in food supply, preparation and service and related services and industries.

The restaurant is a buffer between the consumer and the food they consume. The restaurant takes on responsibility for where the food comes from and how it is prepared.

By moving to ‘greener’ resource usage and management; addressing social issues in workers and community; and engaging with consumers a restaurant progressively becomes more sustainable with reference to the environment and society.

These changes can happen individually or as patterns and clusters within the industry as people collaborate to support one another. Sustainable restaurants. Sustainable industry.

Longtable Project helps restaurants in Cape Town move to sustainability.


Check out Arthur Potts Dawson on sustainable restaurants l Arthur Potts Dawson: A vision for sustainable restaurants | Video on