— By Ray Hatch —
Turn changing regulations into new opportunities.
As cities and states begin pushing harder toward their zero-waste goals, new regulations are being put into effect that will change the way businesses operate. For restaurants and food production, these new regulations are already being put into place across the country and can have staggering impacts on your workflows, production and profits. But it’s not all scary fines and penalties — in fact, if you do it right, you can take advantage of these changing regulations from something you have to do, into something that will increase profits and drive customer loyalty.
Cracking Down on Food Waste
Across the U.S., a collection of major cities have established zero-waste goals with an emphasis on curbing food waste. The city of Seattle has taken serious measures by placing a city-wide ban on throwing away food waste that went into effect in 2015. The ordinance states that all food waste and food-contaminated waste (paper napkins, cardboard containers, etc.) must be composted, and has even gone as far as to fine residents and businesses that dispose of food waste improperly. Austin, Texas, is another city that has placed a city-wide ban on food waste that is targeted specifically at restaurants. In Austin, businesses can be fined between $100 to $2,000 per infraction for failing to handle food waste properly.
Ultimately, these regulations shouldn’t be seen as a burden. The benefits of a food waste reduction program not only saves your restaurant money — it can bring in and keep new customers. Reducing overall waste saves you money right off the bat with only having to make changes to your purchasing practices, employee training and other small changes.
Furthermore, if you keep track of your food recycling programs, you can share that information with your customers to let them know that your restaurant isn’t just throwing away perfectly edible food. Social responsibility is one of the strongest marketing tools with eco-conscious consumers.
Construction Regulations to Watch for in 2019
For the last 10 years there has been a significant increase in cities that are adopting green construction practices. Cities like San Jose, California; Tampa, Florida; and Miami are only a small collection of the cities that have required LEED certifications for new construction over 5,000 square feet for the last decade, and many smaller cities are beginning to adopt the same principles. If your restaurant operation is planning on expanding, then you already know that green building principles are going to be a part of the project. Avoiding delays in permits and inspections is the key to making sure your new construction jobs go off without a hitch. The money that is lost in time not operating a new restaurant location can be staggering, as well as the money lost in having to correct errors in building projects.
Just like with food recycling regulations, new construction regulations should be seen as a positive change. LEED certified buildings, on average, use 25% less energy and use 11% less water than a building without LEED certification. The overall operating costs decline by an average of 9% over a single year and upwards of 13% within 5 years, according to estimates by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Additionally, if your building is up to LEED standards, there’s a good chance that you may qualify for certain government tax credits.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
As cities’ zero-waste programs go into effect, businesses need to stay ahead of the curve to avoid major changes in their workflow, revenues and, ultimately, their profits. If your workflow requires a complete overhaul to remain compliant with changing regulations, right now is the time to address those coming changes. Evaluation, preparation and baby steps make for a smooth, and effective, transition. Having multiple locations across multiple cities only compounds the issue and is a very strong point for evaluating how you are currently handling your waste and recyclables. When any aspect of your workflow changes, you can expect downtime and an impact on productivity. Factoring in elements like employee education, additional documentation requirements, and efficiency into a plan is essential to move forward and remain compliant.
No matter what industry you are in, regulations are a factor of doing business that are always going to be changing. Having the foresight to keep up with these evolving policies is what will set you apart from the competition. Go into the new year with small changes needed to curb food waste and to achieve landfill diversion rates, and plan accordingly for new construction projects. These proactive steps will keep looming deadlines for compliance from slowing or even halting your workflows in 2019 and beyond.
— Ray Hatch is Quest Resource Management Group’s (NASDAQ: QRHC) chief executive officer and a member of the board. He brings over 25 years of experience in both the waste management and food services industries that generated over a billion dollars in revenue. Previously, Hatch served as president of Merchants Market Group, an international foodservice distribution company. He also served in various executive roles with Oakleaf Waste Management, a provider of waste outsourcing that was acquired by Waste Management.