Case study – Using ISO 14001:2015 to reduce environmental impact and increase profit in a restaurant

In 2014, the value of the restaurant business was reported to be $680 billion in the United States and £45 billion pounds in the United Kingdom, as reported by the respective governments’ office of statistics report for that year. I recently discovered these figures during my research helping a friend who owns a restaurant. He was interested in increasing his profits and reducing his environmental impact, having recently attended a seminar on the subject. He asked me my opinion on ISO 14001:2015 and asked me to do a brief study on how it could help his business, given that he had discussed the effects of ISO 14001:2015 implementation with a colleague who was a McDonald’s franchisee. This really got me thinking. As organizations like McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and traditional pub chains in the United Kingdom have a large amount of traffic in their restaurants, and generate massive amounts of revenue using huge amounts of produce, it follows that their individual and collective impacts will be significant, and there may well be real opportunities for improvement. I also discovered that most of the large restaurant chains don’t have a uniform policy regarding ISO 14001:2015, but several seem to be considering implementing the standard. Therefore, my friend wanted to be at the forefront of that trend. So, with ISO 14001:2015 being the next benchmark for restaurants, how can the standard be used to reduce impacts and increase profits?

The restaurant: What are the impacts?

Obviously, if you want to be certified against ISO 14001:2015, then your restaurant business will need to comply with all clauses of the standard, and have the correct documentation as we looked at in the previous blog List of mandatory documents required in ISO 14001:2015. However, amongst defining the context of your organization, ensuring the new leadership requirements are met, and so forth, you will find some clauses in the standard that can really help you deliver some tangible improvement to your restaurant business. Let’s look at them in more detail, and use the examples uncovered in my recent implementation in the restaurant business as examples.

The Planning Clause of ISO 14001:2015 defines several key requirements, including identifying environmental aspects, compliance obligations, and addressing risk and opportunities. Let’s take them one by one:

  • Environmental aspects: After investigation, it was discovered that unnecessary gas and electric were used in the restaurant kitchen, serving area, and office. After discussion with the chefs and staff, a “Restaurant Utility Use” policy was drawn up and signed by all staff. An 11% savings was subsequently made across the next electricity and gas bill. Similar savings were made by reducing printer ink and paper, and ensuring that letters were replaced by electronic mail wherever possible on the administration side.
  • Compliance Legislation: It was found that the restaurant was using an out-of-date “F-Gas” in its air conditioning system. This was rectified and a service agreement established to ensure ongoing compliance, reducing danger to staff and customers alike.
  • Risk & Opportunity: This is potentially one of the most vital elements for a restaurant. We examined the risks in our supply chain, both the danger of reliance on one single supplier of a product and the environmental credentials of suppliers, which opened up some very interesting dialogue. After three months of discussion and negotiation the restaurant managed to change the amount of raw product deemed as “environmentally aware or compliant” from 23% to 67%, according to the criteria we set and documented for our process. Critically, this led to a huge improvement in our supply chain’s awareness of environmental issues, and a huge improvement in environmental performance in terms of the context we defined regarding our organization. Even more pleasing for the business manager was the resulting 9% decrease in raw produce costs that has ensued over the following three months due to initiatives undertaken to establish the root cause and gain a better understanding of waste that the business previously created.

The environmental aspect of the business and its supply chain were significantly reduced, and the added knowledge and focus of the supply chain and internal staff ensures that year-over-year improvement can be made as the performance of the restaurant’s newly established EMS (Environmental Management System) continues to monitor, measure, and analyze data with continual improvement and cost reduction as the goal. So, are there any other benefits the business has seen?

ISO 14001:2015 – The benefits to our restaurant

Further identification of local aspects had a positive effect on the business, too. A system (supported by UK local government) subsidized the purchase of bikes for staff who wanted to cycle to work to reduce carbon emissions, although this can be difficult in the harsh UK winters! However, as a result of the implementation of the EMS the staff are now more aware of the effects of their actions and decisions on the wider environment, and the restaurant’s reputation has undoubtedly been enhanced by the statement on the menu and website letting customers know that the restaurant selects produce by considering environmental and fair trade credentials. The fact that the local newspaper picked up on the story has also been positive for business, and overall gross profit has improved by 17% over the previous quarter and 26% over the same period last year. Given that my friend owns one restaurant and has seen such benefits with setting up an EMS and becoming accredited against ISO 14001:2015, isn’t it about time larger restaurant chains followed suit?

Use the free  ISO 14001:2015 Foundations Course to learn more about ISO 14001.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.