In a world that is increasingly conscious of environmental and health issues, sustainable restaurant concepts have become more important. These concepts focus not only on excellent taste, but also on environmentally friendly and ethically responsible practices. From supposedly simple concepts like vegan and vegetarian cuisine, to organic ingredients, to fancy, innovative nose-to-tail approaches and vertical farming: In this magazine feature, you'll learn all about these fascinating developments in the restaurant industry, how they work, how you can apply them, and why they're more sustainable than traditional restaurant concepts.
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Vegetarian and vegan restaurant concepts: The green revolution
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants have boomed in recent years. These concepts focus on plant-based cuisine and do without animal products. From delicious vegetable dishes to innovative meat and fish alternatives, you can let your creativity run wild in the kitchen.
How do vegetarian and vegan restaurant concepts work?
In vegetarian cuisine, meat is dispensed with completely. Vegan cuisine additionally dispenses with all animal products. Meat and other animal products have an enormously high, negative climate balance compared to plant-based foods. For the production of meat a lot of water is used and in addition many poisonous substances get into the earth and then into the groundwater by excretions of the animals and fertilizer for the plants for the food security of the animals. For the cultivation of the fodder arable land is needed, which is mostly in the form of monocultures in cleared rainforests. Plant-based cooking significantly reduces these emissions for your restaurant, and you can have a more sustainable restaurant experience with relatively little effort.
In addition to countless recipes that easily replicate a full meal without meat or animal products, there are now incredibly authentic substitutes. This means that with plant-based, sustainable cuisine, you have all the options and recipes that your customers love, without having to sacrifice anything.
What is special about vegetarian and vegan cuisine?
Good vegan or vegetarian cuisine is very flavorful. The right spices are half the battle, and with the right mix and ingenious, exotic creations, you can trick any omnivorous guest and win them over to your vegetarian or vegan restaurant concept. So, if you're aiming for meatless cuisine, you'll want to be very precise when it comes to spices.
Due to the comparably simple approach, vegetarian and vegan restaurant concepts can be combined very well with all other sustainable restaurant concepts and you have the possibility to achieve an even higher level of sustainability for your restaurant.
The vegan restaurant Heaven's Kitchen in Stuttgart, Germany
A great example of vegan cuisine is Heaven's Kitchen in Stuttgart. In addition to vegan egg dishes, succulent cakes or "Vurst salad", cheese made from cashew, vegan yogurt and shiitake mushrooms are also used here to trigger a full taste experience. Here, they even think two steps further and take sustainability to a new level with a zero waste strategy using their own composting facility in the basement, as well as a plate-less evening concept.
Regional, seasonal and organic: All good things come in threes
Other approaches to a sustainable restaurant concept are based on regional, seasonal or organic foods. Each concept alone, or all three combined, can make your cuisine a bit more sustainable. Here, the sustainability of the concepts is primarily aimed at the origin of your food and it is avoided long transport routes and pesticides, and attention is paid to species-appropriate husbandry.
Why are regional, seasonal and organic restaurant concepts so sustainable?
In regional cuisine, you make sure that the producers of your ingredients are located in your area, so that there are no long transport routes and the emissions caused during transport by continuous cold chains, among other things, remain as low as possible. This allows you to offer your guests a high level of quality, because all your food can be prepared fresh.
Regional cuisine is very good and likes to be combined with seasonal cuisine, where different recipes are on the menu for your guests depending on the season. Seasonality eliminates the need for expensive storage and utilizes food in the season it is harvested and ripe. Food has the best flavor in its season, and you can make the most of that by following a seasonal restaurant concept with a rotating menu and not having to use long-stored food from another season at all.
If you want to pursue a sustainable restaurant concept in all ways, then in addition to the regional and seasonal approach, you also choose the organic approach to your cuisine. Organic ingredients come from organic cultivation and organic animal husbandry and do without pesticides, herbicides and all additives. There are precise requirements, which your guest can also easily read, that guarantee species-appropriate husbandry and quality of the food. In general, the standards of the EU organic regulation apply. In addition, there are also higher standards of the Bioland, Demeter and Naturland seals. All of them are publicly available on the Internet, but you make it easier for your customers if you integrate the standards you adhere to into your menu or website.
What is special about regional, seasonal and organic restaurant concepts?
There is often a lot of history and tradition behind regional and seasonal restaurant concepts. What used to be pragmatic is now a well-known dish for a certain region in a certain season. Good recipes that have been around for several generations will put your guests in a state of nostalgia and do without exotic ingredients and frills. But traditional dishes reinterpreted are also guaranteed to spark enthusiasm among your sustainably-minded guests.
In addition, you can use the transparency of an organic restaurant concept and inform your guests about the origin of your ingredients and their cultivation or rearing methods. This works best through your menu or website and builds your guests' trust in the quality and origin of the food.
Regional and seasonal cuisine like at Restaurant Zeik in Hamburg
What your regional and seasonal restaurant might look like is up to you, but we have an exemplary restaurant as a source of inspiration: Restaurant Zeik in Hamburg. The region and the origin are the focus here. Regional and pared down, they put onion and kohlrabi, for example, in the focus of their northern German cuisine, without losing sight of creativity. Traditional kitchen crafts from fermenting, preserving and making vinegar find their way back into the restaurant kitchen and are cleverly integrated into the six-course menu. The seasonally changing menu completes the concept in a varied and sustainable way.
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Crooked vegetables as a restaurant concept?
A supposedly simple approach to make gastronomy more sustainable is the use of crooked vegetables. Crooked carrots, too small peppers and cucumbers with blemishes on the skin, i.e. vegetables that do not meet the norms and standards of the supermarkets, are often left over. The suppliers are left with harvests if no one buys the visually imperfect vegetables from them. Qualitatively, these crooked vegetables are in no way inferior to the immaculate supermarket standards and in a restaurant where vegetables are cut, chopped and pureed, this optical difference is no longer even noticeable.
Why is the use of crooked vegetables in the restaurant concept so sustainable?
The discarded crooked vegetables are often discarded because of their appearance, making up part of the immense food waste. It is more sustainable to save these crooked vegetables and cook delicious meals from them. Where better to do that than in a restaurant? Your guests won't taste the visual difference of the crooked ingredients to pristine ingredients and you can save a lot of food.
What's special about crooked vegetables in a restaurant concept?
Incorporating crooked vegetables into your restaurant concept is surprisingly simple and requires very little change in the kitchen. Even for your guests, crooked vegetables are not a big change, because the taste remains the same. Since sustainability has long since become a trend in the restaurant industry, crooked vegetables can even be a very appealing criterion for your restaurant and attract new customers. And creativity is needed here, too. Why not bring these apparent blemishes to the forefront and create exotically shaped dishes out of crooked vegetables?
What's more, crooked vegetables are particularly easy to integrate into other restaurant concepts. It's not uncommon for organically grown vegetables to be crooked and available regionally.
Regional, seasonal and crooked are the ingredients in the Café Zur Krummbeere in Landau
Café Zur Krummbeere in Landau, for example, does it the same way. The vegan café focuses on regionality, seasonality and, as the name suggests, crooked vegetables, and its small, ever-changing menu appeals to a casual crowd with a heart for food rescue. By using "B-goods" vegetables, Café Zur Krummbeere not only communicates its sustainability, but also passes on the ingredient's price advantage to its customers, offering dishes for less.
What is a nose-to-tail restaurant concept?
If you are looking for a sustainable way to offer meat dishes in your restaurant, you might find the solution in the nose-to-tail restaurant concept. This involves utilizing the animal from nose to tail and also incorporating less common parts, such as the animal's bones, cartilage, offal and skin. These rather unusual ingredients make the cuisine very unusual and experimental, for both chef and guest.
Holistic cooking used to be part of everyday life, as a slaughtered animal was not a product of abundance and was fully utilized. In 1984, an average of 1500 grams of offal per capita was still distorted in Germany, while in 2014 it was only 150 grams per capita and mass production made the average German very picky.
Why is the nose-to-tail concept so sustainable?
This approach emphasizes sustainability and respect for animals by using every component of the animal. The idea behind this is to appreciate the entire resource instead of selectively using only the parts that are in high demand. Meat as a resource comes with many emissions and a large ecological footprint. To avoid wasting this resource and the ecological impact of its production, it is possible to use the animal as holistically as possible and not just take out the best fillets. For this reason, it also lends itself to combining the nose-to-tail approach with the regional and organic restaurant concepts to allow for the usability and quality of the whole animal.
What makes the nose-to-tail restaurant concept so special?
It is a great art to utilize an animal holistically and the ethical aspect towards the animals plays a big role. It's an extraordinary cuisine that's not for everyone and requires a lot of knowledge. And although it sounds so absurd in parts, this way of cooking also follows earlier traditions, where animals were completely utilized due to food shortages.
Organic meat from head to toe to delicacy at the Rose organic restaurant in Hayingen.
The Rose organic restaurant in Hayingen, for example, shows what this sustainable, holistic way of utilizing meat can look like. The right kind of preparation transforms any "base" piece of meat into a delicacy, and the restaurant in the Swabian Alb has beef tongue, pork cheeks and lamb tripe on the menu, depending on which parts of the animal are available at the moment.
What is a farm-to-table restaurant or vertical farming?
Another creative approach to promoting the sustainability of your restaurant is urban farming or vertical farming. As the name implies, it's about growing crops vertically in urban areas and having a farm-to-table mentality. The idea behind it is to grow fresh and healthy ingredients locally. This completely eliminates any emissions from transportation and storage, and it doesn't require large tracts of farmland to grow your ingredients.
Why is the farm-to-table restaurant concept so sustainable?
Vertical farming technologies, for example on the walls of your restaurant, make clever use of the space in your restaurant. The vertical arrangement allows you to cleverly water your crops and have minimal water consumption. Crops can be grown without pesticides in the middle of downtown, and you eliminate long transportation routes and food storage and refrigeration as well. You can grow food in your restaurant year-round as needed with a farm-to-table restaurant concept.
What makes the Farm-to-Table restaurant concept so special?
What is unique about a farm-to-table concept is that you can offer exceptional freshness of your ingredients and your customers can see and admire them directly in your restaurant. The ingredients come directly from the harvest to the plate. You have the opportunity to harvest at any time of the year and can let your plants flourish without pesticides and with a full overview. In addition, the plants directly green the atmosphere in your restaurant and form cool eye-catchers that you don't find everywhere.
A vertical farm in the middle of Berlin at the GOOD BANK restaurant
The vertical farm restaurant GOOD BANK in Berlin already implements this restaurant concept. At GOOD BANK, lettuce and vegetables are grown on site in display cases on the walls and harvested as needed. From the miniature greenhouse, the vegetables arrive on the plate in less than 30 seconds, making them probably the freshest vegetables in all of Berlin.
Conclusion: Which sustainable restaurant concept is easiest to implement?
No matter which of the restaurant concepts is chosen for implementation, each is a sign of sustainability and makes a small contribution to more conscious consumption. For some of them, hardly any change is needed, because they are relatively easy to implement. We include the regional restaurant concept, the seasonal restaurant concept, the organic restaurant concept, and a restaurant concept that uses crooked vegetables. In addition to simplicity, the concepts are also particularly easy to combine with each other and form a very comprehensive basic sustainable concept.
One step more sophisticated is the vegetarian or vegan restaurant concept. Many people already love this type of cuisine, others still need to be convinced. With the right recipes and a little creativity, however, it certainly succeeds in convincing even critics.
The most unusual and elaborate restaurant concepts are definitely the nose-to-tail restaurant concept and the farm-to-table restaurant concept, since they require a lot of infrastructure and knowledge on the one hand, as well as the willingness of your customers to experiment. These two restaurant concepts are the niche products of the gastronomy scene and can score with little competition and a clear focus.