Matt Frauenshuh Discusses Sustainable Practices for Franchises in the Restaurant Sector

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The restaurant industry has witnessed significant growth and transformation over the years, with franchises becoming a dominant force in the culinary landscape. These business models offer standardized services and products, appealing to entrepreneurs and customers alike for their reliability and consistency. As the industry expands, so does its environmental footprint, necessitating a shift toward more sustainable practices.

Sustainability in the restaurant business is no longer just a niche trend but a crucial component of operational strategy. This shift is driven by a growing awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment, from excessive water usage to food waste, as well as an increasing demand from consumers for eco-friendly and ethical dining options. Customers are now more conscious of where their food comes from and how it is prepared, pushing restaurants to adopt greener practices.

Embracing sustainability is not just a moral imperative; it also makes good business sense. Adopting eco-friendly practices can lead to cost savings, enhanced brand reputation, and a stronger customer base. Matt Frauenshuh, CEO of Fourteen Foods which operates over 240 DQ Grill & Chill franchise locations across the country, understands the push for sustainability. Tapping into nearly twenty years of industry experience, he discusses practical and actionable guidelines for franchises in the restaurant industry, as they navigate the path toward a greener and more sustainable future while remaining profitable.

Understanding the Impact of Restaurant Operations

The restaurant industry is a vital component of the global economy, providing employment, fostering community, and feeding billions. As food options continue to become more mobile and accessible in even remote locations, restaurant operations come with significant environmental, social, and economic impacts that must not be ignored. Grasping the full scope of these impacts is the first step towards mitigating them and steering the industry towards more sustainable practices.

“From an environmental perspective, the footprint of the restaurant industry is substantial,” says Matthew Frauenshuh. “Waste generation is a critical issue, with food waste, packaging, and disposables contributing to a myriad of environmental concerns.” 

Energy consumption is another major concern, as restaurants require significant amounts of energy for cooking, refrigeration, and lighting. Additionally, the industry is a major consumer of water, used in everything from food preparation to cleaning.

On the social and economic front, the restaurant industry plays a pivotal role in local communities. Restaurants are often significant buyers of local produce, influencing farming practices and food sourcing in their regions. However, the industry can also contribute to negative outcomes, such as the exploitation of low-wage workers or the unsustainable sourcing of ingredients, which can deplete local ecosystems and undermine the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.

Franchises, with their standardized operations and significant buying power, are major players in the restaurant industry. The decisions made by franchisors and franchisees alike have far-reaching implications, influencing not just their operations but also setting trends and standards for the industry at large. The materials they choose, the suppliers they work with, and the policies they implement all contribute to the overall impact of the industry.

By critically examining the environmental footprint, as well as the social and economic impacts of their operations, franchises in the restaurant industry can begin to understand their role in these complex systems. With this understanding comes the responsibility, and the opportunity, to lead the industry towards more sustainable, ethical, and sustainable practices.

Key Areas for Sustainable Improvement

As the restaurant industry grapples with its environmental impact, franchises have a unique opportunity to lead the way in adopting sustainable practices. 

Notes Frauenshuh, “There are several key areas where meaningful changes can be made, not only contributing to the health of the planet but also enhancing the franchise’s reputation and customer appeal.”

Sourcing Locally and Responsibly: One of the most impactful changes a restaurant can make is to procure ingredients from local and sustainable sources. This practice not only supports local economies and farmers but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transportation. By building relationships with local suppliers, franchises can ensure they are sourcing high-quality, fresh ingredients while also contributing to sustainable agricultural practices. 

Reducing Energy and Water Consumption: Restaurants are notoriously energy and water-intensive operations. Implementing energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and HVAC systems can lead to significant reductions in consumption. Additionally, water-saving fixtures and practices can help to minimize water usage. Franchisees should expect changes to the minimum requirements as franchisors embrace the call for more sustainable practices.

Minimizing Waste: The restaurant industry generates a considerable amount of waste, from food scraps to packaging materials. Implementing practices such as composting, recycling, and thoughtful portion control can help to reduce this waste. Additionally, finding ways to reuse materials can contribute to a circular economy. Many franchises have initiated recycling programs and are working towards making packaging more sustainable.

Sustainable Packaging: With the rise of takeout and delivery services, packaging waste has become an even more pressing issue. Transitioning to eco-friendly packaging options made from biodegradable or recycled materials is a crucial step towards reducing a franchise’s environmental impact. Brands like Starbucks are leading the way, committing to sustainable packaging solutions and reducing single-use plastics.

Incorporating these sustainable practices not only contributes to environmental conservation but also resonates with a growing demographic of eco-conscious consumers, ultimately benefiting the franchise’s bottom line and public image.

Engaging with the Community and Customers

Creating a sustainable franchise in the restaurant industry extends beyond internal practices; it involves forging strong connections with the local community and actively engaging customers in sustainability efforts. This not only enhances the franchise’s reputation but also contributes to a larger movement of environmental stewardship. Building a positive relationship with the local community is crucial. 

By sourcing ingredients locally, franchises support regional farmers and producers, boosting the local economy and fostering a sense of community. Engaging in local events, supporting local causes, and implementing educational programs can further strengthen these ties. Some restaurants with a strong community focus contribute to local charities and run programs to donate unsold baked goods to community organizations.

“Engaging customers in sustainability efforts is equally important,” says Frauenshuh. “Franchises can educate their patrons about the benefits of sustainable dining and the specific practices they are implementing.” 

Restaurants can also introduce incentives, such as discounts for customers who bring their own able containers. By doing so, they not only promote sustainable behavior but also create a more interactive and meaningful customer experience.

Transparent communication is key to building trust and a loyal customer base. Franchises must be open about their sustainability efforts, sharing both their successes and challenges. This honesty demonstrates a genuine commitment to sustainability and fosters customer trust. Chipotle, for example, is known for its transparency, openly sharing information about its ingredient sourcing and sustainability practices.

By actively engaging with the local community and customers, franchises can create a positive impact that extends beyond the walls of the restaurant. This not only benefits the environment and local economy but also contributes to the franchise’s long-term success and customer loyalty.

Challenges and Solutions in Implementing Sustainable Practices

Adopting sustainable practices is a commendable goal, but franchises in the restaurant industry often face significant challenges in reaching it. Understanding these challenges and exploring practical solutions is crucial for successful implementation and long-term impact.

One of the primary challenges is the higher upfront costs associated with sustainable practices. Eco-friendly materials and equipment can be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. For example, installing energy-efficient appliances or sourcing organic ingredients may initially strain the franchise’s budget. It’s important to remember the long-term cost savings these investments can yield, such as reduced energy bills and waste disposal costs. Additionally, the positive impact on the brand’s image can lead to increased customer loyalty and revenue.

Logistical challenges can prove complex, particularly when it comes to sourcing local ingredients or managing waste reduction programs. Franchises can overcome these hurdles by building strong relationships with local suppliers and waste management companies. Furthermore, investing in training and resources to streamline these processes can significantly reduce logistical challenges.

Corporate support plays a critical role in facilitating sustainable practices at the franchise level. Franchisors can provide training, resources, and financial incentives to encourage franchisees to adopt eco-friendly practices. Additionally, setting clear sustainability guidelines and expectations helps ensure consistency across all franchise locations.

Many franchises have successfully navigated these challenges and serve as exemplary models of sustainability in the industry. For example, Starbucks has made significant investments in sustainable coffee sourcing, waste reduction, and energy efficiency, reaping the benefits in terms of customer loyalty and brand strength. By addressing the challenges head-on and implementing practical solutions, franchises can successfully integrate sustainable practices into their operations. This not only contributes to environmental conservation but also enhances the franchise’s competitiveness and long-term viability.

Looking to the Future of Sustainable Restaurant Franchise Practices

Adopting sustainable practices is not only a responsible choice but also a strategic one for franchises in the restaurant industry. The industry’s considerable environmental footprint, encompassing waste generation, energy consumption, and water usage, necessitates a shift towards more eco-friendly operations. By understanding the impacts of their operations and identifying key areas for improvement, franchises can make meaningful changes that benefit both the planet and their business.

Sourcing locally and responsibly, reducing energy and water consumption, minimizing waste, and opting for sustainable packaging are all critical areas where franchises can make a significant impact. Engaging with the local community and customers further enhances the franchise’s reputation and fosters a loyal customer base. Despite the challenges and upfront costs associated with implementing sustainable practices, the long-term benefits and the support from corporate entities make it a worthwhile investment.

Franchises have the power to lead the restaurant industry towards a more sustainable future, setting standards and practices that contribute to environmental conservation and community well-being. By taking proactive steps towards sustainability, franchises can ensure their operations are not just profitable, but also ethical and sustainable, paving the way for a better future for all. Sustainability is not just a passing trend; it is an essential evolution in the restaurant industry’s journey toward responsible and mindful business practices.

About Matt Frauenshuh

Matt Frauenshuh, an MBA alumnus of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, is at the helm of his family’s enterprise, Fourteen Foods, as its CEO. The company, boasting ownership of more than 240 DQ Grill and Chill franchises across 13 states, has flourished since 2002 to become the largest Dairy Queen franchisee in the U.S. Beyond his business acumen, Frauenshuh is dedicated to philanthropy, generously contributing both resources and personal time to Fold of Honor, an organization committed to aiding the families of American service members.


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