Plenty of efforts are underway right now to create a more sustainable restaurant industry, from proposed plastic cutlery bans to companies curbing food waste to drinking straws made of hay. But the question that will become more and more important as time goes by is, What will all these various efforts look like when put together to form a working restaurant?
Come this September, a group in Stockholm, Sweden could have the answer, or at least a version of it.
Dubbed Restauranglabbet (“the restaurant lab”), the project will combine technology, science, academic research, and design to implement and measure sustainability efforts in an actual restaurant setting.
Some of the sustainability initiatives the project will be testing as soon as the restaurant opens its doors on September 3 are measuring waste, looking at the relationship between CO2 and food, as well as finding more sustainable ways to handle food transport, logistics, and how to use less of a carbon footprint while cooking. Those plans are just a start, however. Maria von Euler, the project’s founder and innovation manager, told me over email that once the restaurant opens on September 3, the group behind Restauranglabbet “will also look into education of staff, immerse ourselves in upcycling of low valued raw materials and in new kinds of energy resources.”
The project is a collaboration between design management firm THEM Partner and Miljögiraff, the Material Challenge Lab, chef Stefan Eriksson, chef Johan Gottberg and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Also involved, according to von Euler, are Martin & Servera, one of Sweden’s largest wholesalers for restaurants, the Nordic Council of Ministers, Open Lab, and Exceptionell Råvara, who works to strengthen the relationship between food producers and chefs in Sweden.
“This is also [just] a starting point, and since we want to be an open source, we invite all companies, authorities, organisations and researchers to join the force towards sustainable restaurant operations,” says von Euler. (Interested companies can contact the lab for consideration.)
Not every initiative can be tested right away. What needs immediate feedback and what needs more time to develop, von Euler says, is one of the things they’ll look at once the restaurant opens. “From experience we know that food waste management, exceptionally smart cooking in terms of climate footprint, education about sustainability and smartness in growing and buying ingredients, are all things that easily can be implemented to most systems today,” she says. However, other efforts, such as those around measuring a restaurant’s larger carbon footprint, may take longer to implement.
The pilot restaurant will open its doors on September 3. From there, Restauranglabbet wants to jump right into planning a second space, which von Euler says will be “a completely modular restaurant” with two parallel kitchens, two parallel dining rooms, and “a big back office lab, where we can take on the whole eco system.” The group wants to open that in the next two to two and a half years. The pilot restaurant, von Euler says, will stay open “for quite some time too.”
Obviously, the quest for finding a more sustainable restaurant will benefit from huge efforts like this one. And while smaller groups or restaurants might easily get overwhelmed by the growing number of things they “should” be doing (using sustainable packaging, redistributing food-waste, buying local inventory), von Euler points to a much simpler place for the average restaurant to start when it comes to sustainability: cooking food with a lower carbon footprint. That’s one of the key areas Restauranglabbet will focus on when it opens, so it can show, in her words, that “really tasty food is the best way to convince people how to upgrade (not compromise) their eating and make great change at the same time.”