Start a conversation about sustainability in U.S. restaurants nowadays, and Just Salad will almost inevitably turn up in the talk. The New York City-based fast-casual chain has long been known for its efforts to make the restaurant experience a more environmentally responsible one, leading the charge on initiatives like reusable containers and carbon labels for menu items.
Like any other restaurant in the country, Just Salad, which now operates locations in several major cities, had to halt or restrict dining room service at all locations throughout 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some restaurants, this disruption might have also meant halting any sustainability initiatives. Just Salad had the good fortune to be able to do the opposite and increase its work of making the restaurant experience — in the dining room or off-premises — better for the planet.
“My focus was on navigating the pandemic with planetary as well as human health in mind,” Sandra Noonan, Just Salad’s Chief Sustainability Office, told me recently.
Over a Zoom chat, Noonan and I discussed Just Salad’s sustainability work in 2020, including the chain’s new waste-free meal kits, the expansion of its famous reusable bowl program, and the complexities of bringing carbon labeling to restaurant menus. Our conversation, which you can watch in full below, also looks at sustainability issues and opportunities affecting the entire restaurant industry, including the concept circular delivery and the ever-growing trash problem plaguing today’s off-premises restaurant experience. Noonan also provided a wealth of insights and practical tips for restaurants looking to easily and affordable make their operations better for the planet and better for their budget in the process.
Watch the full video here: