In the food and beverage industry, which has been forced to close or shorten business hours amid the prolonged declaration of a state of emergency, more and more restaurants are shifting their business models to take-out and online food sales. Furthermore, not only global infectious diseases, but also the depletion of resources and the rising cost of raw materials due to the effects of climate change and other factors, as well as the diverse eating habits of people, have added to the need for change in the way food and the restaurant industry are organized.

What will be important for restaurants in the future to shift to more sustainable management in the wake of the crisis at the Corona Disaster?

At the online event “The Future of Restaurants Beyond Corona: Considering the Circular Economy of the Food and Beverage Industry” held in May 2021, the concept of the circular economy was the main focus, and restaurant sustainability promotion organizations, chefs, and tableware manufacturers, all involved in “food” Guest speakers discussed the sustainable future of restaurants.

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From each of these perspectives, we will delve into the “circulating restaurants” that will be needed in the future.


Takeshi Shimotaya (Representative Director,Sustainable Restaurant Association Japan)

Sustainavision Ltd. was established in the UK in 2010 to serve as a bridge between Japan and Europe in the area of CSR and sustainability. Since 2012, Sustainavision Ltd. has been holding regular training courses in Japan for CSR practitioners accredited by CMI in the U.K. In 2018, Sustainavision Ltd. established the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association in Japan. Sustainable Restaurant Association in Japan in 2018, and has been working with the Sustainable Restaurant Association in the UK to make the food system more sustainable in Japan. He holds a Master of Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia, UK, and an MBA from Lancaster University, UK. He has written and lectured extensively.

Takashi Oshima (BOTTEGA BLUE Chef)

After training in Nagoya, he went to Italy. He trained at Ristorante Gualtiero Marchesi, the world’s most prestigious ristorante in Italy, and other restaurants throughout Italy before returning to Japan. After gaining experience as a cooking school instructor and pastry chef, he opened “Bottega Blue ” in Ashiya in July 2010. He won the first prize and the journalist’s award at the National Italian Cooking Competition. He has also received numerous other awards and has appeared on numerous TV programs.

Katsuhiko Inaba (Executive Chef, KIMIYU Global Co., Ltd.)

After training in French and Italian cuisine in Kobe and Osaka, he moved to Germany to work in hotels and restaurants, then to Italy for further training before returning to Japan to open Bacci in Higobashi, Osaka in 2011. Currently, he is the executive chef of KIMIYU Global, Inc. and is also a cooking instructor, caterer, and kitchen car producer. He also works closely with organic farmers at his own farm in Yao City, Osaka, practicing farm to table.

Naoki Mitani (Managing Director, Nikko Company)

After graduating from Keio University, he joined a design company, and in 2013, he joined Nikko Company, which deals with ceramics, housing equipment, and functional ceramics, which his parents are involved in running, and later became Managing Director. He launched several projects to revitalize the struggling ceramics business, releasing the owned media ” table source ” in the spring of 2021 and starting ” Nikko Circular Lab” at the same time.

Moderator: Yu Kato (President, Harch Inc. ; Editor-in-Chief, IDEAS FOR GOOD)

Born in 1985. After graduating from the University of Tokyo, he worked for Recruit Agent before launching a media company specializing in sustainability and producing CSR content for large corporations. In December 2015, he founded Harch Inc. In December of the following year, he launched IDEAS FOR GOOD, a global social good idea magazine. Currently, he is developing several businesses including “Circular Economy Hub,” a media specializing in the circular economy, and “Circular Yokohama” in Yokohama City. He is a certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner by CMI in the UK.

What is the “circulating restaurant” required today?

Circular economy was the keyword of this event. It is an economic structure that regenerates natural systems by designing products and services from the development stage so that they do not create negative externalities such as waste and pollution, and by continuing to use products and raw materials. At the event, IDEAS FOR GOOD Editor-in-Chief Mr.Kato will discuss the theory behind the structure of the circular economy, and then move into a more in-depth discussion focusing on the restaurant industry.

With the world population expected to exceed 10 billion by 2050, there is a need to shift from the linear economic model of “create, use, and discard” to a circular economic model, and separating economic growth from environmental impact is currently a global theme. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the United Kingdom advocates the three principles of the circular economy.

  1. Regenerate Natural Systems
  2. Keep Products and Matels in use
  3. Design out waste and pollution

Mr.Kato spoke against these three principles, saying.

Kato: If we look at a restaurant as a system, it is like a microcosm of the entire business, as it includes energy, water, food, packaging materials, furniture, tableware, building materials, and many other things. If we directly translate the three principles of the Circular Economy into restaurants, we may be able to see what kind of restaurant is required in the future.

What is a circulating restaurant?

  1. Restaurants that do not produce waste or pollution
  2. Restaurants that continue to use products and raw materials
  3. Restaurants that use natural systems

In a circular business model, we need to consider how close to zero our negative environmental and social impact can be, or how much of the impact our restaurants produce can be recouped by us.

In addition, the concept of zooming in and zooming out is also important when thinking about sustainability. Sometimes we can zoom in on a single product basis, and sometimes we can zoom out as a whole restaurant system. And since sustainability initiatives cannot be realized in a single restaurant, it is also important to have a perspective that zooms out further to the entire industry and even across different industries.

Sustainable Restaurants

From a Sustainability Perspective: What to Consider When Thinking about Restaurant Sustainability

Mr. Shimotaya, who serves as president of the Sustainable Restaurant Association Japan, which was established to build a more sustainable food system, said, “Sustainability is difficult for one restaurant to advance alone, so we need to work together to promote it by creating a community of like-minded people who are connected. Sustainability is difficult for a single restaurant to pursue alone. He adds, “Sustainability is not something that can be pursued by one restaurant alone.

Shimotaya: The Sustainable Restaurant Association’s “Food Made Good” program, which measures restaurant sustainability, divides issues surrounding restaurants into three categories: procurement, environmental, and social.

For example, in “procurement,” the environmental and social impacts depend on which ingredients the chef chooses to use. In the “environment,” the restaurant operation faces a variety of issues such as food loss, wastewater, packaging, and disposable plastics. In addition, there are “social” issues such as obesity, hunger, child labor, and long working hours that must also be addressed.

For every $1.00 worth of food, $2.00 worth of negative costs are created at the distribution stage. This is because much of the food produced generates a lot of waste parts, by-products, and sewage in the process of being transported to the cities. These waste products are returned to the soil to be used as organic fertilizer, which in turn creates rich soil and leads to the next production cycle, but currently only 2% of the waste generated in cities is used in this cycle.

One of the factors that create these negative costs is the division between production and consumption. Consumers have little knowledge of where their food comes from or who produces it. In contrast, there is a movement in Europe and the U.S. called ” Farm to Fork” that aims to bring consumers and producers as close as possible.

From a Restaurant Perspective: Circular Initiatives Inside and Outside the Restaurant

And this time, we invited two chefs from restaurants that are members of the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association as guests to discuss specific initiatives at their restaurants from a micro perspective.

Bottega Blue Italian Restaurant in Hyogo

Bottega Blue, an Italian restaurant in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, has had virtually no food loss since its opening, as introduced in the first article in a series with the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Oshima: I worked with a staff of about 50 people every day at the restaurant of Italian master chef Marchesi, who had a great influence on my culinary life. We had to use seeds, fish arabesque, and vegetable peels to make dishes that would revitalize everyone’s tired bodies. I learned from him the idea of using up every last ingredient, and I still use that experience today.

In addition, after joining the association last year and learning about sustainability, we have started new initiatives such as composting and street farming. We hope to create a cycle in which we return the waste to the soil, use the soil to grow vegetables, and serve them in our restaurants.

At first, I knew absolutely nothing about sustainability or the circular economy, but little by little I began to see the issues that needed to be addressed, and my efforts to date have given me confidence. However, some of them are easy to tackle, while others are difficult. For example, when we try to start a new fair trade or sustainable seafood sourcing business, we sometimes have to cut ties with suppliers that we have worked with in the past, and I am conflicted about this point.

The soil is the most important factor in the recycling of food.

For the past 14 years, Osaka-based farmer-restaurant Bella Porto has aimed to realize local production for local consumption in the heart of the city, and based on the concept of Farm To Table, the restaurant is committed to delivering harvested vegetables to customers immediately after they are picked.

Inaba: The main course is composed of vegetables, with the happy cycle of returning pesticide- and chemical-free ingredients to the soil, the water containing their nutrients flowing to the sea, and then being returned in the form of rain. All of the vegetable peels and stems are put through a dryer and turned into powder, which is used for flavoring or in vegetable cakes. We also recently started composting, and we are still doing it through trial and error, learning that the moisture in vegetables can cause them to rot and that it is necessary to let air in.

When the Corona Disaster freed up some time for the cooks, we incorporated time to visit our own farm into the on-the-job training, so that the staff had time to learn about the fields as well. The chefs are also half farmers, as they are involved in everything from soil preparation to composting. The experience of being in touch with nature in the city is also valuable for the young staff, who can now go harvest in the morning, cook the vegetables they picked that day, and serve them on the lunch menu.

Over the past year, we have continued to study sustainability with our entire staff, and as a result, we are able to share our thoughts with our staff and work together in the fields. Another benefit of having our own farm is that we know what and how much will be harvested next, which allows us to plan and implement menu development. This season we can harvest spring potatoes, which we serve as bagna cauda and potato butter.

It was also a good opportunity for the staff to learn that different crops have different cycles from harvest to being served on the table, for example, sweet potatoes are harvested only once a year, but potatoes are harvested twice a year, in spring and fall.

From a Tableware Manufacturer’s Perspective: Shifting to a Recycling-Oriented Business

The new Corona epidemic came at a time when the ceramics industry has seen its market shrink by about one-ninth in the 35 years from 1984 to 2020. NIKKO, a ceramics manufacturer that had restaurants and hotels as customers, was further pushed into a corner by the restaurant and hotel closures, and in the midst of this situation, Mitani said he fundamentally reconsidered what to do about the ceramics business, which had been his main business for over 100 years, and whether it was a good idea to continue this business. Mr. Mitani said.

Mitani: Continuing in business means creating some kind of negative impact on the environment. Our main business has been selling tableware to hotels and restaurants, but is that really all we can do? Is there anything else we can do? What is the raison d’etre of our company? Over the past year, I have begun to rethink these questions more deeply.

We held a workshop to consider how to address environmental issues in ceramics. We reviewed all the processes surrounding ceramics, from raw material procurement, product design, logistics, product use, and collection, to see what impact what we are doing has on the environment. However, the dilemma is that the more durable a product is, the harder it is to sell new products, and this poses a number of challenges. During the workshop where these discussions took place, completely new ideas were born, and we are now taking on the challenge of a new business.

Many people think of tableware as a consumer material rather than a durable material, and it is surprising that people think that if it is cheap and breaks, they can just buy it again. In order to sell items that can be used for a long time, we launched an e-commerce site called Lost and Found, which is meant to be a place where people can find important items that have been forgotten. Through these new initiatives, we have come to believe that having people use products with universal designs that can be used for a long time is the key to sustainability.

Dialogue, “What Can Be Done in the Midst of a Dilemma?”

After hearing about each company’s approach to the theme of “recycling-based management” from the perspectives of a restaurant sustainability promotion organization, a chef, and a tableware manufacturer, the second half of the session will begin with a panel discussion.

Kato: You mentioned that while there is a movement to switch to fair trade and MSC certification, you also want to maintain ties with existing farmers and suppliers, which I think is a dilemma that various people are struggling with when considering sustainability transformation. How does Chef Oshima plan to promote sustainable initiatives in the midst of such conflicts?

Oshima: Each region and restaurant can do different things. We want to value ties with local farmers, market people, and wholesalers, as well as local production for local consumption, so for example, we want to visit farmers with our knowledge of the fields, or visit fishermen after studying the marine ecolabel.

I would like to emphasize the importance of community connections in the promotion of sustainability as well. What I cannot do alone, I will do together. We share with everyone. A meal tastes better when everyone eats it together. I would like to place importance on such things. I hope that the circle will expand as we each work on our own roles.

Kato: What is important to you at Bellaporto in promoting sustainable initiatives?

Inaba: Since joining the association a year ago, the direction of the restaurant has changed 180 degrees, for example, with regard to meat, we have switched to grass-fed beef, switched to Fair Trade certified products, and made a power shift.

In addition, since I have gained knowledge over the past year, I have started to think about my own criteria for judgment rather than just relying on the information I have obtained. For example, I try to judge whether or not this vegetable is really pesticide-free by actually meeting the producer and seeing his/her personality, not just by reading the written information. In the end, it is all about trust with people. As Chef Oshima says, connection is very important, and if we build a relationship between people based on trust that this person would not serve bad food, then good food will continue to be served.

Kato: The point of the circular economy is that the social aspect is also improved through the process of creating an environmental cycle in which employees are also enriched through field initiatives.

Inaba: Recently, when we offer jobs, we have been attracting young people from the perspective of field initiatives and sustainability. I feel that young people today are attracted to social contribution. On top of that, it is good for staff education to learn about the cycle of living things while touching the soil in the fields. Without the ingredients we receive from the producers, the chefs would have nothing to do, so we are now able to communicate the production site as it is, to our customers.

Kato: Mitani-san, in thinking about sustainability and the circular economy over the past year, what did you feel?

Mitani: We have a management philosophy that “the environment is also our customer,” and many of our new graduates were attracted by that keyword when they came to us for employment. I think it is important what the top management communicates.

Also, speaking of challenges in manufacturing and sales, it is difficult to say whether it is better to encourage people to replace their products with new sustainable products or to encourage them to use what they already have for a longer period of time.

Kato: From Shimotaya, do you have a sense of the challenges you feel the restaurant industry as a whole is facing?

Shimotaya: When we think in the form of people surrounding restaurants, we need to change the awareness of consumers. Even if we promote sustainability in our restaurants, it is important to “create an environment where it is understood,” and we need to consider the social and environmental impact, whether it is really necessary, what is good in our own efforts, and what we should work on in the future.

It would be good if we could take an inclusive viewpoint so that sustainability is for the whole. On top of that, it is important to create an environment where employees work under happy conditions.

Kato: Lastly, please tell us each what you would like to do in the future with the Corona Disaster in mind.

Shimotaya: Now that we have more time to think about the Corona Disaster, we would like to create a situation where we can promote sustainability. It would be good if we can promote sustainability while making more restaurants understand it. We would like to communicate with as many stakeholders as possible, while communicating the good initiatives behind the scenes at restaurants.

Oshima: We are going through a difficult time due to the Corona disaster, but we are trying to create a workplace that makes the most of people’s individuality. We want to bring in new staff to boost our metabolism and make sure that when customers come to our stores, they leave feeling energized.

Inaba: After experiencing Corona for a year, I recognized that it was not a matter of course that customers would come to the store. I would like to make fans of the restaurant while gaining knowledge about the global environment, the fields, and many other things.

Mitani: We are also conscious of creating fans. We recently released Table Source, a web media to support the sustainability of restaurants, and we feel that this kind of owned media is also possible because we have fans.

Editor’s Note

Restaurants are good places to think about “circulation. Food is closely related to the biosphere, including plates made from soil, and is a symbolic example of circulation. As Kato mentioned at the beginning of his talk, restaurants are a microcosm of a circular economy, a place where people can realize that they too are kept alive within a larger system of circulation, and also a medium as a means of conveying information to people.

The food and beverage industry has been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants and companies that operate with an awareness of sustainability and recycling and look ahead 10 to 20 years from now will be able to survive strongly.

The need for flexibility to shift businesses in a cyclical direction is not limited to the food and beverage industry, but is common to all industries. Now may be a good time to make the shift to a recycling-oriented management.

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