5 Big Restaurant Chains Leading the Way in Eco-Friendly Packaging

October 11, 2018

5 Big Restaurant Chains Leading the Way in Eco-Friendly Packaging

 2018 has ushered in a major shift for restaurants and companies in the food service and hospitality industry to adopt more eco-friendly, sustainable business practices. This movement can be seen in businesses of all sizes and no matter the size or scale of an operation - all efforts are commendable.  Whether its a small local taco food truck deciding to replace their harmful styrofoam containers with eco-friendly packaging alternatives, or a giant corporation like McDonald's announcing they will eliminate all foam packaging by end of the year, every bit counts.

At Naturally Chic, our customers are typically small independent restaurants, juice bars, food trucks, and event planners who are dedicated to implementing sustainable, eco-friendly packaging options that will help them reduce their environmental impact. We are thrilled to also see large, global restaurant chains making strides to be greener. Below are 5 big restaurant chains that are leading the way in eco-friendly food packaging.


Still touted as America’s favorite fast food chain, the global corporation, McDonald’s recently announced that they will completely eliminate one of their staples of to-go food packaging - harmful styrofoam plastic, by end of 2018. Currently, their styrofoam food containers make up about 2% of their total packaging weight.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), often referred to by the brand name Styrofoam, has been widely used in food packaging for decades because it’s inexpensive to manufacture, lightweight, and effective at controlling food temperature. But, in recent years we are coming to realize just how harmful styrofoam is - it can take at least 500 years to fully break down. Styrofoam is piling up in landfills and streets, is frequently noted for it’s immense contribution to ongoing ocean pollution and irreversible harm to marine life. It causes air pollution through the manufacturing process, and furthermore, it’s recycling capabilities are extremely limited -  so all in all - Styrofoam is just plain bad!

We are thrilled to see McDonald’s taking this big step in removing styrofoam packaging from its chains. But, the company has taken it a step further by committing to sourcing 100 percent of their food and drink packaging from renewable sources by the year 2025. Well done McDonald’s! 



Starbucks has always been known for promoting environmentally friendly business practices and in 2006 they created a corporate objective to shrink their environmental footprint and meet the expectations of customers by increasing recycling, promoting reusable cups and reducing the waste associated with their cups and other packaging requirements.

They are continuing to make good on that promise years later. Earlier this yearStarbucks announced they will eliminate the use of all plastic straws in their 28,000 global stores by 2020. This announcement was massive in the food and beverage industry, and no doubt has inspired many other businesses to take on the challenge as well. By using strawless lids or straws made from alternative materials, Starbucks has estimated that this decision will help to eliminate 1 billion plastic straws from being thrown out of its stores every single year. Now, that’s something to sip on.  



Recipe Unlimited Corporation

Recipe Unlimited is one of Canada’s biggest restaurant holding companies. While their name might not be well known to consumers, their individual restaurant chains are widely recognized and frequented across the country. Earlier this summer, they confirmedtheir participation in the straw ban movement. Recipe Unlimited announced that they have officially started phasing out plastic straws at 19 of their restaurant chains. By March 2019, Recipe Unlimited says that plastic straws will cease to exist at these popular restaurants in Canada:

  • Harvey's
  • Swiss Chalet
  • Kelseys Original Roadhouse
  • Milestones Grill and Bar
  • Montana's BBQ & Bar
  • East Side Mario's
  • Bier Markt
  • St. Hubert
  • Casey's Grill & Bar
  • New York Fries
  • Pickle Barrel
  • The Burger's Priest
  • Original Joe's
  • State & Main
  • Elephant & Castle
  • The Keg

This is an incredible effort to reduce single-use plastic straws by a large Canadian restaurant business and we are thrilled to see this unfold over the coming year.



Ikea Restaurants

While we typically associate Ikea with being one of the largest global furniture retailers out there, we often we forget that nearly every Ikea also comes with its own cafe and restaurant too. One out of three customers who visit Ikea do sojust for the restaurant, which makes the 10th largest food service company in the United States alone!

Amid growing concerns about the effect of plastic on the environment, earlier in 2018 Ikea committed to phasing out all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by 2020. The companysaid plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, bin bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups would all be phased out and replaced by eco-friendly packaging alternatives wherever possible. This is a commendable effort by a global corporation, and to this, we say ‘’bra jobbatIkea!’’ (that's ''good work'' in Swedish).



Jimmy Johns

Perhaps not on the same scale in terms of size as others on this list, we do want to mention a smaller chain that is making big strides in reducing their harmful plastic and packaging. Jimmy John’s, known for their ‘freaky fast’ sandwich delivery has over 2700 locations across the United States and is continuing to grow year over year.

The company has successfully established a brand centered around a simple, straightforward menu sourced through local produce and supporting local farmers. And, when it comes to restaurant food packaging they are primarily using recycled, earth-friendly materials for their sandwiches and subs. Their sandwich wraps, deli papers, deli boxes, pan liners and SOS bags are certified as commercially compostable. We anticipate seeing more eco-friendly choices from this company in the coming months and years. Well done Jimmy Johns!  



No matter how large or small a restaurant business is, making the decision to change harmful food packaging for eco-friendly food packaging alternatives is one of the best ways to reduce the impact on the environment. We expect to see more restaurant chains adopt similar business practices in the near future and as a whole, we are excited by this movement to a greener restaurant industry.

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