Cooking Up a Sustainable Future: insights of Circular Economy in the Restaurants


  • António Melo Escola Superior Hotelaria e Turismo do Porto
  • Beatriz Maia Polytechnic of Porto
  • Susana Silva CEOS.PP, CITUR, ESHT, Polytechnic of Porto, Vila do Conde, Portugal
  • Goretti Silva 4 CITUR, ESTG, Polytechnic of Viana do Castelo, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
  • Daniel Azevedo CITUR, ESHT, Polytechnic of Porto, Vila do Conde, Portugal
  • Henrique Camões University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
  • Carla Melo CITUR, ESHT, Polytechnic of Porto, Vila do Conde, Portugal



Circular economy, Sustainability, Restaurant sector, Portugal


Restaurants increasingly prioritize promoting sustainability within their kitchen’s operations, focusing their offers on valuing raw materials as a central point of gastronomy, thus highlighting the importance of local, responsible consumption and respect for nature and the environment. The Circular Economy (CE) emerges as a new sustainability paradigm, uncovering valuable opportunities for organizations and customers, in harmony with the environment. This study aims to characterize good sustainable and circular practices in the restaurant sector, understanding how endogenous products can enhance food waste reduction. Through a qualitative methodology, nine semi-structured exploratory interviews were carried out with restaurant experts, to gain in-depth knowledge into sustainable and CE practices used in restaurants. By conducting a thematic analysis, three main themes emerged 'Positioning and Branding,' 'Circular Economy,' and 'Product and Food Waste'. 'Positioning and Branding' covers the evolution of an eco-conscious mindset in organizations, from the inception of sustainable thinking to the imperative for change. It emerges from the categories: ´Organization, actions, and partnerships’, ‘Challenges and success factors’, and ‘Awareness’. The theme 'Circular Economy,' presents circular practices within daily restaurant operations, their understanding of circular concepts, and the progress made in adopting these behaviors. It arises from three categories: ‘Circularity’, ‘Resource Management’ and ‘Transition’. The 'Product and Food Waste' theme addresses concerns related to product and food waste, including supplier selection, innovative gastronomic offerings, and food waste minimization strategies. It is based on the categories: ‘Suppliers and Raw Materials’, ‘Food Waste Minimization”, and ‘Gastronomic Offer’.
The findings reveal a growing awareness of the need for sustainability and circular practices in the restaurant sector. Organizations are actively seeking ways to reduce food waste, optimize sourcing, best operating procedures and offer more sustainable menus representing significant progress toward a more sustainable future in the restaurant business.