Among the trends of today’s growing restaurants is a commitment to operating as a green establishment in as many ways as possible, from serving only organic ingredients to environmentally friendly kitchen practices.
Perhaps the greatest impact a restaurant can make towards saving our planet actually comes at the end of the meal: the elimination of the traditional paper receipt in favor of an electronic “eReceipt,” conveniently delivered via email.
According to numbers from the Clinton Global Initiative, the United States alone consumes over 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees and 1 billion gallons of water every year to produce paper used just for receipts—resulting in over 1.5 billion pounds of waste. Those tiny slips of paper add up to some major pollution.
Why are paper receipts still so widely used? Aside from record keeping, which, indeed, serves a purpose for taxes and business expenses, the ubiquitous use of paper receipts can seem like overkill. We obviously can’t return an unsatisfactory meal the way we’d return shoes or a sweater to a retailer. In most cases, a restaurant receipt is simply folded and stuffed into a wallet; the only time we ever look at it again is before tossing it into the trash or tearing it up to thwart identity theft. There isn’t a more wasteful use of paper in the industry.
Then there’s the waste of time, too. At the end of a meal, your server discreetly drops off that little black folder containing the check. Then you place your credit card in it…then watch for the server to retrieve it to ring-up the purchase…then everything returns to the table for your signature. Especially if the restaurant is busy with your server scrambling to wait on several tables, how many minutes does this process add to the dining-out experience for both the establishment owners and their patrons? What if your server simply brought a mobile device, such as an iPad, to your table? You can simply swipe your card and enter your email address to complete the transaction. In addition to doing away with cumbersome paper receipts, paying one’s check tableside eliminates the time consuming process of waiting for the bill.
The only real reason to hold on to a restaurant receipt is for recordkeeping. That means dealing with the hassle of retaining a stack of crumpled receipts, making copies and stapling them to paperwork. With paperless receipts, it’s far easier to store—each receipt would just be in a folder on your computer or smartphone. Finding them would be just as easy before attaching them to an online expense report. There would never be a need to touch that unwieldy pile of paper.
Apple was a pioneer in emailing receipts from their retail stores, and today over 12% of Macy’s customers already opt to accept eReceipts. Companies like Revel Systems iPad POS are at the forefront for bringing paperless, eco-friendly eReceipt alternatives to restaurants of all sizes as well as retailers and other businesses — using custom software developed for standard Apple iPads. Just as consumers have come to expect hearing “paper or plastic,” it’s only a matter of time before most are also asked “paper or digital?”