10 • 25 • 2019

Ocean Friendly Restaurants are Setting Records!

By Rachael Coccia

In 2019, the Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program reached over 600 restaurants nationwide! Together, we’re forming a community of restaurants and customers who care about the health of our ocean and are committed to taking real action against the global plastic pollution crisis.

Learn more about what it takes to be an OFR by using our Quick Guide for Restaurants

Our OFR family is growing thanks to efforts of more than 50 Surfrider chapters and a number of student clubs working alongside their favorite local restaurants. We’ve also captured the interest of larger restaurant groups like Cohn and Hilton!

The Cohn Restaurant Group (CRG) registered 18 restaurants this year in the San Diego area. “When it came to the health of our guests and team members back in the 1990s, David and Lesley Cohn were early supporters of eliminating smoking in restaurants; similarly, when it comes to the health of the environment, Cohn Restaurant Group eliminated styrofoam and moved to straws upon request or paper straws at most of its restaurants well before the law required it,” according to Michael Feinman, Cohn family member and CRG Chief Financial Officer. “Our participation in the program is rather easy, for the most part we met the requirements before we even knew what they were.” The CRG has been diligent about training every employee about the new straw ordinances, not only to adhere to state and city laws but also to do their part in protecting our coastal zones and ocean from plastic pollution.

At least 43 of Hilton’s restaurants became OFR members just months after it was introduced to them and more than 100 hotels are currently in the process of updating their sustainable practices before officially signing up. “As the Ocean Friendly Restaurant Coordinator for the Orlando Surfrider Chapter and a longtime Team Member at Hilton, I was proud to see how Hilton’s commitment to sustainability aligns with Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants principles,” said Sarah Dillon. “With the full support of Hilton’s Corporate Responsibility and Food & Beverage teams, we sent communications to all Hilton properties in the U.S. and Canada to introduce the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program and encourage participation. This is an optional program for the hotels, but there has been enormous interest.”

The company also made it a brand standard for all hotels globally to remove plastic straws, stir sticks, and cocktail picks. These must be replaced with environmentally preferable materials, such paper straws, provided upon request. Hilton is the first hotel company to recommend the OFR program to their properties. Hilton hotel restaurants have also become the first OFRs in a number of states including Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, and New Mexico, but Sarah isn’t stopping there, “My goal is to eventually have every state represented on the Ocean Friendly Restaurants Map.”

Another first for the program took place this year with the San Diego airport becoming the first airport to join the OFR program. “I’m thrilled our Einstein Bros. Bagels location will be the first Ocean Friendly Restaurant at San Diego International Airport,” said Rod Tafoya, President of Mission Yogurt Inc. “We are happy to help make a difference by becoming a part of this extremely important program. We hope to leave a positive impact on our customers, perhaps also motivating them to pick up these important habits at home.”  It’s exciting to see the program picking up momentum and we hope other airports will follow SAN’s lead!

Single-use plastics have run their course. They’ve become so prevalent that we are now consuming and breathing microplastics. Toxic chemicals are leeching from plastic packaging and containers directly into our food and beverages. We cannot continue living in this disposable society! Thankfully change is coming, and for many cities and states it is already here. Single-use plastic bans support a more sustainable future and OFRs are leading by example.

It can be difficult to keep up with the changing political landscape but Surfrider is here to help. As a leader on many campaigns from the local, state, and even federal level, we keep OFRs in the know on upcoming policies and help them through the transition to reusables. OFRs can not only get ahead of coming changes but they can also become local activists and show up in support of new policies to keep plastic out of our ocean.

Be part of the solution by becoming an OFR member today or volunteering with your local Surfrider chapter to sign on your favorite restaurants!