Case Study - El Metate Restaurant

El Metate

El Metate is a Mexican Restaurant that conducts about 80 transactions per day, 60% of which are to-go orders. Customers place orders at the cashier counter and the food is made to order. Customers receive their food from the order pick-up counter and dine-in customers sit in the dining room or at outside tables.

Packaging practices prior to ReThink Disposable:

  • Disposable cutlery was used for dine-in customers
  • Two sizes of disposable sauce cups with lids were used at the salsa bar

Dine-in customers at El Metate are served meals on ceramic plates and bowls but were provided disposable cutlery and portion cups from a self-serve station. Fernando, the owner of El Metate, had initially purchased reusable cutlery but never put it out due to flu pandemic several years ago. In addition to being concerned about the safety of using reusable cutlery, he was also worried about potential loss of easy to throw away items that he would have to replace.  


Recommendations implemented:

  • Replaced disposable cutlery for reusable cutlery for dine-in
  • Replaced disposable sauce cups with reusable for dine-in

El Metate replaced dining room trash, compost, and recycling containers with bus tub racks. Customer bussing of tables allows for full recovery of small food service ware items like sauce cups and cutlery. Staff moral declined due to additional dishes needing to be washed, prompting the owner to purchase a new efficient dishwasher. The owner noticed an increase of dine-in customers due in part to the cashiers more diligently asking each customer if their order is for dine-in or take-out, in addition to the make-over to the dining room and the use of metal cutlery and ceramic sauce cups to improve the customer dining experience.

Quote from Francisco Hernandez, Owner: “No matter how you see it, the Rethink Disposable program is beneficial to everyone.”

The Bottom Line:

  • Reduced 493,711 disposable food ware items per year
  • $8,957 in annual savings
  • 3,651 pounds of waste reduced annually
  • Elevated dining experience resulted in more customers staying on-site to dine
  • Less litter prone food packaging walking out the door
  • Bus tubs and racks helped reduce product loss
  • No additional labor required

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