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Pioneering Innovation in Foodservice

An Interview with Jamil Bouchareb Founder and CEO of Restaurantware
Jana Pijak
April 8th, 2024
Jamil Bouchareb is the visionary founder and CEO of Restaurantware, pioneering innovation in foodservice supplies with a focus on sustainability. Inspired by his upbringing in his parents' restaurant, Jamil pursued a Business degree at the University of Miami before establishing Restaurantware in 2010. Leading by example, he oversees all aspects of the company, fostering a collaborative environment and prioritizing customer relationships. With a keen eye for industry trends, Jamil drives strategic growth and innovation, resulting in a remarkable 125% expansion of the product catalog in just two years.

1. Tell us your name and about your role?

I'm Jamil Bouchareb, founder and CEO of Restaurantware, a foodservice supply company at the forefront of innovation in the industry. My mission is to develop cutting-edge and sustainably focused products to inspire change within the food industry. I work closely with various departments, from product development to strategy and planning, taking a hands-on approach to leadership. Always looking for growth opportunities, I prioritize building strong relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners, ensuring a collaborative and dynamic environment that reflects the company's values.

2. What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation embodies the spirit of progress and improvement. It's about pushing boundaries and finding creative solutions to existing problems. At Restaurantware, our approach to innovation anchors in the development of products that promote environmental sustainability and help operators move beyond the ordinary. We constantly strive to make a positive impact on our customers, the environment, and society. By analyzing current and future industry trends as well as listening to customer feedback, every product Restaurantware designs is guaranteed to make a memorable first impression and improve the environment around us, aesthetically and otherwise. From takeout packaging to kitchen tools, we have manufactured thousands of products to enhance every dining experience and allow our clients to efficiently complete day-to-day tasks. While each product we design is unique, they are all created with one goal in mind: to help our clients solve their problems.

3. How do you and your team generate new ideas? Do you have any specific rituals for resetting creativity?

Generating new ideas at Restaurantware is a collaborative process that involves every member of our team. We foster a culture where everyone's voice is heard, regardless of their role or title. We encourage open dialogue, brainstorming sessions, and multi-level collaboration to spark creativity. Additionally, we actively seek inspiration from diverse sources that foster fresh perspectives and innovative thinking.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face while innovating?

The greatest challenge we encounter in innovation is navigating the vast landscape of possibilities before us. At Restaurantware, we're inspired by the concept of "Fashion for Food," where the aesthetic appeal of our products is as crucial as their functionality and sustainability. This vision yields a wealth of creative ideas from our talented team. The real task lies in discerning which innovations align most closely with our customers' immediate and future needs. With a diverse portfolio of 8,000 SKUs, our dedication is not just to ideate but to meticulously select and develop those ideas that promise the most significant impact in the current and forthcoming market dynamics. This process is thrilling, as it underscores our role in setting the direction for meaningful innovation that resonates with our community and leads the industry forward.

5. Can you speak about how Restaurantware addresses the environmental issues associated with food resource management and waste reduction? What specific strategies or initiatives has the company implemented to minimize waste in the foodservice industry?

Restaurantware is deeply committed to addressing environmental issues associated with food resource management and waste reduction. One of our primary strategies involves offering sustainable alternatives to traditional single-use plastics and non-biodegradable materials. Since 2020, we have delivered over 6.6 million eco-friendly straws made from paper, natural hay, and PLA plastic, which are compostable or biodegradable, preventing them from deteriorating into harmful microplastics. These efforts help reduce ocean pollution and save millions of seabirds, considering that over 1 million seabirds die from plastic each year.

Furthermore, in 2021 alone, we supplied over 5.2 million eco-friendly takeout supplies, including to-go containers and portion cups, made from PLA plastic, bagasse, or wood, which are free of toxins and reduce resource consumption. By focusing on renewable and compostable materials like bagasse, bamboo, and paper, we can significantly decrease waste and support environmental preservation efforts. Our ongoing commitment to operational excellence ensures we constantly seek ways to optimize resource use and reduce our carbon footprint, leading the charge towards more sustainable practices for a greener planet.

6. With around 45% of landfill waste in the United States coming from food and its packaging, what innovative materials or products has Restaurantware introduced to mitigate this significant environmental impact? How do these solutions differ from traditional alternatives in terms of sustainability and effectiveness?

At Restaurantware, we are actively addressing the significant environmental impact of food and packaging waste by creating innovative materials and products. Restaurantware products are manufactured from eco-friendly and rapidly renewable materials to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and conserve resources. From hay drinking straws to sugarcane take out containers, our collection of sustainably focused products is constantly expanding.

Where we shine is in the innovative materials we use, and the positive sales data inspires us to grow those lines even further. Specific SKUs we’ve seen grow most rapidly include:

  • Palm Leaf Tableware – 245% growth in the last 2 years

  • Pulp Safe Items – 343% growth in the last 2 years

  • PLA Tableware – 98% growth in the last 2 years

7. As the CEO and founder of Restaurantware, what inspired you to prioritize sustainability within the foodservice supply industry? Could you share any challenges you've encountered in promoting sustainable practices, and how you've overcome them to drive positive change?

My commitment to sustainability is deeply rooted in my personal history and concern for our planet. Growing up in a family that owned a restaurant, I was immersed in the foodservice industry from a young age. This unique perspective allowed me to observe the environmental impact of traditional foodservice practices and packaging materials closely. It was through these experiences that I identified a significant gap in the market: the difficulty for operators to source sustainable products. Motivated by this challenge, I founded Restaurantware with a mission to introduce sustainable innovation into the industry.

Since launching in 2010, promoting sustainable practices has been an exciting and evolving journey. Despite facing initial resistance and overcoming industry norms, it has been rewarding to see a shift in consumer behavior. Customers have increasingly embraced our focus on sustainability, which has been pivotal in driving our success. Through offering high-quality, eco-friendly products, forging strategic partnerships, and maintaining our dedication to sustainability, we have managed to effect substantial change and contribute to a more sustainable future in the foodservice supply industry.

8. In the ever-changing business landscape, how do you envision the future of sustainable foodservice supply evolving, particularly in light of emerging technologies and consumer preferences?

At Restaurantware, our research and development team are dedicated to creating groundbreaking and sustainably focused products with minimal environmental impact. Through initiatives like the Responsible Material Sourcing Program, Sustainability First Initiative, Sustainable Manufacturing Program, and Eco-Guide Initiative, we ensure that sustainability is prioritized at every stage of product development, from sourcing to disposal.

Looking ahead, I envision the future of sustainable foodservice supply to be driven by innovation, collaboration, and consumer demand. Advancements in technology will lead to increasingly sophisticated solutions for eco-friendly packaging, waste reduction, and resource optimization. From biodegradable packaging materials to smart packaging systems that minimize food waste, the possibilities are endless. As consumers continue to become more environmentally conscious and socially responsible, there will be a growing demand for sustainable products and practices across the foodservice industry. By staying ahead of these trends and embracing emerging technologies, while maintaining a customer-centric approach, we can lead the way in sustainable foodservice supply on a global scale.

9. Looking to the future, how will Restaurantware continue to be a leader in innovation?

As we look to the future, Restaurantware remains dedicated to upholding our position as a pioneer in ethical business practices and innovation within the foodservice supply sector. Our pledge to lead with environmentally responsible practices is integrated into every aspect of our operations, reflecting our deep commitment to both planetary and community well-being.

Our innovative journey includes investing in pioneering materials, advanced technologies, and cutting-edge design solutions that not only enhance sustainability but also elevate performance. By actively engaging with our customer base, staying ahead of market trends, and adapting to evolving demands, Restaurantware is poised to continue driving the industry forward with sustainable, groundbreaking solutions that meet the needs of tomorrow.
References: restaurantware