With climate concerns weighing more and more on consumers’ minds today, Colorado-based Noodles & Company decided to generate its first impact report, which was released in October. As the company notes, the report outlined the initiatives taken “in the areas of food, people, planet, and community” to improve the world and offer environmentally sustainable solutions to the fast casual’s business model.

One way it will affect change is through disposable paper drinking straws, and more green-conscious updates are also happening across Noodles’ more than 450 locations nationwide.

“As a values-led company, we believe in transparency, and it is important to us to share our journey as well as our path forward,” says Danielle Moore, director of communications. “Our first report served as a baseline to show what we’ve accomplished over the past 25-plus years and where opportunities lie moving forward. As a female, I was especially proud to see that females comprise 56 percent of our operations team and 50 percent of our executive team, and I am continually proud of Noodles’ dedication to inclusion and diversity.”

In the company’s report, it noted it had removed artificial colors and sweeteners from food. Moore says the company is dedicated to providing guests with high-quality, fresh, and delicious products, and the decision to remove artificial colors and sweeteners emerged a decade ago “to ensure our menu delivered guests the highest-quality food possible with only the best ingredients.”

The drinking straw initiative was first considered by Noodles back in 2021. “We are constantly looking at all elements of our business, and the conversation around compostable straws came up about a year ago,” Moore says. “Before implementing the new straw, we tested it to ensure it would uphold our high standards and we were pleased with the quality and our guests’ reactions.”

Last fall, Noodles announced a partnership with Hoffmaster Group Inc., a 66-year-old company known for specialty disposable tabletop products in brands like Linen-Like, FashnPoint, and CaterWrap. Its brand of Aardvark Straws are certified BPI-compostable, FDA-approved, naturally degradable, and made in the U.S. Martin Stone’s original patent on paper straws dates back to 1888, and the straws were reintroduced into the marketplace back in 2007 when Aardvark saw a growing need because of the anti-plastic movement that included restaurants, hospitals, and other service industries. Indiana-based Precision Products Group Inc. was asked by Aardvark to create a straw that was more environmentally friendly. Hoffmaster purchased Aardvark in 2018.

“[Hoffmaster] is a leader in developing environmentally friendly products, and we were very impressed with the quality of their straws and the other products they offer,” Moore says. As reported this past January, this change will remove nearly 21,000 pounds of plastic from the company’s waste stream annually.

Last year also found Noodles developing a fresh plan to reduce water and energy usage. The company began installing a new dripper system chain-wide that Moore says reduces water usage by more than 30 percent. The dipper wells Noodles recently installed have restricted waterflows, which will improve the amount of water usage into each location using them. The company is also exploring new high-efficiency faucets it hopes to bring to new locations in the near future. Noodles also has other environmental initiatives in the works.

“All new locations are opened with 100 percent LED lighting and high-efficiency, Energy-star certified appliances,” Moore says. “We’re working to transition exterior lighting at current locations to LED lighting, and we’re continuing to test more sustainable packaging options and environmentally friendly best practices.”

For lighting, Noodles works with a company called Villa, “which has a high-efficiency department that assists in providing eco-friendly lighting solutions for us,” Moore says. With regard to kitchen equipment, the brand says 95 percent of what has been installed is high efficiency.

A recent Noodles opened with a DOAS (dedicated outdoor air system) installed on the roof. The company says it reduces energy use by 30 percent and provides 100 percent clean air within the building. Moving forward, the plan is to install this type of system in any new restaurant that does not already have a provided rooftop HVAC system.

Noodles has encouraged franchisees to jump onboard with its plans, and Moore says they have responded positively to green initiatives so far and continue to partner with the company to implement new practices and identify areas for opportunity.

“Our values drive our business, and our franchise partners help us bring our values to life with a shared commitment to nourish and inspire every team member, guest, and community we serve,” Moore says. “Our sustainable straw initiative has been rolled out at all franchise and company-owned restaurants, and we continue to partner with our franchise partners in implementing sustainability efforts.”

When asked what advice she and Noodles could offer other brands, Moore replies, “I would tell businesses to stay true to their values and constantly seek improvement and excellence in their business. For Noodles & Company, we are continuing to introduce more green-friendly initiatives to support our mission to put people, food, and community first. We believe that changes start from the inside out, which is why we’re committed to making the world a better place, one bowl of noodles at a time.” 

Fast Casual, Story, Sustainability, Noodles & Company