Become an Ocean Friendly Restaurant


What do Blue Plate in the Mission, Hook Fish Co. in the Sunset, and  Boardroom in North Beach all have in common? They are all certified as Ocean Friendly Restaurants through the Surfrider Foundation.

But what is an Ocean Friendly Restaurant? And what is the value in being one?


Research continues to show how plastics poison and overwhelm our marine waterways. It is estimated that there are over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, a number that has probably increased by the time you finish reading this sentence. Aquatic ecosystems are degrading; seabirds, dolphins, fish, turtles, plankton, and more wildlife are impacted; food chain hierarchies that have been present for millions of years are being disrupted. The US uses over 500 million straws every single day.

Last year, Surfrider volunteers and local residents collected 7,000 pounds of trash from San Francisco beaches. The most commonly found items were plastic straws and to-go containers. Seeing these kinds of preventable numbers, Surfrider has been sounding the alarm to local restaurants, asking for their help in reducing waste and addressing a massive problem.

A mix of required and optional criteria around sustainability, the Ocean Friendly certification is Surfrider’s way of empowering local bars and restaurants to help protect and enjoying our oceans, waves, and beaches. Eliminating single-use plastics, serving vegetarian options to diners, and utilizing reusable dinnerware, are just a few. Once a restaurant is marked for review, an OFR representative meets with the bar or restaurant team, offering discounts on sustainable materials and guidance towards fulfilling outstanding requirements. Once everything’s complete, the restaurant is officially certified with a window decal and digital logo it can advertise and proudly display.

But San Francisco isn’t the first city to partner with its community on this. Surfrider has seen strong success with the OFR program in other coastal chapter cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oahu. It seemed only natural to finally launch the program right here in San Francisco, in one of the most consumer-aware cities.

Once certified, your business will be publicized on the Surfrider site and social media, bringing conscious consumers and Surfrider supporters to your restaurant. Surfrider will also host events like  happy hours on site and spread the word about your restaurant.

But just how easy or beneficial has it been for restaurants to implement and maintain these changes?

Take Pagan Idol, Future Bar’s newest Financial District bar. Plastic straws were causing them to dump 2,000 pounds of trash into their landfill bins each month. By switching from plastic to paper straws, they translates their landfill into compost, saving them around $900 on their monthly Recology bill. “Plastic straws were inhibiting our bartenders from properly composting the garnishes, so all of it had to go to landfill. [Our] Aardvark [paper straws] hold up great in cocktails. A lot of people are excited about the paper straws and high-five me,” says a bartender there.

For other owners, the certification has allowed them to reinforce long-held environmental values. Says Debi Cohn, owner of Asiento in the Mission: “I’m a sailor. and I’m out on the ocean a lot. I’ve sailed across the Atlantic and have seen mounds of plastic in places they shouldn’t be. Straws… are unnecessary items that don’t even allow people to enjoy their drinks, and are just there to make people drink faster and buy more.”

In addition to conservation, some owners value the positive image this promotes to their communities. As a surfer and lover of the ocean, Keith Wilson, owner of North Beach’s Boardroom, believes that “the only way to make a difference is to actually do something.” Like Pagan Idol, The Boardroom switched to compostable straws, and hasn’t looked back. “People in San Francisco really like to know that an effort is there. It’s a tiny way for people to feel good about themselves,” Wilson said. “I strongly believe it has been and will be good for our customer retention.”

So — do you want to become an Ocean Friendly Restaurant? Contact Corinne Gentile at, or come say hi at our next Ocean Friendly Happy Hour on 11/16 at Asiento in the Mission from 5:30 – 8pm. Hope to see you soon!

Learn more about the Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program

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