Consumers are prioritizing sustainability when it comes to dining choices, driving a trend for going green in the restaurant industry.
Concerned about climate change and the environment, these consumers are increasingly spending their dining dollars with restaurants demonstrating sustainability initiatives. This preference for environmentally conscious brands makes it critical for restaurants to find ways to integrate sustainability into operations and develop a plan to promote these sustainability initiatives through various channels including digital, marketing materials, and streamlined internal communications and messaging.
A 2018 National Restaurant Association (NRA) State of Restaurant Sustainability survey found that a restaurant’s sustainability efforts can impact a consumer’s choice of restaurants. About half of consumers indicated that a “restaurant’s efforts to reduce food waste, recycle or donate food can be factors in choosing where to dine.”
Concerned about climate change and the environment, these consumers are increasingly spending their dining dollars with restaurants demonstrating sustainability initiatives.
Recognizing the importance of sustainability from an environmental and business perspective, more and more restaurants are adopting sustainability practices in all aspects of their operations. The same NRA State of Restaurant Sustainability survey asked 500 restaurant owners and operators about their sustainability efforts and found that restaurants are adopting a range of sustainable practices. These practices include using energy efficient lighting (79 percent of restaurant operators said they use CFL or LED lighting), engaging in recycling (65 percent of operators recycle cardboard and paper) and reducing food waste (22 percent donate leftover food and 14 percent compost food waste).
Given the positive bottom line and reputational impact of going green, restaurants should be communicating and promoting how sustainability is integrated as a key part of their operations. Some of the tactics restaurants can implement to share their sustainability story with customers include:
Telling a compelling story: Restaurant operators should share their sustainability story with customers by telling them what they are doing and why they are doing it. Restaurant websites and blogs are great platforms for talking about sustainability initiatives like the use of sustainable ingredients, recycling programs, energy saving programs and/or participation in food donation programs.
Menus are also excellent vehicles for highlighting green practices such as farm to table dishes made with locally grown and harvested fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. In fact, the NRA State of Restaurant Sustainability survey found that according to consumers, menus are the most effective way for a restaurant to promote their sustainability efforts.
Finally, operators should provide employees with key talking points and updates on green initiatives so they can share the restaurant’s sustainability story with customers.
Apply for awards and certifications: Third-party validation goes a long way; look for award opportunities to highlight restaurant sustainability efforts. An example of one these recognition opportunities is The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Sustainable Restaurant Award. Restaurants can self-nominate to be considered for this award that is given to the restaurant with the highest environmental and social responsibility rating. There are also opportunities for third-party validation through voluntary certifications from the Green Restaurant Association, Green Seal and Zero Foodprint to name a few.
Share through social media: Utilizing social media channels is a strategic and effective way to communicate new updates and remind the social audience about the restaurant’s green efforts. This communication is not just for company channels; managers and staff should also share these company announcements on their personal pages to extend organic reach.
Additionally, food bloggers who focus on green restaurants can be a great way to spread a restaurant’s sustainability story. Connect with these bloggers to see if they will post a blog entry in exchange for an opportunity to dine at the restaurant.
Consumers want restaurants to embrace sustainability and are making their dining choices accordingly. Restaurants that integrate sustainability into their operations and promote these initiatives will reap the benefits in brand loyalty and positive public perception.