It should come as no surprise that sustainability, going green, or ‘tree-hugging’ is one of the fastest growing trends in American homes. As consumers incorporate sustainability practices into their own lives, there is an increasing desire to extend that lifestyle into dining out. How important is sustainability in the restaurant world and how can you join the movement? Read on for a sampling of information sure to wet your palette.
A recent study by the National Restaurant Association listed environmental sustainability, sustainable seafood, and food waste reduction in the top 20 restaurant trends for 2015. Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed stated a higher likelihood of dining at restaurants opting to provide food sourced in an environmentally friendly way. Some may say that jumping on a trend at the gate may be a risky bet. But, this survey also found that 42% of consumers believe environmental sustainability will be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now. These responses indicate that the sustainability movement is much more than a passing trend, its a cause worth joining. If one survey isn’t enough to convince you, Technomic reported similar findings in their 2014 Generational Consumer Trend Report with 29% of consumers citing sustainability as a factor increasing their likelihood of dining at a restaurant.
With so many areas to focus on it may be difficult to find a starting point. The first consideration to make will always be to think local. Chain restaurants and local fares alike must cater to local tastes and interests in order to draw in and retain local customers. So, do some research in your area – find out what’s hot at the farmer’s market and what dishes sell best elsewhere. Depending upon your area, organic, grass-fed, free-range, or antibiotic free meats and eggs may be available. Establish a relationship with local farmers to find a wide variety of fresh produce. Offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options are another great way to incorporate sustainability into your menu.
If you’re not quite ready to overhaul your menu and suppliers, perhaps a reduce/reuse/recycle approach is more your speed. Food source may be the obvious factor here, but others are at play. Conserving energy with modern, efficient appliances is an easy start. Saving water, reducing waste, and recycling also contribute to the sustainability cause.
Whichever path you choose when it comes to the trend of sustainable dining, the most important business factor is to make sure customers know what you’re doing. Find a way to spread the word about new practices, partnerships, and preparations you are using. Social media is one way to get your message out. Innovative apps such as Greenease in the DC/NYC area, which helps consumers find restaurants that buy or offer local and sustainable food options, can also drive business to your restaurant.