by Mary Ellen Kuhn
Foodservice operators are getting greener. Research conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) supports this fact, reported Chris Moyer of NRA’s ConServe initiative, which encourages restaurant industry operators to run their businesses according to sustainable practices.
Moyer, a presenter in Session 186, “Greening of the Restaurant Industry,” held on Monday afternoon, June 13, set the stage for the discussion with some background information on sustainable practices within the foodservice industry.
NRA’s research underscores the fact that “every year, more and more restaurant operators are investing in green initiatives,” said Moyer. As for consumers, 57% of all adults said they are more likely to visit a restaurant where the menu includes food items that were grown or raised in an organic or environmentally friendly way.
NRA research done in partnership with Georgia Pacific shows that 65% of restaurant operators have a recycling program, Moyer said. Nearly three out of four (72%) say their business purchases products made from recycled materials. And more than one in10 restaurant operators participate in a composting program.
“Recycling is not [just] a trend,” said Moyer. “It’s the way that things are going to be done.”
Nika Kabiri of The Hartman Group, a consumer research company, shared the company’s simple definition for what living sustainability is all about. “Sustainability is increasingly about following the golden rule,” said Kabiri. “It’s really that basic. Treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s really the essence of sustainability.”
Hartman groups consumers into four categories according to their attitudes about sustainability. The groups include core consumers, representing 13% of the market, who care deeply about sustainability issues; inner mid-level (34%), who care about sustainability but are not rigid adherents to sustainable practices; outer mid-level (31%), who also embrace sustainability but to a lesser degree; and the periphery, which includes the 21% of consumers who really don’t care about it.
As to why consumers do care about dining in sustainable restaurants and doing business with companies that embrace sustainable practices, Kabiri offered this simplified rationale: “Everybody wants to support businesses that are the good guys,” she said.