A growing number of consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Zs, are becoming environmentally conscious and adopting sustainable practices; however, there’s a disconnect between customers’ expectations and restaurant practices toward sustainable restaurants.
What is Restaurant Sustainability?
Before we dive into that, let’s take a minute to discuss what restaurant sustainability is. Restaurant sustainability refers to food service businesses reducing their ecological footprint by using energy-saving tools, minimizing paper and plastic usage, using ingredients that create less emissions, and more.
Who Value Restaurant Sustainability
According to research, Gen Z and Millennials valued restaurant sustainability the most, and boomers came the least. Since Gen Z and Millennials enjoy dining out and eating out at a higher frequency, it makes sense for owners to treat having sustainable restaurants as one of their goals.
You may be surprised. Although 90% of consumers indicate sustainability matters to them and 24% of consumers are willing to pay more, only 41% of the business owners run sustainable restaurants. Does this mean that businesses don’t care about sustainability? On the contrary, 70% of restaurants reported that improving sustainability is a priority; however, only a few restaurants know how to practice sustainability properly.
Initiatives to Become Sustainable Restaurants
There are differences between what consumers want and what restaurants are offering to be sustainable. Here are some sustainable initiatives restaurants should consider:
1. Sustainable Packaging
Many restaurants are starting to implement sustainable take-out practices, such as:
- Exercising the plastic bags ban and using paper bags instead
- Only give utensils/paper products with take-out orders upon requests
- Use sustainable packaging and encourage customers to bring reusable containers
Customers have shown an increasing preference to bring their containers to be sustainable. For sustainable restaurants concerned about hygiene, owners can consider offering better-quality sustainable packaging to attract customers. As a matter of fact, the survey revealed that 70% of millennials and 72% of Gen Z consumers are willing to pay extra for upgraded packaging in to-go orders.
2. Keep Up with Technoloy
Consumers want to see restaurants’ commitments to sustainability through actions. Sustainable restaurants can use digital channels to share messages and sustainable initiatives with customers. Moreover, technological innovations help restaurants reduce paper and food waste while maintaining efficiency and the quality of the service.
With digital menu boards, restaurants can let consumers know the sustainable actions restaurants are taking, such as using locally sourced ingredients, donating excess food to charities, and using sustainable packaging. By doing this, sustainable restaurants can keep consumers in the loop and give them confidence to order food and enjoy the dining experience.
Unlike traditional paper boards that require re-printing and are often not very durable, digital menu boards allow business owners to update the menus and launch seasonal campaigns without physical materials. Moreover, modern displays are mostly energy-efficient. With the right total solution provider, digital menu boards are cost-effective with lower maintenance costs.
3.Localize Supply Chain
With the 2021–2023 global supply chain crisis, many restaurants started to source local food ingredients. Sourcing locally can help to reduce the environmental impact associated with transportation. Moreover, studies revealed consumers are willing to pay more for locally sourced restaurants, not only in high-end restaurants but also in fast-causal and casual dining.
One thing to note: a shorter supply chain doesn’t necessarily mean simplicity. Working with smaller local producers also comes with different challenges. While being sustainable restaurants, owners should keep food safety in mind and develop a strategy that fits their operations.
4. Implement a Recycle Program
Make a difference with recycling and composting. Although recycling and composting take extra effort and are often time-consuming, sustainable restaurants should invest time to introduce efficient procedures to execute in day-to-day operations.
Consider adding the following practices to the restaurants:
- Include commercial outdoor compost bins
- Add indoor compost bins & food recyclers
- Educate and train the employees
- Announce composting programs to let everyone know to gain the consumers’ support