Industry News | November 16, 2011

Going Green to Make Green: Sustainability in Restaurants

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According to a recent Mintel report, just more than half (57 percent) of respondents are willing to pay more for local and sustainable fare. The majority of those, however, are only willing to pay a mere 1-5 percent more.

"Green and sustainable attributes pale in comparison to the leading restaurant decision drivers of menu selection, prices, and convenient location," says Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel. "However, these initiatives support the leading attributes to help a restaurant stand apart and will become more important as the green movement continues to progress."

When deciding where to eat, 74 percent of patrons based their decision on menu selection, followed by pricing and convenient location at 69 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Local/organic ingredients and sustainable ingredients lagged severely behind, with only 7 percent of people saying that drove them to a restaurant.

Going green and using local ingredients aren't the only issues restaurants are facing today. For corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, patrons place the greatest importance on living wages.

When Mintel respondents were asked to rate their top three CSR initiatives they named living wages, local ingredients, and company-provided medical insurance.

"Employee treatment is considered a leading CSR initiative in the restaurant industry," Giandelone says. "Despite the fact that those aged 18-24 are generally more in tune with green and sustainable initiatives, living wages rank as more important for older consumers."

So, which part of the U.S. is the greenest?

According to Mintel, the West is best. The West has traditionally been a hotbed for healthier lifestyles and related culinary trends. Although still a small percentage of patrons are impacted, local or organic ingredients are particularly of interest to those living in Western states (11 percent versus 7 percent of the Northwest and only 4 percent of the Midwest).