Sustainability in the restaurant world typically concerned how takeout and delivery options might cause recycling issues at home for consumers. However, these days sustainability increasingly encompasses the food actually featured in establishment’s menu just as much as it concerns what eco-friendly material the menus might be printed on. Forward-thinking restaurant operators are more frequently utilizing marketing strategies that incorporate health, safety, and environmental concerns, which can resonate with consumers seeking out eco-friendly restaurants and food choices, according to “Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities,” a recent report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.
For foodservice players, adopting sustainability and food sourcing reflects adopting practices that reduce the negative environmental impact of providing the food, which in turn is influencing menu trends. There’s also a propensity to associate green qualities with animal welfare and healthfulness, which are factors that seem especially true in foodservice, says Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.
Restaurants and companies that help lead the way on the environment will likely reap dividends in the form of the patronage of an approving mainstream public. Packaged Facts survey data reveal that women and higher-income consumers are particularly receptive to menu claims that promote sustainability. Likewise, young adults ages 25–34 and families are more apt to be influenced by a range of sustainability and sourcing menu terms.
Although sustainability and the environment are growing trends in foodservice, establishments most committed to green and sustainable efforts are generally smaller independent or chain operations. Fast-casual purveyors in particular are cultivating the trend and helping to mainstream expectations among consumers. Packaged Facts’ research recommends larger foodservice operators should hop on the bandwagon by implementing and growing sustainable initiatives—and perhaps more importantly, communicate what they are doing and why. Educating consumers is a key element of any cause-related marketing effort, and green and sustainable achievements are no exception, Sprinkle says.
Catering to the “green” demographic will help restaurant brands/concepts attract young adults and the more affluent. These cohorts tend to be among the most tech-savvy and digitally connected consumers. This means utilizing email social media and technology (i.e., tabletop iPad, QR codes) to update and inform customers about what’s occurring and why those initiatives are important is one way to gain favorable position.
Beyond detailing the impact of sustainability on restaurant food trends, “Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities” details other important trends facing the industry including those associated with healthful eating choices, cultural change and its influence on cuisine innovation, and matching consumers’ menu choice decision making with successful menu promotion strategies, among others.