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October 3, 2019

Young Consumers Put Their Money on Environment-Friendly Restaurants

Written by SmartSense | Food Safety

21st century consumers care more about sustainable business practices than ever before – Millennials in particular. By 2025, this generation will represent 75% of the workforce and will have $2.75 trillion in spending power globally. A recent Nielsen global online study found that Millennials are most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings – almost three-out-of-four respondents in the latest findings, up from approximately half in 2014.


“Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share but build loyalty among the power-spending Millennials of tomorrow.”

– Grace Farraj, SVP, Public Development & Sustainability, Nielsen


Not only do Millennials want good food, they also want restaurants to support their values, including sustainability. As a result, many consumers are patronizing restaurant brands that fail to adopt environment-friendly practices. The good news is that once these strategies have been implemented, young consumers plugged into social media willingly communicate the message that they’ve found a restaurant that shares their values.


Most customers show intention to pay extra money for sustainable restaurant practices. Source: https://www.chefhero.com/blog/restaurant-sustainability-low-cost


Food Waste Is a Wasted Opportunity

The restaurant industry generates 11 million tons of food waste every year. That's almost a fifth of all food waste, according to ReFED, a coalition of government leaders, NGOs, and businesses collaborating to reduce food waste. And according to interviews with restaurant leaders by OpenTable, the most expensive waste for restaurants is landfill.


Watch our webinar to learn about a newly released study on foodborne illness  conducted by the FDA, and how food safety management systems are key to keeping  customers safe.


Cutting down on food waste in your restaurant isn’t rocket science – it’s simply taking the time to implement some common-sense solutions. For example, if the kitchen staff is regularly throwing away spoiled food, perhaps it’s time to take stock of your inventory practices and order less. Similarly, if guests aren’t finishing their meals, reduce the portion sizes. Kitchen scraps can be used to make stocks and sauces. And any other food waste that’s been going into the trash can be picked up and processed by a composting company.


These solutions are fairly basic and well within reach of restaurant management and staff. With a little imagination, there are even more inventive solutions to consider that not only save food, but connect your restaurant with the public, and therefore increase the visibility of your sustainability efforts.


One intriguing technological solution is Food for All, a new app that lets customers buy leftovers for a 50% discount. Launched in Boston last year, the app currently features more than 200 restaurants. Matt Taylor, CEO of the Boloco chain in Boston, claims that his operation has cut its food waste in half using the app: "It's a good way for us at the time of day when we would be creating food waste – because of the change of meal period or the end of the day – to offer that food up to folks who might be interested in purchasing it at a lower price.” Food for All plans to expand beyond restaurants to include produce, meal kits, packaged foods, and farmers markets.


Another tech solution is Spoiler Alert, a software company focused on tackling food waste in the supply chain by helping large food manufacturers and distributors better manage their inventories. Companies such as Sysco, the country's largest food distributor, and Hello Fresh, the top meal-kit service, use the platform to connect their supply chains to a network of discount retailers and food banks so that their unsold products don’t end up in landfills. CEO Ricky Ashenfelter claims that 3 million meals were donated last year through Spoiler Alert, and he expects that amount to double this year.


Consumer-facing business account for significant waste by weight, whose costs are passed on to consumers. Source: https://www.chefhero.com/blog/restaurant-sustainability-low-cost


Transition from a Linear to a Circular Economy

For the past 75 years, the traditional linear economy has valued the “make, use, and dispose” model of production based on the false belief that resources are unlimited. As we approach 2020, however, clearer vision tells us that our economic system must be transformed to regenerate our resources. This new circular economy manages resource input and output to minimize waste, emissions, and energy leakage by narrowing and, if possible, closing energy and material loops through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, refurbishing, and recycling.


In fact, joining a recycling program is one of the best and easiest solutions for restaurants choosing to improve their sustainable footprint. Most U.S. cities offer one – some for free, others for a small fee. Simply visit Earth 911 to find out what’s available in your area.


By implementing a recycling initiative for all appropriate materials and sending packaging back to suppliers for reuse, restaurants can control their environmental impact and reduce operating costs. The most common materials are also the easiest to recycle: glass, cardboard, wood, and paper.


Paper, in fact, is the most recycled product in the world. The material for recycled paper packaging is sourced from waste products, such as newspapers, magazines, office documents, packaging, and cardboard boxes used by the consuming public. By offering consumers foods packaged in recycled paper products, restaurants demonstrate they are committed to recycling, and give customers a concrete reminder to recycle the container when it’s empty.


Providing customers tactile and visual experiences that demonstrate the circular economy in practice helps them feel like an active player in support of a larger mission. Using recycled paper for your take-out menus is another clear message that customers literally take home with them. In fact, wherever you can use recycled paper, the more outlets you’ll have for good public relations.


Reduce Water and Energy Use

Reducing water and energy is an easy way to make your restaurant more sustainable – plus it saves money. There are many ways to bring your water usage down:

  • Instruct staff to turn off taps when they’re not in use
  • Switch on the dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded
  • Install automatic faucets and low-flow toilets in restrooms
  • Refill ice bins only when they get low, and add only as much as you need to get through the crush


As for saving energy, consider the following tips:

  • Install compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer
  • Put all behind-the-scenes lights (staff break areas, hallways, storage rooms, and bathrooms) on automatic sensors
  • Replace all paper towels in customer bathrooms with electric hand dryers
  • Shut down computers overnight
  • Replace old equipment and appliances with greener and cleaner, energy-smart models


Don’t Be Modest – Advertise!

Today’s young consumers won’t know that you share their sustainable values unless you tell them. Keep them informed through your marketing vehicles, email lists, corporate website, and social media platforms. Millennials are savvy about media, and will appreciate your efforts as long as they’re sincere and truly make a difference.


Sustainability Is a Mindset

No one needs to remind you that running a restaurant is already demanding enough without having to think about the expense of time and money to implement new sustainable practices. So start small. Break your goals down into what you can achieve in the next six months. Simply making the commitment today and getting managers and staff on board is a great way to set the process in motion.


Most of all, keep in mind that sustainability is not merely a marketing or accounting play. Choose it because you genuinely want to improve the environment and make a deeper connection with your customers. Both will thank you for it.


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