Consumers don't know sustainable restaurants, says Hartman Group

On June 8, 2010, The Hartman Group, Inc., a research and consulting firm specializing in consumer purchasing behavior, presented a webinar entitled, "Five Tips for Making Sustainability Relevant." Michelle Barry, senior vice president of The Hartman Group, presented the webinar.

The main purpose of the webinar was to help restaurant executives understand how their consumers understand sustainability and use it to make purchasing choices. Sustainability, of course, plays into the growing trend of "being green."

According to the webinar, 88 percent of consumers surveyed are involved with sustainability, but 13 percent are intensely involved in sustainability. About 56 percent understand how to be sustainable; however, 44 percent do not.

The results

According to research by The Hartman Group, consumers will revert to old spending habits when the economy bounces back. There is already evidence that consumer spending is up. However, consumers are penny-pitching more and spending based on five values. According to a 9-month study, The Hartman Group found consumers base their purchases on quality, necessity, waste, experience and quantity.
 
"Quality" regards whether a product works well or tastes good. "Waste" means if the product is the right amount and will be used without leftover. "Necessity" asks if more than one family member will use it. "Experience" asks if there's a local benefit to something, and how the consumer feels about the company offering it. Quantity is self-explanatory.

Playing into these values, The Hartman Group also found that customers ask themselves these questions when buying:

  • Is the product/service necessary?
  • Will we use/eat it?
  • Is the product/service long lasting?
  • Will the product/food be thrown away?

So, how to leverage these finds?

The solution

According to Berry, many consumers are unaware about companies that are more sustainable. Companies should use this to their advantage, by adding more local, organic and fresh ingredients.

As stated above, many consumers look at how a company is benefiting local businesses. In this vein, consumers are more inclined to go to a restaurant that uses local ingredients. This also helps consumers feel good about what they're eating.

Stemming from the "green" movement is also the idea to use more organic or natural, hormone and pesticide-free ingredients. Consumers believe that organic foods are "inherently healthier."

Though they might not totally understand it yet, consumers are becoming more "green" oriented and want companies to do the same. They want fresh ingredients that are "real," not processed, and travel a shorter distance to get to a restaurant.

Overall, companies should market its unique factors; factors that make the consumer feel good about using their product. Consumers want to know that they are doing their part to help out and will support a company that is doing the same.

Creditability of The Hartman Group

The Hartman Group has done research on sustainability for 20 years through surveys and reports. Much of it is consumer oriented. 

According to The Hartman Group's website, "(They) specialize in understanding how consumer attitudes and behaviors lead to purchase. (They) challenge the status quo and inspire new thinking."
 
*Flickr photo by Senthil Prabu.S

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