Responsible Restaurants: How Operators Can Leverage True Sustainability to Their Advantage

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Only a few years ago, it was unusual for diners to ask about the source of a food item in a QSR or fast casual restaurant. Now it’s common for restaurant operators to field questions, such as “Is your chicken free-range?” or “Are your veggies organic?” or “Is your coffee fair-trade?”

As awareness of the importance of sustainability expands, consumers are growing increasingly interested in what experts call the social life of products, and especially their food. Much like friends on Facebook, diners want to know more about the hometown, background and shared connections of their meals.

Consumers are looking at menus with a new set of rules. Cues, such as “fresh,” “organic,” and “local” prompt them to try new products and to feel better about the health, environmental, social and economic impacts of their purchases. When consumers go out to eat, quantity is no longer the superstar. Quality has stepped into the spotlight, and the definition of quality has changed, along with consumers’ beliefs and behaviors. Consumers are hungry for fresh, wholesome ingredients and honest answers.

There’s plenty of proof. Statistics point to a sweeping change in consumer thought and behavior. For example, recent research has discovered that 90 percent of today’s diners are willing to pay more for food produced using sustainable practices.

But what perceptions drive decisions about sustainability? How can restaurant owners influence those decisions? Does what’s on the menu — and the messaging behind it — really make a difference? 

This guide, sponsored by Salem, Ore.-based Truitt Brothers Inc., explores the most effective ways for restaurant operators to implement initiatives that strongly influence consumer decisions regarding sustainability.

Many industry leaders already are taking positive steps on the path toward true sustainability. For example, Truitt Bros., a Food Alliance-certified producer of shelf-stable food products, has long embraced sustainable best practices and encourages others to do the same. The company’s generosity enables us to provide this valuable information without charge. We are sincerely grateful for their help in spreading this vital message.