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Marketing and Comms
Sustainability Helping Restaurants Win Customers

Forward-thinking restaurant operators are more frequently using marketing strategies that incorporate health, safety and environmental concerns, which can resonate with consumers seeking out more responsible restaurants and food choices, according to a new report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities says restaurants and companies that help lead the way on sustainability issues will likely reap dividends in the form of the patronage of an approving mainstream public. The survey data reveal that women and higher-income consumers are particularly receptive to menu claims that promote sustainability. Likewise, young adults age 25-34 and families are more apt to be influenced by a range of sustainability and sourcing menu terms.

For foodservice players, adopting sustainable food sourcing reflects practices that reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of providing the food, which in turn is influencing menu trends, the report says. There's also a propensity to associate sustainable qualities with animal welfare and healthfulness, which are factors that seem especially true in foodservice.

Although sustainability is a growing trend in foodservice, establishments making the biggest efforts to be more responsible are generally smaller independent or chain operations. Fast-casual purveyors in particular are cultivating the trend and helping to mainstream expectations among consumers - think Lyfe Kitchen (a new sustainable fast-casual chain from former McDonald's COO Mike Roberts) and the always-clever messaging from Chipotle.

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Packaged Facts recommends larger foodservice operators implement and grow sustainability initiatives, and communicate what they are doing and why. Educating consumers is a key element of any cause-related marketing effort, and sustainable achievements are no exception.

Catering to the “sustainable” demographic will help restaurant brands/concepts attract young adults and the more affluent, the report says. These cohorts tend to be among the most tech-savvy and digitally connected consumers, which means using email social media and technology to update and inform customers about what's occurring and why those initiatives are important is one way to gain favorable position.

Major restaurants such as McDonald's are tapping into employees for ideas on sustainability innovation. This resulted in new a waste-diversion execution manual that is diverting 70 cubic yards of waste from landfills each week in McDonald’s Pacific Sierra Region. The manual enables restaurants to deploy mixed recycling, organics recycling, or both, by providing checklists, shift huddles, and crew/customer engagement and education materials. It was initially piloted in 11 California Bay Area restaurants in Alameda County and is being replicated in additional restaurants throughout the Pacific Sierra Region.

Last year, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) launched its first sustainability accreditation for food destinations, developed with retail landlord Hammerson. The new rating was rolled out to a variety of destinations, including shopping centers, airports, stadiums and stations. Hammerson’s WestQuay shopping center in Southampton, UK was the first location to achieve the new Sustainable Restaurant Association Food Destination rating, which allows its 17 million annual shoppers to select from a range of restaurants that source ingredients more responsibly and manage food, water, energy and waste more efficiently.


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