Restaurant Sustainability: How to Appeal to Eco-Conscious Consumers

8 min read
Oct 10, 2023 5:39:10 AM

When it comes to restaurants retaining and gaining new clients it’s important to offer more than just great menus. They need to consider how their brand is perceived, and a big part of that is sustainability. 

Blog-Great-Expectations-4Eco-conscious customers are on the rise so it’s becoming more and more important for restaurants to introduce sustainable policies and processes into their business, if they want to keep encouraging those customers through the door. 

Customers are now holding businesses accountable for their environmental impact, meaning restaurants need to start addressing and reducing their effect on the planet. Even just recognizing that you’re not doing everything you could right now but addressing that you’re going to be making changes can help you appeal to new customers.  

Research by UKHospitality found that 83% of survey respondents expect hospitality brands to take part in sustainable practices and 41% said that they’d even be willing to pay more money for sustainable dining. As we move forward we may see that restaurants failing to implement sustainable practices lose significant footfall. 

The rise of the eco-conscious consumer

The eco-conscious consumer wants to purchase things they believe have made a positive social, environmental, or economic impact. 

Blog-How-to-increase-guest-advocacy-by-10-300x169Customers now expect brands to put plans in place that reduce harm to the planet, which is why the demand for reducing food waste is increasing. Consistently wasting food through overbuying, prepping or delivering poor quality food can cause huge negative impacts on the environment. It may seem as though throwing out the odd dish or overbuying food won’t have a massive impact, but everything adds up, which is why you should focus on fixing the smaller things first. 

Consumers are now expecting brands to implement changes that reduce the harm they put on the planet. For example, a survey conducted by The Sustainable Restaurant Association shows that 80% of respondents see sustainability as a deciding factor when it comes to choosing where to eat. 4 out of 5 respondents also said that they expect brands to utilise sustainable practices .

Consumers are also finding it increasingly unacceptable for brands to greenwash. This is when businesses make broad sustainability claims without any evidence and can include doing things like overstating their positive environmental impacts within marketing materials.

Companies should avoid the urge to quickly implement a greenwashing strategy, as sustainability isn’t a ‘launch and forget’ activity, it needs to be fundamental to your work processes. 

An example of greenwashing is when McDonald’s started their initiative to reduce the use of single-use straws in the UK in 2019. This made the company look as though they were taking huge steps to introduce more environmentally friendly practices. However, their new paper straws still couldn’t be recycled, meaning the brand essentially greenwashed their ‘sustainable’ changes. 

Screenshot 2023-05-11 at 09.12-1We’re also seeing a rise in people wanting Google to introduce a ‘Sustainability Rating System’. This would involve diners being able to review how environmentally friendly a restaurant’s utensils, straws and packaging are. This will help people make an eco-conscious choice when they’re looking for somewhere to eat. 

This highlights the importance of restaurants catering to environmentally conscious consumers, as this trend for brands to be answerable to their eco-concious customers is only going to gain momentum in the future.

What is restaurant sustainability?

Restaurant sustainability is when a business reduces their impact on the planet by focussing on issues like:

  • Sustainable farming
  • Reducing their carbon footprint
  • Shortening their supply chain
  • Food waste
  • Packaging
  • Water and energy consumption,
  • Recycling 

Restaurant sustainability can also be thought about in terms of a restaurant staying financially viable. For example, if a company is continuously burning through cash as a result of poor staff rotas or inadequate menu planning it becomes impossible for them to sustain business practices and make a profit.

This highlights how making the right staffing, food and process choices can help restaurants thrive in our ever increasing eco-conscious environment. 

The benefits of sustainability in the restaurant industry

We all know that adopting sustainable practices has many benefits for restaurants, such as:

  • Brand loyalty – When customers know that your practices are sustainable, they’re more likely to return to your business as they feel their money is making a difference.  
  • Increased footfall – When people know you’re implementing sustainable practices they may be more willing to try your restaurant. This, on top of quality food and services, should encourage greater footfall and returning customers. 
  • Increased profits – Implementing eco-friendly procedures can be expensive. However, if this along with the quality of your food and service encourage more people to visit your restaurant, you could find yourself easily raising profits.  
  • Improved employee engagement – When staff feel as though they’re working for a more conscious employer, their mood, motivation, and satisfaction within their job are likely to improve, helping you deliver excellent customer experiences.

8 ways to improve sustainability in restaurants 

Focus on the small things

Focusing on the small things is an easy way to instil eco-friendly habits and procedures. You can focus on things like:

  • Discussing how you can cut down on packing with your suppliers. This can reduce waste and open doors for your company to implement recyclable materials. 
  • Print menus on recycled paper or use online menus so that you can completely remove the need for paper.
  • Cut down on paper receipts or opt for them to be emailed instead. 
  • Use biodegradable bin bags.
  • Cut down on your energy usage.

In terms of packaging, restaurants can use customer feedback to understand whether their packaging is performing well or not. For example, if you offer click and collect, customer feedback systems can be customized to ask questions about whether packaging is easy to recycle, if it protects the food and whether food stays in good condition during and after delivery. Yumpingo offers an option to leave feedback about the packaging already but we’re speaking to more and more customers who ask about the eco-option question.

Minimize food waste 

Minimizing food waste is essential for acting sustainably. Customer feedback will help you understand more about your dishes and where you can make improvements to reduce food waste. 

Here at Yumpingo our Customer Exerience Management platform can help you gain information on just that. We can ask questions about dish quality and size, how satisfied customers were with their dishes and whether they would order it again or recommend it to someone else. This can help you understand whether your portion sizes are too big or dish quality is poor, causing food to be wasted. You can then use this information to find solutions to your food waste issues.

Our platform also curates personalised Smart Actions based on the feedback provided by customers to help you make effective changes that improve customer satisfaction.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t happen automatically, but even the smallest changes can make a big difference to the effect you and your restaurant has on the planet. 

For example, purchasing seasonal produce from local suppliers rather than national or international suppliers significantly reduces the distance your produce and products travel. 

You could also use local waste collectors to minimise how far things travel, as the reduced fuel usage and transportation can significantly lower your carbon footprint over time.

Ensure you recycle properly 

Good recycling practices can help boost your restaurant’s sustainability and appeal to eco-conscious consumers, which will in turn help you to increase business and boost profits. 

You can implement better recycling processes by using the right bins for plastic, tins, paper and food waste, ensuring all materials are removed and reused properly, helping reduce your harm on the planet massively. If you’re struggling to recycle certain products and materials you could have a discussion with your waste collectors to see if there are other ways you can get rid of waste in a more environmentally friendly way..

Include vegetarian and vegan options

Including vegetarian and vegan options is a great way to improve your sustainability and appeal to an eco-conscious consumer. Offering vegan and vegetarian options doesn’t just need to be for those adopting that type of lifestyle. More and more people are opting to reduce their meat intake for both their diet and environmental reasons, making this a great way to improve your sustainable practices. 

Offering these options reduces the environmental damage your restaurant causes as a result of fishing and livestock farming, helping you do your bit for the planet one step at a time. 

It can also help to improve your customer base, as you can use customer feedback to understand whether you’re providing enough vegetarian options and if they’re of good quality. You could also suggest things like #MeatFreeMonday to encourage people to reduce their meat intake. 

You can also use customer feedback to gain insights from customers about look, taste, value and portion size so that you can properly plan food preparation and optimise your menu to meet the expectations of your customers and reduce food waste. 

Track your busy periods throughout the week to reduce waste

Consumer comments can also be used to gain an understanding of when your busiest periods throughout the week, month or year are so that you don’t over buy or over prepare food, causing it to be wasted. This can also help you improve your sustainability. Remember even the smallest things can make a big difference!

Here at Yumpingo our customer experience management platform has the ability to ask customers questions about the specific dishes they ate. If you act on the observations made by your diners you’re likely to retain them and gain new business as they feel valued due to you making changes they feel gives them a more positive experience. 

We ask these questions through email, QR code or a device at the table to gain the most accurate feedback possible, helping you make the very best data driven decisions.

Invest in technology

Investing in technology can help you improve your restaurant’s sustainability as well as appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Installing environmentally friendly technology can also help you reduce your energy bills, helping you improve your profit margins. 

Implementing the ability for people to order via a tablet, QR code or menu board can be an environmentally friendly option as it removes the need for paper menus, receipts and for waiters using notepads to take orders. This can help you engage with eco-conscious consumers as they can see that you’re making the right efforts to make positive impacts on the planet.  

Get customers’ orders right every time

Ensuring the accuracy of customer orders not only enhances satisfaction but also minimises food waste and reduces energy consumption.

By tracking feedback you can identify where there might be a weak link in the process between the customer ordering and the food being delivered to their table. You can find out more about using feedback to develop service steps in our Iron Hill case study.

Customer reviews can help you understand whether your food is up to standard or not, giving you the opportunity to make changes that positively affect your business, customers and the planet. 

Data-driven decision-making

Ultimately making data-driven decisions based on consumer observations, can instil confidence in all members of staff that plans are going to work as the process behind it is backed up with evidence. 

Adding on to this, customers will start to notice a difference in the way restaurants are acting, which is likely to improve overall satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). 

When using Yumpingo you can view feedback and smart actions for individual restaurants and your chain as a whole to see where you need to improve and how. Our Smart Actions are simple and effective ways you can boost your NPS and sentiment scores, helping you to retain and encourage new customers.

If you’re looking to implement changes that make a difference to your restaurant, customers and the planet, get in touch with Yumpingo today to see how we can help.


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