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Restaurants embracing sustainability

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New York City An ethical obligation to go green, as well as a desire to reap the benefits of good public relations from eco-friendly moves, are driving the decisions of restaurants to embrace green strategies more so than expectations for solid returns on investment, according to a new study. The report, “The Better-Run Restaurant: Environmental Sustainability in Restaurant Retail 2010,” surveyed 124 respondents in late 2009, including operators from large and small chains as well as independent operations.

Conducted by Miami-based Retail Systems Research, in partnership with Nation’s Restaurant News, the green-focused survey examined current and future initiatives. It found that 66% of respondents said they believed going green would make their brands appear more attractive to consumers, while 63% indicated that they felt an ethical obligation to make their businesses more environmentally sound. Sixty-three percent of respondents also claimed going green would help them to be better viewed as industry leaders.

“There are three reasons for restaurants to enact environmentally sustainable practices: to save cost, reduce waste and build a greener brand,” said Steve Rowen, managing partner of RSR and co-author of the study. “In fact, the best performing restaurateurs believe green-minded consumers care enough about a brand’s environmental positioning to factor it in to ‘where to dine’ decisions. The hard part still is measuring ROI in terms of new revenue. The direct correlation is not clear, yet.”

The sustainable practices being implemented this year by restaurants include:

  • Recycle raw materials (79%);
  • Regulate energy use in their stores or facilities (68%);
  • Promote eco-friendly items or ingredients in-store (67%);
  • Reduce take-out/send-home waste (65%);
  • Feature green processes such as ethically sourced products (64%); and
  • Incorporate green construction practices into new facilities and stores (60%).

© 2014