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The Rewards for Restaurants Going Green

by Marisa Briscoe McNatt (bio)

Published 4/25/12


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Dining at over 945,000 restaurants, Americans spend 44 percent of their budget on food consumed away from home — $1,078 per person annually — according to the Green Restaurant Association, a national nonprofit helping restaurants, manufacturers, distributors and consumers to become more environmentally responsible.1

It’s clear that Americans love dining away from home. But, for a busy restaurant owner is it worth to incorporate sustainable practices — from an economic and environmental standpoint?

Research shows that going green is paying off for restaurants — from consumer and employee satisfaction, to greatly decreasing your restaurant’s environment footprint, to saving money in operating costs.

“It make sense in every single realm and it just takes organizing principles to do things that are best for business and best for best the industry,” says Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the Green Restaurant Association.

Customers prefer dining green.

Among consumers, 79 percent said they would be more likely to dine at a certified green restaurant over a non-certified green restaurant, according to a survey prepared by Technomic for the Green Restaurant Association in May 2010.2

Also according to the survey, if a customer has “three favorite restaurants nearby” and one becomes green certified, 64 percent of customers would frequent the green certified restaurant more often than the other two.

Furthermore, customers care about restaurants protecting the environment and may be willing to pay more to offset possible additional costs associated with environmentally responsible practices, reports a 2010 study published in Sage Journals.3

“I think that it implies that there is value to be gained from engaging in green practices. That there’s potential for charging slightly higher prices and being able to recoup any extra costs that occur,” says Anna Hood, an associate lecturer at the University of Queensland who is helping to communicate important information from the study.

Incorporating green concepts into restaurants
Green Dining is Attractive

Customers appreciate a business's willingness to strive to achieve environmentally conscious goals.

Reduce your restaurants’ environmental footprint.

From trucks delivering food, to packaging and food waste, to dishwashers, the environmental impact of the restaurant industry in the U.S. is huge. The restaurant industry consumes one-third of all U.S. energy used by the retail sector and is five times more energy intensive than other retail, office and lodging industries, reports the Green Restaurant Association. The average food service facility uses 300,000 gallons of water per year.

“The environmental impact of the restaurant industry, just in the U.S., is larger than the environmental impact of many other countries’ entire economies,” Oshman says.

By providing environmental assessments, consulting and a transparent certification program to existing buildings, new builds and renovations, as well as events, the Green Restaurant Association makes sustainable changes accessible to restaurants in all stages.

Installing flow restricters on faucets, purchasing organic and locally grown foods and ditching non-biodegradable food containers are some quick ways to green your restaurant.

EcoGreenOffice supplies many options for cups, plates and utensils that are compostable and made from post-consumer content. Search the green office supply company for more creative ways to green your restaurants’ operations, including marketing materials.

Attract employees.

Among college students and recent grads, 81 percent say it’s important to work for a green company, according to a survey conducted by Experience Inc., the nation’s leading provider of career services for college students and alumni.4

Employees that support their restaurants’ environmentally friendly initiatives will likely result in high employee moral, help to decrease absenteeism, high turnover, low productivity and other negative behavior that costs restaurants.

A number-one reason people don’t return to a restaurant is a “perceived attitude of indifference on the part of the employee,” reports the Hospitality Times Group5.

Serving green food and protecting the environment go hand in hand
Serving up Green Food

Respecting the environment goes a long way to show your customers you will go the extra mile for them.

Immediate and long term savings.

A restaurant can benefit from introducing environmentally friendly practices through direct savings in operating costs.

Even small investments in efficiency measures can lead to significant savings and a quick turn around on investments.

Here are a few quick measures a restaurant can take for the environment and for cutting costs from the Nation’s Restaurant News, a leading provider of information for the food-service industry:6

* Install an energy efficient lighting system. This measure can save anywhere from 15 to 25 percent on energy costs.

* Equip the dishwasher with a pre-rinse spray valve. This could save anywhere from $900 to $1,200 per year if the dishwasher is used three to fours hours per day.

* Fix gaps in refrigeration unit doors, install automatic door closures and faucet aerators. These are inexpensive options that lead to significant returns

For larger energy and money savings measures, such as purchasing Energy Star kitchen appliances and installing solar panels, there are rebates, incentives and other money saving programs available. Consultants through the Green Restaurant Association help clients find out what’s available for making larger environmental changes financially feasible.

What’s another benefit for restaurants going green? It will have a positive impact for decades to come.

“For our country and for our world, and also for people to have the healthiest lives and the healthiest economies — and pass on the healthiest world — we have to dramatically shift things. This very meaningful, and just necessary,” Oshman says.

[1] http://www.dinegreen.com/
[2] http://www.slideshare.net/2010GRA/consumers-green-dining-habits
[3] http://thr.sagepub.com/content/10/4/286
[4] http://www.experienceinc.org/index.php
[5] http://www.hospitalitytimes.com/index.php
[6] http://nrn.com/article/restaurants-going-green-can-pay-quickly