Roughly three out of five consumers prefer to visit restaurants that have recycling practices in place, according to a new study conducted by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with Georgia-Pacific Professional.

The research—which will be released at the 2011 National Restaurant Association, Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show—also shows two-thirds of the nation’s restaurateurs have recycling programs as part of their sustainability efforts.

The study provides a comprehensive overview of restaurant recycling practices that will help restaurant operators meet consumer needs, enhance their environmental programs, and be more profitable.

 “Sustainability is more than a fad, it’s the new way of doing business in the restaurant industry,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

“Our research found that a majority of consumers prefer to patronize restaurants with recycling programs, and restaurants are following suit to ensure they meet their customers’ expectations.”

"Georgia-Pacific Professional's work with foodservice operators continues to show us just how important sustainability is in our industry," says Bill Donahue, president of Georgia-Pacific Professional. "The National Restaurant Association and its members clearly understand that, too. We view sustainability not only as improving environmental performance but providing consumers the products they need and want, balanced with the demands of good economic performance for companies."

Highlights of the restaurant recycling study include:

  • Sixty-five percent of restaurateurs currently have a recycling program in place, and 13 percent participate in composting programs
  • Seventy-four percent of restaurateurs who recycle do so in the kitchen and office areas, while 43 percent have a program in the dining room and other customer-facing areas
  • Nearly three out of four (72 percent) restaurant operators use products made from recycled materials; the most common of these items were bags, paper products and food containers
  • Sixty percent of consumers say they prefer to visit a restaurant that recycles
  • A strong majority of consumers (85 percent) say they sort recyclables in quick service restaurants if receptacles are provided
  • About half of consumers (51 percent) say they are willing to pay a little more for menu items at a restaurant that recycles

The research supports the development of best practices for restaurant operators by the National Restaurant Association through its Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative (

The Conserve website provides free tips, tools and resources for restaurant operators to continue to develop their environmental sustainability programs, including waste reduction and recycling.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 500 restaurant owners and operators nationwide during March and April, 2011. Consumer findings are based on a nationally representative sample of 1,010 American adults surveyed March 10-13, 2011.

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