The National Restaurant Association released its second annual sustainability report, which examines environmental trends and initiatives within the restaurant industry such as food waste reduction, composting, recycling, and cost-efficient energy solutions.
“Today, more than ever, environmental consciousness is important to restaurateurs and their guests,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the NRA. “Through increasing awareness and implementation of sustainability practices, the restaurant industry is operating more efficiently, conserving more natural resources, and helping improve the environment for everyone we serve.”
Recent NRA research found that 46 percent of consumers would dine at restaurants offering sustainable or organic food, and more than half of 18- to 24-year-olds want to go to restaurants that practice sustainability. Because of this, operators are seeking ways to operate more responsibly.
“Through our Conserve program, we are working diligently to educate restaurateurs and encourage them to take action,” Sweeney says. “Giving operators the tools they need to be more sustainable is the key to long-term success.”
In addition to ranking sustainability as a top menu trend for 2015, more than four in 10 professional chefs surveyed for the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot report predicted environmental sustainability would be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now.
“Sustainability may take more time and effort, but ultimately it’s about using resources efficiently,” says Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve program. “Businesses that squeeze the most out of what they use, whether it is electricity, water, or food, can cut costs and run smarter, more effective businesses. They’re better able to attract guests and retain employees, particularly among Millennials and members of Generation Z.”
The NRA says food waste reduction was a central issue in 2014, and the initiative remains a top priority in 2015.
“Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive,” says Laura Abshire, director of sustainability policy and government affairs, for the NRA. “Businesses that divert material from the waste stream and donate their unused food make a positive impact financially, socially, and environmentally.”