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Sustainability begins to top diners agenda

22 | 08 | 13

Price and quality of service are many people's prime concerns when eating out at a restaurant, but a growing number of diners are also interested in the sustainability of the venues they visit.

This is according to a new report released by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which found more and more Britons want to eat at outlets that are ethically operated and are willing to pay a higher price for the privilege.

Catering equipment firms should take note of this research, as companies that are keen to become more sustainable may require new and more efficient kitchen appliances.

Top priorities

As part of its study, the SRA asked 1,000 people what they think restaurants should be most focused on. Providing healthy and nutritious food and cutting down of food waste were rated as the joint top priorities for the industry, both being singled out by 53 per cent of respondents respectively.

Locally sourced food was highlighted as an important issue by 46 per cent of respondents and the way companies treat their employees was cited by 40 per cent. 

These results are quite different to when the SRA carried out the same survey in 2009. That food should be sourced locally was singled out as the top priority by 67 per cent of people, while food waste and health and nutrition were not even rated among the top four concerns.

The SRA said this shift is evidence consumers have developed a more "holistic" understanding of sustainability and are no longer focused solely on produce.

"Unlike sourcing issues, where the consumer is directly implicated in the procurement decisions of the restaurant, concerns over issues such as food waste require a more sophisticated understanding of sustainability and indicate that customers are building on their awareness of how the range of issues affects society and the environment as a whole," the report stated.

Paying for sustainability 

Diners are now increasingly concerned with sustainability and are not afraid to pay more for a meal if its served by a restaurant that shares their views on this issue, the SRA's research found. 

More than half (56 per cent) of respondents said they would not mind being charged extra for a meal if they know the venue they are eating at is investing in sustainability. Over four in ten (43 per cent) of consumers claimed they would pay up to ten per cent extra for a meal in a sustainable restaurant and the SRA believes this is a clear incentive for businesses to improve in this area. 

The organisation found it is largely affluent diners who are happy for sustainability to cost more, but the issue is also important to people from lower socio–economic backgrounds and they expect restaurants in the cheaper price bracket to still fulfil their expectations on this issue.

Star backing

The findings of this study have been backed by renowned chef Raymond Blanc who is also president of the SRA. 

"This report provides further evidence that our customers not only want to enjoy high quality food, but also want to know that the restaurants they eat in are managing their business responsibly," he commented. 

As part of its aim to improve the sustainability of the UK's restaurants, the SRA recognises venues with star ratings based on the level of their performance in this area. Some of the outlets that have recently been awarded stars are TGI Friday's and Opus in Birmingham.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801628393-ADNFCR

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