Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ingredient Missing from Restaurant Sustainability

I found interesting in a new survey by the National Restaurant Association: that only 39% of restaurants overall recycle plastic, cans or glass.

This includes nearly half of all full service restaurants, but only a third of quick service restaurants (fast food.)  The percentage that recycle cardboard and paper goes up to 67% and 66% respectively.

Around 61% use products made from recycled materials but only 4-in-10 use products that could be composted.

In fact, only 17% compost food waste, although 75% regularly track the amount of food waste.

A 2012 report noted that food serve operations alone lost 86 billion pounds of food in 2008 or 19% of the U.S. retail supply.

Between 4 to 10 percent of food loss in restaurants is lost during kitchen preparation.  Diners waste, on average, 17% percent of meals or more only 45% is taken home as leftovers.

Only 22%, including 20% of full service restaurants, donate leftover food to food banks or other groups.

This contributes to the fact that 40% of the nation’s overall food supply is going to waste each year.

On average, each American wastes 209 to 254 pounds of edible food each year.  In the Eco Pulse survey last year, 39% of Americans felt the “most green guilt” over wasting food.

One area of “sustainability” conspicuously missing from the NRA survey is the number of restaurants paying at least a “living wage.”

For nearly two decades now, how businesses treat people has been one of the three pillars of the “Triple Bottom Line” of sustainability.

In a poll of small businesses this year, 61% of those in the restaurant or retail industries supported raising the minimum wage.  Of course the minimum wage is nowhere near the livable wage which is computed specifically by areas of the country.

The restaurant business is tough, especially for locally-owned chef-driven restaurants that give places such as Durham, North Carolina where I live a “foodie” reputation nationwide with visitors, a characteristic now cited as important on “intensity” indices by leisure travelers including 71% of Millennials.

But so is sensitivity to prices.

As noted by the Durham News Service, a new breed of local chef-restaurant owners in Durham are now leading the charge across the nation to voluntarily pay their co-workers a living wage.

It is based on the sound business principles such as paying people a living wage and a sense of fairness resonate just as much with residents and visitors here as using locally sourced foods.

Polls by both Gallup and Harris Interactive, show that among the several industries in the tourism sector, restaurants are viewed well above average with a net positive of 60 points and 53 points on public opinion polls respectively.

But that doesn’t mean this handful of distinct industries shouldn’t work on improving outdated business models to be fairer when it comes to treatment of employees.

By nearly 4 to 1, Americans are now more likely than in the past to investigate business behavior before buying including 6-in-10 who decide not to do business with an entity based on how it conducts itself and 7-in-10 who talk about it in conversations with others.

If you think that won’t matter, just ask the NFL.

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