Restaurants Try to Balance Sustainability With Cost

by | Apr 7, 2009

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lloydspackagingGreen business practices at New Orleans restaurants, already hurt by Hurricane Katrina, have taken another hit during the nation’s economic downturn, reported the New Orleans City Business newspaper.

Wendy Waren, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, told the newspaper that while the organization encourages restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint, there are bigger concerns now, and outside of major national brands and chains, green efforts have been limited.

Despite growing demand for green practices, neighborhood restaurants and caterers have opted for cheaper options such as less environmentally-friendly Styrofoam packaging, reports the city newspaper. Robert Breaux, vice president of sales for Conco Foods, a local restaurant distributor, told the newspaper that he noticed the switch from more expensive disposable packaging in favor of Styrofoam containers after Katrina.

Companies should be aware that recent industry surveys indicate that sustainability ranks high for many consumers. According to a 2009 Mintel study, more than one-third of Americans say they “almost always” or “regularly” buy green products, which remains unchanged from last year. The New Orleans newspaper cites another Mintel study on sustainability that reveals that 62 percent of customers choose a restaurant based on their commitment to the environment.

There are restaurants and other food companies around the nation that are interested in green efforts. As an example, the newspaper cites Antoine’s restaurant that recently replaced its hot water heater with a top-of-the-line energy efficient model.

National operators also are making some sustainable choices at certain locations. Examples include Yum! Brands, parent of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, which opened a green store in Northampton, Mass., that uses 30 percent less energy and water than a conventionally built restaurant. Similarly, Carl’s Jr. opened a green flagship restaurant in Carpinteria, California, that includes green features like solar reflective roofing, smart irrigation system, energy management system and uses Energy Star rated equipment.

Sustainable packaging is also part of the green effort. The Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, is introducing environmentally-friendly cutlery in its Millbrae, Calif. restaurant and is planning a system-wide rollout to its 800 other locations in the near future. In addition, Lloyd’s BBQ Company recently introduced new packaging for its BBQ tubs that eliminates the throw-away paper sleeve. The company estimates the new packaging will save more than 970 tons of wood or about 9,700 trees annually.

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