Restaurant food waste tops diner priority list

Food waste, health and nutrition, and locally sourced produce are the three top issues which diners want restaurants to focus on, according to new research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

Based on the findings of consumer research, the new report, The Discerning Diner: How consumers’ attitudes to eating out have become more sophisticated, reveals that diners want to know more about how restaurants operate and more than half will pay more for a meal in a restaurant that is run sustainably.

It found that 56% of those surveyed said they would pay a premium for their meal if they knew the restaurant was investing in reducing its environmental impact and taking its social responsibility seriously. Almost half (43%) said they would pay up to 10% more for their meal in a sustainable restaurant.

President of the SRA, Raymond Blanc, said: “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.”

Carried out by Populus, the survey shows that when the SRA asked consumers the same question in 2009, they ranked local sourcing, organic and employee treatment as their highest priorities.

In a significant switch in priorities, only 5% of those asked this time ranked organic as one of their main concerns, compared with 45% when the survey was first conducted in 2009.

The SRA believes price and the public’s perception that the argument for organic has not advanced in recent years, are the main factors behind this fall in interest.

SRA managing director, Mark Linehan, believes the results demonstrate that the dining public has adopted a broader, increasingly informed approach to eating out and now expects more from the restaurants in which they eat.

“In 2009 diners’ priorities were focused very much on the food on their plates. These latest findings show that the dining public is taking a more sophisticated approach, recognising the importance of wider issues like food waste and health and nutrition,” he said.

“Customers are building on their awareness of how the range of issues affects them personally, towards an awareness of how they affect society as a whole. This increased understanding has been aided by much wider mainstream coverage and discussion in the media,” added Linehan.

A complementary survey of 17 restaurants revealed a substantial perception gap between what restaurants think matters most to their customers and their actual concerns, with restaurants drastically underestimating the importance consumers attach to food waste and health and nutrition in particular.

Leigh Stringer

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