UK restaurant diners are becoming significantly more interested in the provenance and nutrition of their food, and are also more concerned about how restaurants dispose of waste, according to new research.
A report for the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) ‒ called The Discerning Diner: How consumers’ attitudes to eating out have become more sophisticated ‒ showed that food waste, health and nutrition are the top three things consumers look for in a restaurant.
In fact, more than half of diners (56%) will pay more for a meal they perceive to be the result of sustainable methods, with 43% saying they would pay up to 10% more.
This marks a shift in diners’ priorities since 2009 – the last time the survey was run ‒ when the top three consumer concerns were local sourcing, how employees were treated, and whether produce was organic. The SRA has suggested that the drop in concern for the latter is because the “argument for organic” has “not advanced” in the past three years.
Just over 80% of diners asked said they would like restaurants to be more transparent about the food they serve, while 89% said they hadn’t received any information about the nutritional value of their meals. Similarly, just 6% said that they had been informed of a restaurant’s waste process.
The more expensive a meal, the more consumers expected sustainability-wise, with 64% saying a £30-a-head site should only use meat from sustainable sources – such as farms with high welfare standards ‒ and 62% expecting the same for fish. Almost half (45%) said that restaurants charging even £10 a head should still distribute tips fairly and provide free tap water.
The SRA offers tips for restaurants hoping to show diners their sustainability credentials, including making the SRA’s own Sustainability Rating visible both on site and online.
With 84% of those polled saying they would like restaurants to tell them more about their social and environmental standards, the SRA also suggests steps such as training waiters to be aware of the importance of sustainability issues, allowing them to explain details such as where the food comes from and how it is produced.