Viewpoint: Be ahead in ethical thinking to avoid press fallouts

01 October 2015
Viewpoint: Be ahead in ethical thinking to avoid press fallouts

Customers are increasingly being driven by values too, argues Mark Linehan, managing director at the Sustainable Restaurant Association

The last few months have seen a slew of stories in the mainstream media that have had a huge impact on the hospitality industry and, just as importantly, touch on issues that matter to the great British public.

In June, chancellor George Osborne announced the introduction of the National Living Wage from April 2016. Many greeted this initiative with howls of derision, but a vocal and progressive minority urged the sector to accept its responsibility to pay staff enough to live on.

In recent weeks, the focus has shifted. Newspapers have revealed what often really happens to the tips and service charges paid by customers operating under the understandable impression that the money would go in full to their waiter or, failing that, be shared out without deductions among the whole team who had contributed to their enjoyable experience. And now Jamie Oliver has launched a campaign against sugary drinks.

Remember the horsemeat scandal, the uproar over halal and the ongoing outrage at the appalling levels of food waste across the food chain? These issues won't go away until the industry addresses them collectively.

While as a nation Britain consumes eight billion meals out of the home every year, the dining public is also becoming increasingly values-driven. In fact, a new survey conducted by Harden's for the Sustainable Restaurant Association has revealed the true impact of ethical, environmental and social issues on dining decisions. A staggering 93% consider these issues more now than five years ago.

Furthermore, 75% say the ethical achievements of a restaurant represent better value than a 10% discount on a meal. Not only do foodservice businesses need to wake up to this food revolution, they also need to make their customers aware of all the good things they're doing. More than 90% told Harden's that they'd be more likely to eat somewhere that told them about their sourcing and impact on the environment.

And for those sceptics out there, new scientific research published by Abertay University shows that the ‘moral satisfaction' that comes from eating ethically produced food has a measurable impact on enjoyment and leaves the consumer wanting more. That's why we've launched a consumer-facing movement called Food Made Good. It's time for the industry to engage customers by celebrating everything that goes into making eating out a good experience.

Who can predict where and when the next media feeding frenzy will happen? Wouldn't you rather be prepared; confident that you're tackling the issues that matter to diners, instilling trust and loyalty in your customers and at least starting out on the road to #MakeFoodGood?

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