Better sustainability credentials and communication could hold the key for hospitality operators to tap into an audience of more than 37 million eco-conscious Brits, according to a report from leading food service technology provider, Nutritics, and hospitality data and insights consultancy CGA by NIQ.
The report, Sustainability Matters: What consumers want and how brands can win, surveyed 5,000 UK hospitality consumers and found that despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, sustainability remains a key priority for UK consumers when eating out.
70% of Brits are now actively trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and over a third (34%) of UK pub and restaurant goers are prepared to spend more than usual in venues with strong sustainability credentials. Consumers in the 18-34 age group are nearly twice as likely to pay more for sustainability than those aged 55+, and with women, frequent hospitality visitors and Londoners all over-indexing for engagement, there should be significant rewards for hospitality operators who put sustainability at the heart of their business. Furthermore, only 23% of UK consumers are now saying that sustainability is currently unimportant in their choice of venues, showing that sustainability matters to the vast majority of diners.
However, consumers want better communication, demanding more guidance from the pubs, bars, cafés, and restaurants they visit to enable them to make more environmentally friendly choices, and the research shows that existing green credentials aren’t cutting through. With nearly half of consumers (47%) saying they want more information about carbon footprints on menus, and 41% saying it would influence their order, educating consumers about the environmental impact of their meals appears to be one way that brands can drive sales, and demonstrate transparency, establish trust, and build advocacy in the process.
Stephen Nolan, CEO of Nutritics, said: "The climate crisis has focused consumers’ minds on environmental impact — not just their own, but they also want to see hospitality playing its part in reducing its environmental impact.
"Operators who seize the opportunity to capitalise on this demand, through better customer communication of credible initiatives, will profit from an ever-increasing competitive advantage. The operators who invest in understanding which sustainability initiatives make customers tick will drive loyalty and spend and effectively build not just environmentally sustainable brands but economically sustainable businesses.”
The report also identified which hospitality brands have the most eco-conscious consumers. Customers of Bella Italia are the most eco-conscious, with 79% saying they try to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle, with McDonald’s customers the least likely (68%).
Sustainability matters most to casual dining customers; people who visit restaurants like YO! Sushi, PizzaExpress, Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s are more likely to think about sustainability when they choose a venue, and more likely to be influenced by carbon footprint information, suggesting that these brands have a significant opportunity to engage and retain consumers if they can find a way to communicate their environmental credentials on menus.
Driven by their own general views, customers of JD Wetherspoon (35%) Greggs (36%) and McDonald’s (37%) were the least likely to consider sustainability when choosing where to eat or drink. However, not all sustainability initiatives are wasted on fast-food lovers and pub-goers. Wetherspoons and Greggs customers both over-indexed on engagement with recyclable materials and locally sourced products, while McDonald’s customers are more likely to be influenced by a venue’s sustainability credentials than the average UK consumer. Tellingly, customers of two QSR brands which have made significant strides on sustainability and purpose in recent years, Burger King and KFC, over-indexed in a number of areas, including leading an environmentally friendly lifestyle, and the importance of both sustainability, and a venue’s environmental credentials, when choosing where to eat or drink, suggesting that the two fast food giants have taken their consumers on a journey and succeeded in engaging with them on these important issues.
Karl Chessell, Director, Hospitality Operators and Food, EMEA at CGA, added: “Despite the fallout from the COVID pandemic and cost-of-living pressures, the message is clear – consumers still care about sustainability and want to be equipped to be able to make informed choices.
“But it’s important to focus on the positives in sustainability. Pubs, bars and restaurants that show good practice can improve brand trust and increase guest spend. Good sustainability practice isn’t just the ethical thing to do, it’s commercially valuable too.”
Sustainability Matters: What consumers want and how brands can win will be available to download in June. Alongside the consumer findings, the report will also include a look into the attitudes towards sustainability of hospitality sector workers, delivering an exclusive and holistic analysis of the issue across the hospitality sector. These findings will be released soon.