Before the pandemic, restaurant delivery packaging was making strides toward sustainability as greener containers, no-cutlery-included policies and reusable containers were all on the rise. While those efforts stalled a bit amid lockdowns and supply chain challenges, industry analysts expect sustainable packaging to rebound in a big way this year. It helps that consumers have expressed greater willingness to pay for it than in the past: A McKinsey study found that 60-70 percent of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging. Further, how the packaging communicates sustainability is important too: Approximately 35-36 percent of the survey respondents said they would buy additional sustainably packaged products if they were more available in stores, available for more products, and better labeled to indicate green packaging. In terms of materials used, consumers are interested in recyclable and recycled plastic packaging, fiber-based packaging, higher levels of recycled content in the products they use, and increased compostable packaging options. In your business this year, how can you improve your sustainability and communicate it through your packaging? Consider not only adopting new packaging materials but also offering reusable options, labeling the green packaging you use to demonstrate your efforts to guests, promoting those efforts on your website and social media, and encouraging guests (via your website and digital ordering channels) to be mindful of the environment when using takeaway packaging.
The pandemic has put the supply chain in the spotlight and revealed the pressing need for more local, sustainable sourcing – not only to help foodservice businesses be more environmentally friendly but to help them sustain operations altogether. Increasingly, it’s an issue that more Americans are thinking about: According to Statista research, 41 percent of Americans are interested in sustainable meat and 59 percent in sustainable seafood. While developing a more local, sustainable supply chain may sound more feasible for larger, resource-rich restaurants that consumers expect to have frequently changing menus – not so much for burger chains with more static options – this is another belief that the pandemic has turned on its head. Jill Taylor, the outgoing CEO of the regional burger chain Burgerville, recently spoke with Bloomberg about how she has brought a regional, sustainable focus to a quick-service chain – and how leaning into that focus during the pandemic has helped the brand to maintain profitability throughout. That has meant sourcing local mint and offering mint milkshakes on the menu in certain Pacific Northwest locations, and being open to changing up menus with local specialities in other regions of the country depending on what’s available. While the chain’s commitment to supporting local, sustainable producers has resulted in a more expensive burger, more consumers may be willing to support a business that holds (and promotes) these values. Do you know how your guests feel about sustainability? Would they spend a few more dollars on their meal if they felt good about the origins of the food on their plate?