Green menus to keep restaurants in the black?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th June 2008

Environmentally-friendly menu options have a good chance of improving a restaurant’s bottom line and providing competitive differentiation if marketed aggressively to consumers, according to a recently released report by market research company The NPD Group.

The NPD report, entitled, “Greener Menus: Can Environmentally-Conscious Menus Also Green the Bottom Line?” looks at consumer attitudes on environmental issues related to food and dining, and examines the revenue potential for restaurant menu items with “green” attributes.

Almost half of US consumers claim that it is important to them that restaurants be environmentally friendly and many cited concerns about antibiotics and hormones given to animals, and the importance for food to be organically grown or raised.

“The combination of high consumer concern for the environment and low consumer awareness of what is actually being done provides an opportunity for restaurants to differentiate themselves,” said Kyle Olund, senior product manager and author of the report. “To fully leverage the opportunity, restaurants will need to invest in an on-going effort to build awareness, a marketing expense that could pay dividends in the long-term.”

To assess the potential of an eco-friendly menu item, NPD tested the appeal of a breakfast sandwich described with a variety of “green” attributes against the same sandwich described without those attributes. Consumers perceived the “green” breakfast sandwich as healthier, and most were willing to pay a premium for it.

“Although costs and other considerations need to be factored in, the breakfast sandwich concept test suggests that green menu options have significant potential for success,” said Olund. “Of all the environmentally-friendly practices restaurants can adopt, adding green menu options would most directly engage consumers.”