Sustainable food has been described as the gateway to the green economy. What that means is that people may first have sustainability enter their mindset because of something in their food. It may be something they learn, something they taste or experience, or something that forces them to change their diets, like diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, or just a desire to get to a more ideal weight and feel better.

Strategically, what this means for a restaurateur looking to become more sustainable is that the most important place to start is the food. Reducing waste by starting a composting program or going solar are great ways to green up a restaurant, but the best bang for the buck will likely be something that directly improves your customers’ perception of your establishment.

Here are some tips for establishing genuine connections with your customers:

  1. Commit to educating your market. Your customers may love your food’s taste and enjoy your ambience, but if they feel great after eating a healthy meal at your place, you want them to remember that it’s likely because you didn’t weigh them down with all sorts of artificial junk, excessively heavy dishes, etc. By committing to educating the market, you will make customers think twice before they go to a conventional restaurant, about what kind of garbage they’re eating, and what it’s doing to their bodies.
  2. Cut the empty calories. America ranks highest of all countries in the amount of soda we buy, despite having 1/5 the population of China. Vibrant Wellness Journal makes the case: “corn syrup and sugar add up to excessive weight gain, soda does nothing to hydrate our bodies or keep us full. In fact, our bodies don’t recognize calories from liquids the same way as foods…”  You can offer sparkling water by getting a bubbler installed, or just serve tap or filtered water. Get creative and make your own slightly sweet beverages, like kefir or mint tea and serve it cool.
  3. Serve a few more vegetarian-friendly dishes. People are becoming more and more likely to rate themselves as flexitarians or as vegetarians, but the majority of people are omnivores. But if you can replace a few of the meat-heavy dishes on your menu with locally sourced vegetarian fare, you’re cutting more greenhouse gas emissions than you could possibly realize. Going vegetarian one day a week, according to peer-reviewed scientific studies cited in “The American Carbon Foodprint”, a report by Brighter Planet, have more of an impact on your emissions than eating locally 100% of the time.

The added benefit is that all of these things have direct benefit to your customer. Benefit them, and hopefully, customer loyalty increases.

 Follow Scott Cooney on Twitter


Photo courtesy of Abrams Family World Travel, La Esquina De Las Flores Restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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