Diners ready to ditch their usual order when eating out to help out the planet

Countless surveys during (the first) lockdown recorded Britons’ increased interest in food – where it comes from, its real value and their desire to avoid wasting it where possible. We shared a number of these encouraging findings which pointed towards, if not definitively proving, the case for dishing up food with a shallow footprint and championing it to customers.

The only way to really understand how much people want to tuck into tasty food that’s also going to help them take a bite out of climate change, is to ask them. Which is exactly what we’ve done – and the results are very promising. In fact, we’d go as far as saying they are persuasive.

Of the 1,031 consumers we asked, 65% said they were concerned about the environment, up from 47%. Almost two thirds of these concerned consumers (63%) said they’d be likely or very likely to try a restaurant’s most sustainable dish over their regular favourite, if they knew what it was. 

The national survey, the first to explore consumers’ readiness to turn this change in attitudes into action when eating out, also reveals that consumers expect to return to eating out as often as they did pre-March 2020, once guidelines allow. More than three quarters (76%) said they would return to their pre-lockdown eating out levels of up to four times a month.   

That means that if those who said they’d be willing to swap to a more sustainable dish actually did so, just half the times they ate out, the carbon savings would be 367,828Co2te. 

That’s the equivalent of the entire population of Swansea (225,000) flying to New York and back or of planting 736 hectares of broadleaf forest, a space the size of 1,051 full-size football pitches, or 1,288,000 trees annually. The saving would also be enough to offset the entire personal carbon budgets of 150,000 people – or a whole city the size of Oxford. 

Translating abstract sustainability issues into specific dishes further increased consumers’ engagement:

  • Almost three quarters (73%) of consumers said they would consider, be likely, or very likely to order a dish featuring ingredients that might otherwise be headed for the bin. Restaurants like Ozone in East London are meeting this demand transforming the leftover steamed milk for coffees into ricotta and using wonky or bruised vegetables. 
  • 75% would consider, be likely or very likely to order a meat dish where some of the meat has been replaced by vegetables. The Warren in Carmarthen is one of many restaurants satisfying customers’ huge appetite for beef burgers, while helping to shrink their impact on the environment by replacing 30% of the beef with mushroom and grains. 
  • Almost eight out of 10 consumers (79%) said they would consider, be likely or very likely to order a dish made with local and seasonal twists on familiar dishes. Like Mexican restaurant Wahaca’s Bean & Crumbled Feta Tostada which champion unusual UK grown beans, instead of imported ones  

Raymond Blanc OBE, President of the SRA, has appealed to his industry colleagues to capitalise on the survey findings. He added:

“As chefs, we not only have to source and serve food that tastes amazing and has a minimal impact on the environment, but also show people what sustainable food looks like. If we all choose #FoodMadeGood the potential rewards are enormous for restaurants, our networks of local growers and of course the planet.”   

While Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Wahaca, where almost half the street-food menu is veg-led and dishes include UK grown beans and pulses rather than imported ones, urged diners to make good on their intentions. She said:

“Everyone who loves food, eating out and the planet should choose restaurants serving #FoodMadeGood. Every single one of us can make a difference and if we truly want to eat out to help out the crisis-stricken restaurant sector and planet we must make good on our intentions by choosing the places that are sourcing and serving fantastic food that protects the environment as well as adhering to all the government guidelines.”   

If you want to find restaurants serving #FoodMadeGood, check out our website for mouth-watering and sustainable dishes from pioneering restaurants here and look out for that hashtag on social media as dozens highlight their most sustainable dishes. We’ll be promoting these dishes and the restaurants serving them throughout October 2020. We’ve also got three fabulous films you can watch that capture the creativity, heart and soul that go into making food good.

Thomasina Miers of Wahaca adding real zing to vegetables while making their Bean & Crumbled Feta Tostada and Roast Garden Veg Tacos here 

Chef Sam Scott of Ozone turning waste into taste as he creates their Sourdough trim gnocchi with mushroom sauce, jerky mushrooms and smoked ricotta here 

And Chef Chris Simpson of Pensons choose liberally from their local larder with his lamb with globe artichokes, green sauce made with garden herbs, charred little gem lettuce, with a lamb sauce and rapeseed oil here. 

If you’re a chef who’d like to showcase your most sustainable dish(es). It’s simple, click here to find out how you can shout about #FoodMadeGood.

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