Social Sustainability & Marketing To Conscious Consumers

By Katie McCann

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The conscious consumption movement is taking over the marketplace. A stunning 91% of consumers expect businesses to do more than just turn a profit – they expect them to also be socially and environmentally responsible.

The majority of consumers (84% to be exact) are likely or willing to switch brands if there is an alternative option available that aligns itself with a good cause.

So what does this mean for your restaurant? It means that consumer buying decisions are no longer based on price alone. Diners want a full stomach and a clear conscience.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • Simple sustainable practices to implement at your restaurant
  • How to market to these consumers

Sustainable Practices for Your Restaurant

Wondering where to start with sustainable practices at your restaurant?

Here are five suggestions that will turn your restaurant into a conscious consumer’s dream!

1) Buy Local

Purchasing local produce has a trifecta impact. First, you’ll reduce your food costs because locally sourced food is seasonally grown and isn’t transported across the world to get from the farm to your diner’s forks. Less time and money spent transporting food means you’ll spend less money on food costs.

Second, local food is more nutritious than food sourced from afar as it doesn’t sit in transportation facilities for long periods of time losing its freshness. Ultimately, your customers can enjoy fresher, more nutrient rich food, which is good for their bodies – and their taste buds! 

Third, supporting local farmers and the surrounding communities means you can market your restaurant as “farm to table” – and enjoy an influx of customers who specifically seek out farm-to-table establishments when they dine out.

An example of buying local is purchasing foraged ingredients to add to your menu. If you’re wondering ‘What does foraging mean?’, simply it’s sourcing foods that were found and picked from the wild, like mushrooms, berries, seeds, or nuts, for example.

2) Support a Cause

Pick a cause you care about and openly support it. For example, maybe you want to raise awareness about child hunger in your community so on Saturdays, from every lunch special you sell, a $2 donation is made to the local food bank or a school lunch program. Or perhaps you feature a weekly chef’s special made with ingredients from would-be off cuts of meat and unused parts of fruit and vegetables to raise awareness about food waste. By supporting a good cause you will attract conscious consumers looking to spend their money in a way that positively impacts the world.

3) Go Green

If you really want to tune into conscious consumption and save money, start by implementing greener practices. This doesn’t mean you have to turn into a zero waste venue overnight – instead, start small. Take a close look at your venue’s most wasteful practices and eliminate them. For example, if you are a cocktail bar and you go through a couple of boxes of plastic straws per night, stop offering straws as an option. Or, if you use paper napkins and find the garbage full of them after every shift, consider switching to cloth. Little things like this will help you save money and lessen your environmental impact.

Mason jar filled with metal straws

4) Offer Inspired Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Around 4% of adults in America are vegetarian or vegan. While this might not seem like a lot, it hovers at just over eight million people.

You read that right, eight million people.

If you aren’t offering meat-free options, it’s possible you’re losing money by not catering to this demographic of diners.

Imagine this scenario: a group of people looking to book a business dinner are considering your restaurant and one person in the group is vegetarian. If there are no vegetarian options on your menu, your restaurant is off the list and the group will take their business elsewhere. That scenario is likely to happen time and time again. But, there’s an easy and immediate solution to accommodate meat-free customers: Offer menu items that are inspired, delicious, and completely free of animal ingredients. For example, if you’re famous for your pasta with Bolognese sauce, offer a mushroom Bolognese as an alternative.

5) Create a Conscious Workforce

The conscious workforce is just as important as conscious consumption because your employees are the ones catering to and servicing your customers. If your employees are unhappy, your customers are likely to have a less than stellar experience at your restaurant. An easy way to avoid this and increase staff productivity is by creating a conscious workforce, meaning you treat your employees like you treat your best customers.

You can quickly boost staff morale and company culture by regularly talking to your employees, listening to their feedback, openly showing your appreciation to them by saying thank you, and incentivizing their productivity by implementing a rewards programs. For example, you could create a points system whereby after collecting a certain amount of points, your employees can “cash” in on things such as gift cards, paid days off, free meals, etc.

How to Market Your Sustainable Efforts

If your venue caters to a niche (but growing) crowd of conscious consumers, it’s important to market your restaurant’s sustainability.


Because according to the National Restaurant Association, “60% of consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its eco-friendly practices.”

Whether your restaurant is vegan, vegetarian, farm-to-table, organic or acting in some other sustainable way, you can engage with those conscious consumers and grow your customer base. Here’s how:

1) Share Your Story

Is your restaurant a plant-based sanctuary that serves entrees in compostable bowls and composts all of its food scraps? Do you have a cutting-edge restaurant recycling program? Is all of the food on your menu grown and harvested from your family farm? Did you become a vegetarian at the age of six after visiting a beef farm and dream of opening a restaurant where you could share meat-free goodness with others?

Your story is paramount to your business’ bottom line – it highlights why what you’re doing matters and is the first touchpoint potential consumers have with your brand. If it isn’t memorable, inspiring, and worth sharing, then you will likely lose out to a sustainable restaurant with a more compelling story.

2) Engage with Conscious Consumers on Social Media

Diners photographing their meals with their smartphones

Social media offers your venue a quick and easy way to engage with your consumer base. Are you excelling at something? Is there something your venue needs to improve on? Are you looking for inspiration for your spring menu? Use social media!

Ratings, feedback, polls, and questionnaires allow customers to voice their opinions on what they like/dislike about your venue, and in turn, you can answer their questions, respond to ratings, and use their feedback to make better business decisions.

Customer engagement creates a personalized experience for customers, who will feel valued and heard. In addition to this, you’ll always be able to access your customer base and conform to their ever-changing desires.

You could host a social media contest. Ask customers to post a photo of their favorite dish from your restaurant. Whoever gets the most shares or hashtags wins a dinner for two at your venue. Or, create an online poll to determine the most popular spring dish and offer the first 10 participants a free lunch of your version of said dish.   

In addition, maintain a Facebook page, Instagram account, and Twitter profile, and even a Snapchat account. It’s important to stay on top of social media trends: if a new social media platform launches and gains popularity, sign your business up.

Not only does social media offer free marketing opportunities for your business, it is also the first impression many customers and potential customers have of your venue.

3) Showcase Your Offerings Online

Are you known for a particular vegan dish or seasonal menu changes? What is your venue’s specialty?

Use your website to show customers and prospective consumers what your sustainable business is all about, and how it positively impacts them and the environment.

More people will visit your website versus your restaurant. Meaning your online presence needs to be unforgettable. Feature beautiful photos of your menu items and venue. Write mouthwatering descriptions under each menu item, and if applicable, share the story behind the item. For example, do you offer homegrown house salad? Show pictures of the production process and final product. This will enable consumers to connect with your business and the dish itself.

Your brand is part of your business’ foundation, so don’t forget to market your restaurant’s sustainability. Implementing the above suggestions will amplify your efforts and create a following of conscious consumers.

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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