Foodservice veterans to share sustainability secrets at Fast Casual Executive Summit
Foodservice operators are always looking for ways to become more sustainable, especially since millennials and members of Gen Z are holding them to such high standards. While it can be expensive on the front end to be more energy-efficient and offer recycled products or implement more sustainable supply chains, operators can win the ROI long game if they can figure out how to use innovation to improve efficiency.
"It's not easy. Expect to typically pay more for sustainable ingredients and disposables," said Scott Davis, president of Core Life Eatery, who will speak on the panel — "Overcoming the Obstacles to Becoming a More Sustainable Brand" — at the annual Fast Casual Executive Summit, Oct. 7-9. "There are some items that are in such wide use today that their pricing is coming very close to conventional. ABF (antibiotic-free) chicken and pork can be very comparable to conventional counterparts if you look around and compare suppliers."
When it comes to disposables, one of the best ways to reduce impact is to not use them for "in-house" dining, Davis said.
"Many fast casual brands and pretty much all fast food chains choose to exclusively use disposables, which relieves the need for a dishwashing system and the labor required to operate it. Switching to reusable servingware and utensils reduces our disposable usage significantly, offsetting any shrink and covering much of the labor cost. The upside is that consumers tend to view the same item in a real bowl as a higher value than the same item in a disposable bowl."
These are just a few of the topics that Davis and fellow panelists Gonca Esendemir, co-founder and CMO of Flatbread Grill and Mike Speck, CEO of Asian Box will discuss.
"A growing number of consumers today feel strongly about supporting brands that share their personal values," Davis said. "In the restaurant world it's literally 'putting your money where your mouth is.' When it comes to the food, sustainability has many advantages beyond just being a good idea.
"Our experience has shown that almost universally, foods raised or grown sustainably have higher quality and better taste than conventional versions of like items. In addition, choosing sustainably raised animal proteins contributes to improving overall animal welfare and bringing the cost between sustainable and conventional products closer together."
He also said a visible focus on sustainability is a cue for consumers that "this place gets me" or "this is my kind of place" for those who identify with making a positive difference in the world today."
An Essity executive will moderate the session.
Cover photo: iStock