Sustainability and social responsibility are taking on greater importance within the foodservice industry, according to a recent study by the Technomic, Inc., research/consulting organization. The research included inputs from foodservice consumers, operators and suppliers to better understand the current state and future expectations for these key issues.

For consumers and operators, social responsibility and sustainability include a number of different elements, from humane treatment of animals to conservation to local community involvement. Among consumers, 63 percent say they are more likely to visit a foodservice operation they view as socially conscious.

Across all foodservice segments, operators expressed strong commitment to these initiatives for a variety of reasons, including positive impact on the environment, improved reputation and better food and beverage quality. Over half of foodservice operators (53 percent) say that having an actionable social responsibility strategy will be necessary to remain competitive in the next two years. By far, the biggest obstacle for achieving their goals is the higher costs associated with many initiatives.

"Incorporating sustainability and social responsibility elements into a foodservice operators' business is no longer a 'nice to have,'" says Wade Hanson, Technomic Principal, and director of the study. "Consumers now expect that the foodservice venues they visit exhibit social consciousness and sustainability points, just like consumers are making the effort to do in their own lives. We also see evidence that consumers are rewarding operations that meet their requirements in this increasingly critical area."