Sustainable Restaurants: The Future of the Hospitality Industry

Green is no longer just a trend. It’s a way of life” 

With the growing awareness of environmental and climatic conditions that the world is facing, the knowledge of how every individual can contribute to resolving these global issues by bringing about small but significant changes in our way of life is also expanding. Many businesses and industries are making genuine efforts towards sustainability thereby contributing to environmental well-being. The story is not different for the restaurant and hotel industry. What can dining places do to save the planet, one might ask. Well, high-end hotels and restaurants of the industry are leading by example.

These hotels implement sustainable procedures to their everyday routine tasks starting from organic ingredients to educating the masses about the source of the food they are consuming, as well as practicing “sustainability dining”. They keep their carbon footprint in check by purchasing the raw materials that include vegetables, fruits, spices, meat as well as fish that are locally produced. The menus of these restaurants revolve around the availability of fresh, seasonal products having high nutritional value rather than the products stored in the cold storage. They see to it that the endangered species are kept off the menus in order to address the issue of over-exploitation of these species and to encourage their preservation. Taj Safari Hotels and ITC Hotels are a few examples that have shown a great commitment to the sustainability program by curating their menus solely based on seasonal and locally grown and procured ingredients.

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The sustainable approach in the hospitality industry has set a trend having social (giving back to the society in the form of employment to the locals), environment (reduction in carbon print) as well as economic advantages. In terms of the economy, it can be observed that irrespective of being called an agriculturally self-sufficient country, India still imports fruits and vegetables from various countries. Vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and yellow peppers are not available in all seasons in India, hence, they are required to be imported to meet their demand in the Indian market. However, this import of agricultural and allied products in India has decreased by 16.48% as per the Annual Report published by the Ministry of Commerce in 2018-19, owing to the large scale shift in the consumption patterns of the people.

A group of 20 farmers in Uttarakhand is responsible for supplying to luxury hotels and restaurants in the region. This Farm-to-fork policy has enabled the local farmers to directly benefit from the initiative and it emphasizes on expanding the network of local producers and farmers, thereby creating employment for more and more people which addresses a major challenge that the Indian economy faces. It also bridges the gap between the farmers and the consumers.

This new angle of sustainability has led to the establishment of many startup businesses who work primarily to connect the farmers and local producers directly to the restaurants as they mediate the supply of indigenous ingredients. These organizations also deem to provide help to the farmers to efficiently market their produce, which in turn helps increase their incomes, thus impacting the GDP of the country.

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We can say that in the next four-five years, the concept of ‘sustainable dining’ will be more widely accepted as many leading industry players have already started entering into partnerships and tie-ups to promote sustainability programs. Fabcafe by Fabindia is one such business that has tied up with Organic India to seek ingredients of indigenous nature. Many such tie-ups are to be witnessed in the near future as the idea of sustainability is flourishing.

The paradigm shift in the industry though appeals to many, it does not come without its share of challenges. The new endeavours, at a point of time when there is cut-throat competition in the industry, cannot afford to be a pure sustainable outlet working entirely with sustainable produces. This is because there isn’t much awareness amongst people about ‘sustainable dining’. At times, the organic produce increase the cost of production of the restaurants, however, a large section of the population is not yet willing to spend more on sustainable food. Hence, higher costs and lesser demand discourage businesses from focusing on sustainability in its totality, however, they do offer the option of sustainable meals to their customers along with other mass-produced food. 

Secondly, people would prefer standardized goods to sustainable goods. For instance, apple and celery vinery made from local produce in Mumbai will taste different from the one produced in Delhi due to differences in the terrain. Hence, the menus of a particular branded hotel based in Delhi won’t be uniform across outlets and supply chains thereby reducing the profit margins. Such outlets refrain from practicing sustainability. 

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The food system is responsible for 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions as per reports. The growing awareness about greener restaurants and consumer preference for sustainable dining is ton the rise. Sustainable themes are currently ranking in the top 20 food trends. The number of people willing to pay more to eat nutritious and healthy food is increasing. This behavior of the people encourages the eateries to make commitments towards sustainability in their businesses. Restaurants can implement sustainable measures and can effectively highlight and market them to create a significant differentiating factor, thus capturing that fleeting consumer loyalty that restaurants are always on the lookout for. This results in sustainability becoming a lifestyle and not a trend.

-Anjali Sharma

References

Basu S, Khosla V. (2019, November 1). ‘How India’s luxury hotels and restaurants are becoming more sustainable’.  Retrieved from:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/hotels-/-restaurants/how-indias-luxury-hotels-and-restaurants-are-becoming-more-sustainable/articleshow/71859344.cms

Economic Times Bureau  (2017, August 27). ‘Millennial India is slowly and steadily advocating sustainable dining’.  Retrieved from:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/sustainable-dining-a-movement-that-is-gathering-pace/articleshow/60235500.cms?from=mdr

 

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