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The Collins College Of Hospitality Management

Faculty Research Spotlight

It's Not Easy Eating Green

Dr. Ben Dewald and Barbara Jean Bruin partnered on this research.
Dr. Ben Dewald and Barbara Jean Bruin partnered on this research.

Study examines sustainable practices at restaurants

By Diana Garcia

Going green is all the rage nowadays, especially when it comes to food, so last summer, Dr. Ben Dewald, Lecturer Barbara Jean Bruin and Dr. Yoon Jang, a hospitality management Ph.D. student from Iowa State University, set out to poll America and find some answers about “green” (sustainable)
restaurants.

They gathered their research and presented their findings in a paper titled “U.S. Consumer Attitudes Toward ‘Green’Restaurants,” which has been accepted for publication in Anatolia: An International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research.

Dewald, Bruin and Jang polled nearly 350 people across the country with an online survey about their perceptions, search methods and willingness to pay more to dine at green restaurants.

Their findings revealed that more than 30 percent of respondents had eaten at what they perceived to be a green restaurant while more than half were unsure if it was truly green.

Participants felt fresh ingredients were most important in their decision to eat at a green restaurant and they made their decisions primarily through word-of-mouth. The study also showed that more than 70 percent of participants were willing to pay more for green food and over half for
green beverages.

After analyzing their findings, Bruin, Jang and Dewald came to a conclusion: Green restaurant marketing is confusing when it comes to defining why restaurants claim sustainability.

“The findings indicate that restaurant managers should focus on advertising fresh ingredients and health benefits to green consumers, who have
intentions of visiting green restaurants in the future and will share their experiences with others,” Dewald said.

Their research uncovered variables not found in the study that can serve as a springboard to future faculty research papers, according to Dewald.

“This study leads to a wealth of information and ideas for more research and we hope it will prove helpful to restaurants wanting to focus on
environmentally sustainable practices,” said Bruin.

Sonja Bjelland contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared in the 2013 fall issue of Collins magazine.