While Ted’s Montana Grill’s efforts to preserve the American bison are nothing new, customers may be less aware of the casual-dining chain’s other sustainability initiatives, such as using paper straws and making eco-friendly changes in its restrooms, further promoting its credo to “Eat Great. Do Good.”
However, not everyone stopping in for a bite wants to discuss the merits of different straw materials. Here’s how environmentally conscious restaurants like Ted’s communicate sustainability moves without sounding preachy or putting customers to sleep.
Talk the in-store talk
Sustainability is part of the DNA at Ohio-based build-your-own-sushi concept Fusian, according to co-founder Stephan Harman. At the 12-unit chain, which has implemented composting stations and made strides to cut electricity use, “The most important thing we can do is tell the story of why we do the things we do,” he says.
The team at 46-unit Ted’s Montana Grill shares sustainability stories directly, too. “If it’s a customer’s first time at Ted’s, we open up about how our brand conserves the American bison,” says Derek Walls, the chain’s PR and marketing manager. The concept’s other sustainability efforts, such as water and energy conservation and recycling, are communicated via postcards on every table, each of which reveals one of Ted’s initiatives.
Mobilize the team
Ted’s internal magazine keeps frontline staff informed of initiatives and provides talking points they can then share with customers, Walls says. The concept uses an online portal to further educate employees on its sustainability actions, and staff are tested on the material. “We engrave sustainability from the interview process through employee orientation,” says Paula Owens, Ted’s purchasing and sustainability manager. “We ensure [it’s] woven into the fabric of every conversation.”
Focus on sourcing and seasonality
Engaging its team in the story behind its ingredients is central at Fusian, whose vendors label everything thoroughly, such as noting when wild-caught tuna comes from Southeast Asia. The concept’s local produce provider also gives insights on the products it supplies, furthering the team’s sourcing knowledge. “It comes down to transparency,” Harman says. “Letting our customers know where we source our food and where it comes from is huge.”
To relay that menu story to its customers, most of whom range from age 18 to 34, Fusian relies on social media, through which the concept highlights a new seasonal ingredient each month.
Ted’s aims to avoid alienating customers while communicating brand initiatives, Owens says. Down-to-earth descriptions of its ingredients and the work it’s doing are key to that mission, using accessible language such as “fresh,” “real” and “natural.”