Small restaurants counter backlash against chains

August 23, 2011 By Jane Henion

When large restaurant companies implement sustainability policies, customers are deeply skeptical of the efforts -- and their opinion of those companies may actually diminish. But consumers do give smaller restaurants a nod for their efforts, according to a new study from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR).

Michael Giebelhausen and Helen Chun, assistant professors at Cornell's School of , examined this phenomenon to see how large companies could gain the sustainability credibility they deserve. The study, "Reversing the Green Backlash: Why Large Hospitality Companies Should Welcome 'Credibly Green' Competitors," highlights ways to offset customers' skepticism of "green" restaurant practices.

Giebelhausen and Chu conducted two experiments that found that customers seem to give more to the green activities of small companies -- for example, using organic or locally sourced ingredients. A key finding is that when customers are aware of both large and small companies trying to be greener, the presence of that smaller seems to create a halo effect, and as a result, customers' evaluations of the large company's green initiatives improve.

"It turns out that the small company and the large company don't even have to be doing the same thing," said Chun. "When a small, credible competitor is initiating sustainable policies, a large can likewise promote their own activities, even when they're different. Apparently, consumers have trouble believing that large companies are truly being green, even though we know that many chains are working hard on sustainability initiatives."

Assistance for the research study was provided by McDonald's USA, a CHR senior partner.

Explore further: How green is your campus? Motivations for sustainability for universities vs. for-profit companies

Related Stories

Go green, give a boost to employee morale

February 1, 2011

In a global recession, most people are thankful to have a job, but a new study published in Interdisciplinary Environmental Review suggests that employees are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they are working ...

Corporations can profit from being environmentally friendly

July 15, 2008

Though many policymakers have argued that environmental regulations can negatively impact an organization's bottom line, a new study by George Mason University researcher Nicole Darnall shows that companies that develop green ...

Food for thought

May 19, 2008

Pioneering research from The University of Nottingham recommends a full government environmental audit of British restaurants. The report — ‘The Environmental Sustainability of the British Restaurant Industry: A London ...

Recommended for you

80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed

January 23, 2017

Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus. The work lends further support ...

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

January 23, 2017

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient ...

New ancient otter species among largest ever found

January 23, 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was co-author on new research that described a species of otter new to science and that is among the largest otter ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.