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National Restaurant Association - Hooking customers on sustainability

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Hooking customers on sustainability

A dash of entertainment can help a restaurant teach customers about seafood sustainability and what it does to protect the seas.

“No one wants a side of eco-guilt with their steak,” said Emily Howgate, program manager of Seafood Choice-SeaWeb. Howgate moderate the panel, “Get Hooked: Selling the Sustainable Seafood Story” at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, which closed Tuesday.

Fear messages, such as "The seas are dying; we’re all screwed’," don't resonate with consumers, said Kassia Perpich, sustainable seafood manager for Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. “What does resonate is a humorous message.”

Chef Barton Seaver said an interesting, engaging narrative can greatly enhance a seafood meal while opening customers’ eyes to what the restaurant is doing to promote sustainability.

At his company’s Hook restaurant in Washington, D.C., a guest might look at the menu, see 15 types of fish and note that he or she recognizes three of them, he said. That turns into an an opportunity for education.

Seaver's restaurant trains servers to use such openings to talk about the fish on the menu and the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability in an engaging, spirited way, he said.

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