Hospitality

Going Straw-less is Flawless for Fast Food and Fast Casual

Image Credit: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The Gist: Most Americans support eliminating plastic straws, making the decision to do so easier, specifically for fast food and fast casual establishments.


Starbucks made waves this week when it rolled out its adult sippy cup–a cleverly designed alternative to the plastic straw. Following in the footsteps of local governments and other food chains, Starbucks’ sippy cups came with the announcement that it will eliminate all plastic straws from locations by 2020.

So Long, Straws

The majority of US consumers, 13+, agree with the decision to eliminate plastic straws. While the majority is notable, the change in consumer behavior really boils down to where people are dining. People who agree with eliminating straws exhibit standard environmentally conscious behaviors: they’re twice as likely to be concerned about environmental issues and twice as likely to adjust their lifestyle to help the environment. They’re recyclers, reusable bag users, and buy locally grown food.   

But, what about a specific subset of this group? Fast food and fast casual restaurants most often use single-serve products including straws, utensils, and napkins. What do frequent diners at these establishments think?

Over half of both fast food and fast casual diners agree with the decision to eliminate straws. People who agree with the straw ban are most likely to eat at fast-casual restaurants, likely meaning they’re no stranger to single-use products. However, they’re still in agreement with the policy.

This move could bolster support from the majority of fast food and fast casual diners. People who agree with the straw ban are more likely to favor socially conscious businesses. Ditching plastic might lead to stronger support and word of mouth praise from this group.

Straw Superfans

Overall, Americans are more likely to agree than disagree with eliminating straws, which is encouraging, considering 37% of Americans use a plastic straw every time they dine in a restaurant.

Given the above stat, and considering even 37% of Americans use plastic straws “sometimes,” it’s surprising how many people are still in favor of eliminating them. People who use plastic straws every time they dine out eat most often at fast food restaurants, where these policies are most likely to be enacted.

So, how do everyday straw users feeling about a plastic straw ban?

Surprisingly, 41% of people who use plastic straws every time they dine out are ready to ditch them. Using a straw is routine for this group, yet many are in support of ditching plastic. Over half of sometimes straw users are in favor of elimination.    

At the end of the day, the straw debate has very little to do with straws, and much to do with the extent to which consumers will part ways with an experience if it’s not convenient. The majority of frequent fast food and fast casual diners are in agreement with the elimination of plastic straws, and even a significant portion of people who use plastic straws on a daily basis agree with the ban.

As restaurants, specifically fast and fast casual, adopt greener practices, it looks like they’ll maintain a significant portion of their diners, and perhaps make them even more dedicated fans.

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