In recent years, restaurants around the country have found success by “going green” in some aspect of their operations. Popular trends include serving organic foods (which don't use pesticides and therefore are considered “kinder” to the environment), locally grown foods (which use less fuel in transit), food grown in rooftop gardens, foraged foods, and meat from every part of an animal (which prevents waste).
While many of these trends have become more or less mainstream, other green trends still raise an eyebrow, including the practice of eating an animal known as the “swamp rat,” which some Louisiana residents have apparently taken to doing.
Can Being Too Green Increase Your Risk Profile?
One reason restaurant owners adopt trends (green or otherwise) is to increase revenue. But if you miscalculate and follow the wrong trend, the move can have exactly the opposite effect. Naturally, introducing a new product that drives away customers is not a good risk management strategy.
Here's why we mention it: in Louisiana, people have taken to eating an animal officially called the nutria, but colloquially called the “swamp rat.” These 20-pound rodents…
- Were introduced to Louisiana from Argentina in the 1930s for their fur.
- Have no natural predators in Louisiana's swamplands, and so have increased significantly in number.
- Are becoming an environmental nuisance as they eat away at Louisiana's swampland.
The state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has called Louisiana residents to eat swamp rats as a way of helping protect the environment, and the FDA has given the nutria its stamp of approval.
Taste testers (you can view their video here) evaluated the meat as “okay,” though some recipes apparently bring out the virtues of swamp rat meat better than others. But the question remains: is putting “extreme green” cuisine on a menu a smart move for a restaurant?
Balancing Green Trends and Customer Expectations
The answer may depend on the people eating at your establishment. As you consider implementing the next green trend in your restaurant, be sure to consider the following risk management issues that may affect you outcomes…
- Food inspection and approval: Make sure any home-grown or foraged items have the green light from necessary inspection bodies so you don't increase your risk of completed products liability.
- Marketing and awareness: Swamp rat stew may appeal to certain customers; others are more likely to choose a nutria mousse or steak. If and when you add edgier items to your menu, be sure to present them in such a way that they sell – or prepare for a lot of wasted money in inventory investment.
- Server and chef preparation: Make sure your front-of-the-house staff is ready to explain the ingredients of new dishes and the back-of-the-house knows how to prepare them so they're safe to eat. Otherwise, you could have a costly lawsuit on your hands.