Eliminating or reducing the use of plastic straws is one way restaurants are looking to woo environmentally-conscious customers and one New Hampshire restaurant chain has become the latest entrant into that trend.
Great NH Restaurants, owners of T-Bones Great American Eatery, Cooper Door, CJ’s Great West Grill and Cactus Jack’s Grill and Watering Hole, announced this summer that they switched to paper straws at their nine restaurants across New Hampshire.
Although customers at each of the restaurants still can ask for plastic straws, the chain believes it will serve two million fewer plastic straws this year between the new paper straws its recent move to stop automatically offering plastic straws.
Nicole Barreira, director of marketing and menu development for Great NH Restaurants, estimates only about 15 percent of customers have expressed opposition to paper straws.
“Most of our guests love it and support it, as do our staff. We have a lot of staff members who applauded it and support it,” she said.
Other New Hampshire restaurants — including The Common Man’s 15 locations across the state — have also made the switch from plastic to paper straws.
Eateries across the country are also making the move, with the Bedford-based Good Start Packaging helping other restaurants with that transition.
Along with the Great NH Restaurants chain, Good Start Packaging of Bedford has accrued a wide array of clients for its environmentally friendly food service items ranging from local restaurants such as Big Kahuna’s Catering in Merrimack and Taco Odelay in Keene to the University of Arizona and the Hyatt Regency at Los Angeles International Airport.
Good Start CEO and Founder Ken Jacobus says he’s seen business grow 80 percent in the last year thanks to the growth in use of paper straws.
That growth has come from in part from the efforts from environmental activists as well as shifting trends in the global recycling industry.
Jacobus says paper straws cost about 80 percent more than plastic straws, a larger gap than in other areas of food packaging. Still, that 80 percent comes out to approximately an extra penny per straw, a small price to pay compared to the intangible benefits.
“Most people can get their emotional minds around (the cost) because they can feel good about what they’re doing for their customers and the customer can feel good,” he says.
One concern regarding paper straws has been their durability, a point that Good Start Packaging has aimed to fix through extensive testing.
The straws offered by Good Start Packaging in the Good NH Restaurants chain and elsewhere attempt to address this issue through using multiple layers, all of which are vegan-friendly and non-toxic.
“I think it has a lot to do with the quality,” Barriera said. “Like anything else that’s new to the market, there needs to be some tweaks and changes to make things better. It performs in the exact same way. As long as it doesn’t break down or impact the beverage, I don’t see why there would be any pushback.”
It remains to be seen what the future might be for this trend, but Bow resident and recent T-Bones customer Patrick Gosselin thinks paper straws are likely here to stay.
“I think the bottom line is that some people who don’t like them might just be resistant to change,” he says. “Once they use them, they’ll realize that some work pretty well and they’re better for the environment overall.”