The Landwer café chain is replacing its disposable plastic straws with cardboard straws, sources inform "Globes." The chain, which has 77 branches around Israel, will soon complete switching the entire chain to cardboard straws. Landwer is the first restaurant chain in Israel to take this step on a nationwide scale. The chain's owners are Nir Kaspi, Oren Maor, and Ofer Koren.
The chain also instructed all of its franchise holders to serve soft drinks and juices without any straws. Customers requesting straws will be given a biodegradable straw. Only thicker beverages, such as a milkshake, will be automatically served with a straw.
Biodegradable straws are much more expensive than the plastic straws currently used by almost every restaurant and café in Israel. "The per-unit cost of a biodegradable straw is five times the cost of a plastic straw," Landwer marketing manager Hila Oshinski told "Globes," adding that the chain's goal was not only to "replace one straw with another, but to reduce the use of straws throughout the chain."
"We believe, and it has been proven by measures taken overseas, that when a drink is served without a straw, the customer frequently does not ask for one," Oshinksi comments. "We couldn't stop serving everything with straws overnight, but our goal is to greatly reduce the use of straws in the chain. If you look at it from the franchise holders' perspective, we don't want them to spend more money; we want them to spend less money, because that will motivate them to serve fewer straws."
As of now, 75% of the Landwer chain's branches have switched to biodegradable straws. Subject to the existing inventory being used up in two months, the entire chain will switch to cardboard straws. Straws are the easiest item for chains and consumers to replace and do without, but this is still a long way off.
In addition to eliminating plastic straws, Landwer is introducing another measure: starting in December, the plastic containers in which takeaway food is packaged in the chain's branches will be replaced by cardboard packages. At the same time, the chain admits that no effective solution has been found for the plastic covers protecting the food.
Concerning the covers for hot drinks, Oshinski explains, "The cups are a great challenge, and we are also watching global concerns like Starbucks that are trying to find a solution for cups, which are one of the most widely consumed products. As of now, there is still no cup sold at a reasonable price that provides a good ecological solution, but we're certainly looking for a solution for it."
How did the franchise holders respond to the news that they would have to use more expensive biodegradable straws? "No business owner is eager to pay more for anything," Oshinski answers. "It was not subject to negotiations. We announced it, eliminated the option of ordering a supply of plastic straws, and replaced it with the option of ordering biodegradable straws, together with an explanation of why it was important to do this."
"Most of the franchise holders accepted it," Oshinski adds. "Maybe they weren't all enthusiastic about it at first, but they also understand that this creates positive talk, and they're starting to get positive feedback from customers.
"Realistically, it's fairly clear that regulation in this area will come sooner or later, and then there won't be a choice. Someone who understands this realizes that it's better to be a pioneer and do things because of a real wish, instead of waiting for it to be imposed. You can't judge such things according to how much they cost; you need a general business perspective, just as the chain realized the need to serve vegan food at a time when this was not as common as it is now, and it wasn't financially worthwhile to buy raw materials for a relatively small sales volume. It enabled customers to get what they needed, even if it was a chain, and to enjoy nationwide access."
Landwer may be the first café chain to do something like this on a nationwide scale, but it will certainly not be the last one. The "United Restauranteurs are Strong" organization has called on the sector to reduce its use of plastic straws, and many private businesses that had already begun local initiatives answered the call. The Japanika chain announced that it would stop serving beverages with straws to customers, unless they specifically asked for them. Aroma Israel (a separate chain from Aroma Tel Aviv) is looking for alternatives to plastic, and is offering a NIS 1 discount on cappuccino, americano, and tea beverages to customers bringing reusable cups from home.
Last year, as awareness of the climate crisis grew, countries all over the world began banning the use of disposable plastic of various kinds. In Seattle, for example, it is forbidden to serve or sell plastic straws. California recently forbade businesses to serve plastic straws without a request from the customer. At the same time, fast food chains like Starbucks and McDonalds bowed to public pressure and are terminating their use of plastic straws.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 16, 2019
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