The majority of restaurants are falling behind consumer expectations when it comes to ethical standards, according to the author of a new guide by Ethical Consumer.

It has ranked 30 restaurant operators on a range of ethical and environmental factors, including their commitment to paying the National Living Wage (NLW), supply chain management, use of palm oil and animal rights.

Author of the guide Francesca de la Torre, told MCA: “The key issues that came out of our research on restaurant chains were transparency, sourcing and workers’ rights.”

She said criticisms around tipping were closely linked to low pay, as some restaurants were accused of changing policies on tipping and benefits in lieu of the introduction of the NLW, with long hours and “unfair contracts” widespread.

“None of the restaurants we covered appeared to be making any public commitment to paying The Living Wage Foundation’s ‘Real Living Wage’,” she added.

In addition de la Torre said that most restaurants were not providing enough information on their sourcing practices or environmental impacts. “Restaurants need to be more transparent and work closely with the relevant organisations to improve policies and practices where needed e.g. the Marine Conservation Society,” she explained.

On the importance to consumers’ of businesses ethical behaviours, de la Torre noted that its research had showed that the ethical food market has doubled in size over the last 10 years and is now valued at £9.8bn, with people buying more Fairtrade organic and free-range produce.

“The marked increase in vegetarian and vegan options on menus compared to our previous guide also demonstrates that the trends towards ethical consumerism can affect restaurants as well,” she said.

The restaurants are scored out of 20, with operators including Wahaca (8), All Bar One (7.5) and Brunning and Price (7.5) faring best overall.

However, some businesses have challenged their rankings. Azzurri Group, which saw its Zizzi and ASK Italian brands placed at the bottom of the table, challenged the research.

“We were disappointed to see the report released by the EthicalConsumer.org that ranked Zizzi and ASK Italian poorly. On investigation, we understand that our rating has been influenced by information gathered from other companies owned by our private equity investor, Bridgepoint,” a spokesperson for the group responded, reported iNews.

“Ask Italian and Zizzi are not linked in any way to Bridgepoint’s other portfolio brands beyond sharing the same investor. Therefore, we do not feel this report is an accurate reflection of Ask Italian and Zizzi’s performance on CSR,” they added.

Responding to Ethical Consumer’s findings, Andrew Stephen, CEO of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, commented: “The array of ethical issues that a restaurant can affect (both positively and negatively) is mind boggling. People running restaurants are time poor, operating on low margin, and (generally) have a low level of awareness of many of the impacts of their operations.”