What if you as a restaurant owner or chef could find every lost dollar? What if you could clearly see which initiatives earn revenue and which are costing you diners? What if you could be recognized as a leader in your region, state, or even nationwide for your commitment to good food?
The Good Food 100 Restaurants movement is making this possible while rewarding restaurants for the good work they do in the kitchen and elsewhere. The mission of Good Food 100 is about promoting the people who are changing the food industry for the better as well as growing a community and the number of eaters who care about the power of good food, according to Good Food 100’s co-founder and president Sara Brito. The leaders of smart eateries like Tender Greens, The Market Place, XOCO, Miller Union, and dozens more participating in the Good Food 100 list already know this is where the food industry is headed – and why it is happy news for anyone in the business. Nearly 80 percent of diners surveyed in multiple studies report their desire not just to understand what they are eating but also where it comes from and the impact their restaurant choices have on their environment.
Brito’s venture, the Good Food Media Network is a nonprofit educational organization that produces and publishes the Good Food 100 Restaurants. Having been in the food industry for 20 years, her unique perspective includes an eagle eye on the evolution of the restaurant business. She co-created and launched the Slow Food ‘Snail of Approval’ designation given to restaurants, bars, food, and beverage artisans contributing quality, authenticity, and sustainability of the food supply of the City of New York among numerous other achievements. Here, Brito shares why the Good Food 100 listing matters and why you should apply to be on it.
What are the benefits to restaurants and diners?
If you’re proud of your food purchasing practices, you owe it to yourself, your staff, and your guests to apply to the Good Food 100 Restaurants. It is not easy to run a restaurant these days with so many challenges in staffing and labor issues as well as rising rents and managing food costs. Restaurants don’t get the credit they deserve and the media focuses on hot topic of the moments. Now that farm-to-table has moved into the mainstream, they will move on from that. Someone has to help tell the story of what these chefs are doing right on an ongoing basis.
How did this idea spring to life?
I really wanted to bring to light that good food is the right thing to do — making a moral and ethical case for it. But more than that, to bring the language that businesses speak and elected officials listen to. We help chefs tell their powerful stories about what their impact is in aggregate. In the culinary world, chefs and restaurants have to wait to be bestowed honors – wait to be named best new chef, wait to get named best new restaurant – while the Good Food 100 is putting the power back in the hands of the people who create the dishes.
Why do the Good Food 100 ratings matter and how do the economics factor into the mix?
Eaters are using lists in all forms to curate the proliferation of choices they have in where to eat. Even someone like me who works in the industry can’t keep up with all the restaurants opening, and more and more diners want to make choices based on their values. Lists that only focus on food service, ambience, or taste service, while once historically valued, are not enough anymore. We are making it easier for diners to make eating choices based on their values. Plus, many restaurants don’t even realize the good work they are doing. The 90 restaurants who applied last year generated about $61.8 million, but those dollars had an almost $199.9 million impact. So what that means, is, every dollar diners spent on good food had an almost $3 impact.
Beyond recognition, why is the Good Food 100 an important part of changing the industry for the better?
Chefs can be rock stars one day and a bad news story the next. It is so easy to fall from grace. And these days, the bad news story that brings you down could be a single tweet. Chefs and restaurants can wait until transparency is forced on them and react to it, or they can be proactive and be real leaders in moving the industry to a better place. In the future, we hope to create an annual summit of chefs gathering together with seminars and workshops grounded in the data to facilitate sharing insights and advice.
In addition to bragging rights of being proprietors of good food, some of the restaurants on last year’s list were able to correct losses through the application process. How did this occur?
Applying for the Good Food 100 list is like holding up a mirror, not just about your numbers or around a solo restaurant, but how you’re having a positive impact. It also helps restaurants not on the national radar have a real opportunity to become perceived leaders in the industry. On the economic analysis side, we have partnered with Leeds School of Business and they do all of the analysis of economic data for us. The data in aggregate serves the industry as a whole, but, individually, restaurants can see how they can compare and know where the numbers are. Before starting to fill out the application, call or email your distributors and ask for a summary of purchases for the year. You are spending thousands of dollars with them and this application process is very revealing as to where the problems in the food systems remain. Restaurants sometimes struggle with getting this information, as there is a problem with lack of transparency on that side as well. Some of our restaurants tell me they had to dig for the data from their own suppliers, but, on the flip side, they were amazed to look at their purchases at such a detailed level. They learn how much they buy from the state and region and contribute to the food economy. One restaurant revealed to me that they found mistakes on their profit and loss sheet. Analyzing your spending helps you see where your money is going. Some will often say they thought we were really doing well, but good practices have slipped. And others who didn’t think they were doing that great learned they are doing better than they thought.
Restaurants have to apply to be on the list. What is the cost, can anyone apply and is it a complicated process?
There is no cost to apply. In addition to restaurants, we also welcome food service businesses, cafeterias, food trucks, and catering and event businesses as well. Participants receive the 2018 Good Food 100 Restaurants Certificate of Participation, are listed as a participant in the 2018 Good Food 100 Restaurants List, and participant in the economic assessment and receive a PDF File of the 2018 Good Food 100 Restaurants economic assessment. The more willing you are to be transparent, the more recognition you can get. The biggest challenge depends on your own accounting and bookkeeping system and how accessible data is. Some restaurants are still on a paper system and that can be more challenging.
What can restaurants expect when filling out the application?
You begin at our website by clicking the orange ‘apply now’ button. Next, just download to print and preview the application. There are only seven steps, which include: basic contact information, food purchasing data, basic business info, labor questions, ranking quality food costs, and the biggest challenges to implement good food and barriers to that. Lastly, you upload your logo, sign, and submit the application. Anyone can fill it out, including chefs or restaurant owners, but often times they will delegate that to an assistant or marketing person. However, this is a great avenue for a staff member who has expressed a desire to become a chef de cuisine for that person to learn about food costs and what it really takes to run a restaurant. You can also task your accountant with delivering the data.
What happens after you receive all the applications?
The deadline is May 25, and, in July, the data is analyzed by Leeds School of Business. Then on September 12, we list the ratings and publish the economic assessment. Everyone who applies is featured on the list and receives a “links” rating of anywhere from 2-6 links for good food as compared to their region. As outlined in the application, they also receive items to celebrate making the list such as decals, logo certificates, t-shirt, and hat. Visit goodfood100restaurants.org to apply.