Today when you open a magazine or turn on your television you’re likely to see a chef. Chefs have crossed the threshold of mainstream pop culture and now are more than just cooks – they are role models, change agents and trusted authorities on what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Every day when a chef’s steps into their kitchen, they have the power to transform good ingredients into good food.
But what is good food? To me, an avowed foodie and food industry veteran, good food goes beyond just what’s on a diner’s plate and affects every link in our food supply chain. From the environment and animals to a restaurants staff and guests - as well as state, regional and national economies—good food is beneficial for every link in our food supply chain.
That leaves the question: how can you find good food? Today, eaters are faced with an overwhelming array of choices when determining where to dine. To navigate the proliferation of food choices, eaters rely on various ratings, lists and awards to point them in the right direction. However, these lists are based on opaque standards and subjective criteria that ultimately don’t help eaters.
So, what if we flipped the model? What if there was a new model based on objective standards and transparent criteria? A model that goes beyond the taste of food and puts chefs and restaurants in control? What might this new recognition and reward system look like?
In an attempt to flip the model and change the way we view and value food, I founded the Good Food Media Network a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating eaters by cultivating a conversation and community around the people and businesses changing the food system for good.
With this mission in mind, the Good Food Media Network produced and released the inaugural Good Food 100 Restaurants list, an annual strategic rating system that measures the impact of chefs and restaurants purchasing and sustainable business practices.
The list, compiled based on self-reported annual food purchasing data and independently verified by NSF Responsible Sourcing, included restaurants from every region of the country; representing five categories (fine dining, casual dining, fast casual, food service and catering).
Early in the development process, influential culinary trailblazers, including: Mike Anthony (Gramercy Tavern, Untitled, Union Square Hospitality Group), Rick Bayless (Frontera, Tortas by Frontera), Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile & Provisions), Kelly Whitaker (Basta), Suzanne Goin (Lucques, A.O.C., Larder), Hugh Acheson (5&10), Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja), Jonathon Sawyer (Team Sawyer Restaurants), William Dissen (The Marketplace Restaurant), Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon, Butcher, Herbsaint, and Peche), Steven Satterfield (Miller Union), Paul Reilly (Beast + Bottle and Coperta), David LeFevre (Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing With Dynamite, and The Arthur J), Andrea Reusing (Lantern and The Durham), Renee Erickson (Walrus & Carpenter, The Whale Wins, Barnacle Bar, Bar Melusine, Bateau, General Porpoise) and Bill Telepan (Oceana) signed on to take the survey, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and good food systems.
Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
In total, 90 restaurants participated in the Good Food 100 inaugural survey—self-reporting their purchasing data from the previous year.
After being evaluated, the 90 participating restaurants were rated with two to six links—symbolizing links in the food chain—based on the percent of total food costs spent to support state, regional and national ‘good food’ producers and purveyors. Restaurants with six links represented the top cohort and reported the greatest percentage of good food purchases. The next cohort earned five rings and so on. 42 restaurants received six links.
Photo Courtesy of Hotel Milo Santa Barbara
To accompany and complement the inaugural list, I (the Good Food Media Network) in partnership with the Business Research Division (BRD) of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, used the data to produce an economic analysis measuring the participating restaurants’ food purchasing decisions on local, regional and national economies. The results were astounding.
The report found that the overall food purchases by the 90 participating Good Food 100 Restaurants totaled $94.8M in 2016, of which $68.1M were derived from good food purchases. To top it off, the $68.1M in good food purchases resulted in a $199M economic impact on the U.S.!
Regions that reported the highest percentage of good food purchases included the Far West region (90 percent) and the Mideast region (89 percent). Good food purchases within region were highest for the Mideast region (100 percent), Great Lakes region (99 percent), and the combined Southwest and Plains region (99 percent).
By segment, the Casual Dining restaurants reported the greatest total food purchases ($30.7M), and hence, had the greatest economic impact ($90.6M). This segment also reported the greatest level of good food purchases—$22.5M, which translated to $67.6M in total economic benefits.
These numbers are game-changing. They demonstrate the visionary power of all chefs and restaurants to fuel environmental and social change and drive economic growth. Think: if a small number of chefs have such a profound impact, just imagine the effect of hundreds or thousands across the country.
The sky is the limit for the Good Food Media Network. We hope that every restaurant, food truck, food supplier, etc. will annually take the Good Food 100 Restaurants survey. My personal goal is for the Good Food 100 logo to be a stamp of approval on menus and something that eater’s look for and must find when choosing where to dine. As transparency increasingly becomes the most important item on the menu, this—the Good Food 100—is the future.
I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.
During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.
The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.
Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.
I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.
Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.
My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:
- Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
- Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
- Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!