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Photo Courtesy of Health Magazine

Measuring the Value of Good Food

Lifestyle

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.


Sara Brito

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.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.