The Good Food 100 2017

Announcing 2018 Good Food 100 Restaurants™

By Sara Brito

I’m thrilled to announce the second annual list of Good Food 100 Restaurants! In total, we had 125 participants, with 23 states and all eight regions of the United States, as defined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, represented.

In an age where more and more diners are craving transparency, the Good Food 100 Restaurants list, which verifies restaurants’ “good food” purchases, offers consumers an easy way to vet restaurants and food service companies before spending their dining dollars. As an extension of taking the survey, the participating chefs, owners, and business managers gain unprecedented insight into their businesses. “We all talk about farm-to-table and transparency and buying local, but this process allows you to see if you really are walking the talk,” says Paul Reilly, chef and co-owner of Beast & Bottle and Coperta in Denver, Colorado. 

List Analysis
Of the 125 survey participants, fine dining restaurants made up 69 percent of the entrants, with casual eateries coming in at 16 percent, and fast casual spots rounding out at nine percent. Food service, specialty grocer/lunch counter, and catering services made up the remaining six percent. Eighty-nine of the participating restaurants and food service operators achieved six links, which is the maximum rating (links are akin to stars in a typical rating system). The ratings correlate to the percentage of total food costs spent to support state, regional, and national “good food” producers and purveyors versus other restaurants in the same category and region. The links correspond to the critical points of the food chain: environment, plants and animals, farmers, ranchers, fisherman, restaurants, and eaters. Twenty-seven businesses received five links, five earned four links, one nabbed three links, and three were awarded two links. All businesses who participated in this year’s survey earned one link for simply completing the lengthy questionnaire.

While most restaurants exceeded the minimum threshold for good food purchases, restaurant purchases in this study needed to meet at least the following minimum thresholds to be considered good food purchases (see FAQs).

All U.S. restaurants and food service operations—quick service, fast casual, casual dining, fine dining, meal delivery, catering, and food service—were eligible to take part in the survey. The list is based on annual, self-reported food purchasing data, independently verified by NSF (, and then analyzed by the Business Research Division at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

The 125 participating restaurants reported spending a total of $120.1 million on food, of which $85.5 million (or 71% percent of all purchases) were spent on good food. Domestic good food purchases, which totaled $80.1 million by participating restaurants, had a $255 million impact on the nation, including direct, indirect, and induced impact of the purchases. Economic benefits refer to dollars generated and distributed throughout the economy due to the existence of an establishment. This excludes the impact of overall business operations, ranging from the purchase of alcohol to labor and rent.

The percentage of good food purchases was greatest for participating specialty grocer/lunch counter (98 percent), fast casual (94 percent), and fine dining restaurants (89 percent). Nationally, restaurants reported the greatest percentage of good food purchases in the fish and seafood (93 percent) and the meat and poultry (81 percent) segments.  

Business Practices
This year’s survey also included questions regarding participants’ business practices, including hourly wages paid to both non-tipped and tipped employees, access to healthcare, as well the percentage of employees who are female (52 percent) and people of color (21 percent). In addition, when asked about pressing issues, 88 percent of respondents referenced efforts to reduce food waste and increase recycling. Seventy-nine percent reported using eco-friendly paper products and carryout containers. When asked to rank priorities in their restaurants, chefs invariably referenced food quality and taste, followed by worker welfare and environmental sustainability.

Call To Action
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Restaurants are powerful catalysts for change. When chefs and restaurants purchase good food, they have the power to impact not just what’s on a diner’s plate, but also effect every link in our food supply chain—from the environment and animals to farmers and their staff and guests—as well as state, regional, and national economies. Change happens in the kitchen. “But without buy-in three meals a day from the public, it’s just theoretical,” says Erik Oberholtzer, Founder and Chairman of Tender Greens in California, New York, and Massachusetts. Eaters must create the demand by doing their research and voting with their forks and dollars.