The Good Food 100 2017

Economic Engine  

The Real Impact of the Good Food Movement

By Amanda Faison

If there was ever any doubt about the impact a restaurant has on its local economy, the Good Food Media Network’s economic assessment spells it out. Sure, there’s the light an eatery brings to the neighborhood and the full-bellied, happy diners that pass through the doors, but there’s also the larger imprint in monies and relationships that radiate far beyond a brick-and-mortar’s four walls.

This inaugural study, released on Monday, September 11, and conducted by the Business Research Division (BRD) of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, shows that the overall food purchases by the 90 participating Good Food 100 Restaurants totaled $94.8 million in 2016, of which $68.1 million were derived from good food purchases. According to the study, that $68.1 million spent by participating restaurants had a $199.9 million economic impact on the nation, including the direct, indirect, and induced impact of the purchases.

So, just what does that mean? “When chefs and restaurants purchase good food, they’re impacting more than just what’s on a diner’s plate; they’re affecting every link in our food supply chain—from the environment and animals to their staff and guests—as well as state, regional, and national economies,” says Sara Brito, co-founder and president, Good Food Media Network.

The 90 participating restaurants, whose self-reported purchases were third-party audited for consistency and verification, registered spending 72 percent of food purchases on good food. “The study findings show that there are restaurants making intentional efforts to know their supply chain and purchase a higher standard of food,” says Brian Lewandowski, Associate Director, BRD.

Although restaurants participated from across the nation, the highest percentage of good food purchases came from the Far West region (90 percent) and the Mideast region (89 percent). The survey notes that regional results may be skewed by the types of restaurants reporting by region. Of the participating restaurants, it was the Fast Casual sector (93 percent) and Fine Dining category (83 percent) that registered the most good food purchases. Nationally, restaurants reported the greatest percentage of responsible purchases in the Fish and Seafood (84 percent) and the Meat and Poultry (83 percent) segments. The survey also took jobs into account: “Of the 90 participating restaurants, 82 reported the number of full-time and part-time staff in 2016. Full-time staff for the 82 restaurants totaled 4,605 and part-time staff, 4,851, for a total of 9,456 jobs.” 

When the Good Food Media Network’s survey strayed from straight numbers, it uncovered the tenor of the good food movement: When asked what good food means to restaurants, respondents most often referenced “locale, sustainability, and knowledge of a specific producer.” Locality, the survey points out, refers to utilizing the local supply chain to buy and sell food. Sustainability encompassed “environmental impact and the sustainability of consistently producing fresh foods.” Many respondents also mentioned “the need to establish close and beneficial relationships with their food producers…the importance of having producers local to the community.” Responses also referenced the need to address food waste and make natural and ethical choices. These encompass “the social responsibility of the restaurant to produce healthy natural food that both benefited the consumer and the community as a whole.” 

The takeaway from this inaugural survey is that the restaurant is not an island, and its purchasing choices—both good and bad—have lasting, far-reaching effects.