Measuring the Value of Good FoodMeasuring The Value Of Good FoodPhoto Courtesy of Health MagazineToday 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 BritoBut 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 AdvisorIn 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 BarbaraTo 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. Sara BritoAn entrepreneur of ideas and avowed foodie, Sara Brito is Co-Founder and President of the Good Food Media Network, a nonprofit educational organization that produces and publishes the Good Food 100 Restaurants™.