On most restaurant ranking lists—and in the minds of most diners—taste is of utmost importance. But for Sara Brito, that’s just scratching the surface.
Brito is the president and co-founder of the Denver-based nonprofit Good Food Media Network, which recently released its second annual Good Food 100 Restaurants list. This list takes a different approach to spotlighting good food: it honors restaurants and chefs who are committed to sustainable and transparent food-purchasing practices, lauding their efforts towards building a better food system.
“Traditionally, the way we as a culture have thought about good food has been very subjective; it’s been primarily focused on what’s on the plate and how what’s on the plate tastes,” Brito said. With the Good Food 100 Restaurants list, she wants to guide consumers and the food industry as a whole towards a more holistic definition: food that “honors and supports every link in the food chain,” she said.
The list rates participating restaurants based on their impact on each of six steps in the food chain: eaters; restaurants and grocery stores; purveyors and distributors; producers like farmers, ranchers, and fishermen; plants and animals; and the environment. Good Food awards restaurants “links” based on the percentage of their good food purchases across the chain, with six links being the highest ranking. Ratings are determined from self-reported food purchasing data submitted by the participants.
This year, 125 restaurants and food service businesses across the country, from quick service and fast-casual concepts to fine dining establishments, participated. That’s up from 88 last year, Good Food 100’s inaugural year. Brito credits the 40 percent increase to both word of mouth and the intensifying spotlight on transparency in the food industry and among the cultural conversation—whether it’s about sustainable sourcing or sexual misconduct behind restaurant kitchen doors.
According to an analysis conducted with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, this year’s Good Food list participants spent a total of $80.1 million on sustainable food purchases. That in turn contributed to a $255 million economic impact on the national “good food” economy.
“That means for every dollar they spent on good food, it had a three dollar economic impact,” Brito said. “That is power. To have three times the economic impact is to have power, and to make a difference.”
That power trickles down to the consumer as well.
For chefs and restaurants, Good Food 100 offers what Brito calls a “badge of honor” for their practices; for eaters, it serves as a “proxy of trust” to consult before making dining decisions. Brito emphasizes the “practical day-to-day power that all of us as eaters have … that’s our personal actions.”
“Every eater has an opportunity to vote every time they pick up a fork, and every time they use their wallet to buy food.”
The full list can be found online at GoodFood100Restaurants.org. Diners can also look for the 2018 Good Food 100 decals on restaurant windows or websites, which are awarded to participants that earn a rating of two or more links.