Posted on October 16, 2019 by Sustainable Food News

Restaurant purchases of ‘good food’ add $213 mil’ to economy, says study

For chefs, environmental sustainability, animal welfare rank below food taste

The national economic contribution of “good food” purchases by 137 restaurants participating in the third annual survey of Good Food 100 Restaurants, a program of the Good Food Media Network, Inc. (GFMN), was $213 million, including direct, indirect, and induced impact of the purchases.

That’s according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, which measured the impact of sustainable supply chains on the economy, was based on ratings of “good food” restaurants by Denver, Colo.-based GFMN, which releases the annual Good Food 100 Restaurants list.

Of the 137 survey participants, fine-dining restaurants made up 66 percent of the entrants, with casual eateries coming in at 14 percent, and fast-casual spots rounding out at 10 percent. Foodservice, specialty grocer/lunch counter, and catering services made up the remaining six percent.

The survey also asked restaurants and chefs to rank sustainability practices and importance of factors relating to their businesses.

Restaurants practiced some sustainable practices within their businesses:


Sustainable practices by restaurant type:


Chefs were asked to rank priorities for their restaurant


Top 5 challenges facing restaurants employees

The report showed that restaurants responding to the survey showed the main challenges facing employees, which included:

  • Finding affordable housing – 71 percent
  • Healthcare costs – 60 percent
  • Transportation costs – 35 percent
  • Childcare costs – 28 percent
  • Commuting time –  16 percent

Breaking down the numbers

The 137 participating restaurants in 29 states, whose self-reported purchases were third-party audited by NSF International for consistency and verification, registered spending 67 percent of food purchases on “good food,” according to the study.

The percentage was greatest for participating Specialty Grocer/Lunch Counter and Other (95 percent), Fine Dining (88 percent), and Fast Casual restaurants (86 percent). Nationally, restaurants reported the greatest percentage of good food purchases in the fish and seafood (85 percent) and meat and poultry (83 percent) segments.


“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,” said Paul Reilly, chef and co-owner of Beast + Bottle and Coperta in Denver, Colo.

The report said that the $213 million in economic benefits from “good food” purchases refer to dollars generated and distributed throughout the economy due to the existence of an establishment and excludes the impact of overall business operations, ranging from the purchase of alcohol to labor and rent.

Good Food 100 List analysis

Participating restaurants reported operating an average of 10.6 years, with 36 percent five years old or less. More than 53 percent of participating businesses reported being owned or co-owned by a female or minority, and 38 percent reported having a female executive chef, culinary director, CEO, or owner.

Of the participating restaurants and food service operators, 103 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, and the links correspond to the critical points of the food chain: environment, plants and animals, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, restaurants, and eaters.

Twenty-two businesses received five links, five earned four links, five nabbed three links, and one was awarded two links.

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

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