History

Our major milestones and initiatives

1987

Bon Appétit Management Company Founded

The birth of a food service pioneer

In the 1980s, the industry standard for college and corporate cafeterias was casseroles and mystery meat, served glop by glop out of steam tables. If you were seeking a fresh vegetable, you were out of luck unless iceberg lettuce qualified. However, Fedele Bauccio and Ernie Collins, veterans of food service giant Saga Corporation, were convinced that cutting-edge employers and educators were ready for a different kind of food service. So they bought Bon Appétit Catering, a San Francisco-based catering company known for its incredible food presentation, and relaunched it as Bon Appétit Management Company. The new company hired chefs to cook fresh, restaurant-quality food from scratch — and the food-perks arms race began in the young Silicon Valley.

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1999

Farm to Fork

A groundbreaking, companywide initiative requiring our chefs to buy at least 20% of their ingredients from small farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food producers within 150 miles of their kitchens.

In search of the freshest, best-tasting ingredients, Bon Appétit chefs have always purchased produce, meat, and artisan-made goods locally. For a long time, however, we didn’t think of this as a political act, just as the way to get the highest-quality products. Then we came to a turning point. We realized how much flavor was being lost in exchange for agribusiness efficiencies — such as tomatoes picked hard and green so as to survive being shipped across the country — and we began a concerted effort to support local farmers in order to preserve flavor on the plate.

In 1999, we formally launched our companywide commitment to buying locally and called it Farm to Fork. We require our chefs to purchase at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small (under $5 million in sales), owner-operated farms and ranches located within 150 miles of their kitchens. (Here’s the rest of our criteria.) Such produce is often prepared and served within 48 hours of harvest. The result: healthier communities and customers, and spectacular flavors.

By buying directly from farmers, we have much more control over what types of agribusiness we are supporting. We support true family farms where the owners live on or nearby the land, work it themselves, and therefore are conscientious stewards. We also support farmers who are preserving the diversity of our food choices by planting heirloom vegetables rather than genetically modified “super-produce.”

Bon Appétit now spends tens of millions of dollars per year with our more than 1,200 registered Farm to Fork vendors. In 2011, we defined a new midsize category for regional meat producers, and also launched a companion seafood program, called Fish to Fork.

Over the years, our close relationships with farmers have opened our eyes to the many problems plaguing not just U.S. agriculture, but our food system overall. What began with a quest for flavor has become a quest to make a better food system for all.

See our Farm to Fork registration guidelines >

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2001

Responsible Disposables

Applying innovation to reduce, reuse, and recycle

Just like our food choices, our selection of to-go containers and disposable serviceware has environmental impacts. At Bon Appétit Management Company, our first choice is always to encourage the use of china and silverware. When to-go containers are necessary, we try hard to choose those whose production and disposal are the least damaging. Since 2001 we’ve been using plates, clamshells, cups, bowls, and flatware from renewable sources such as corn, sugarcane, and potato starch in select locations. We are conscious that questions remain about the energy inputs required to manufacture and transport these products and the resulting impacts on climate change from both manufacturing and disposal. We continue to research options and await more public, peer-reviewed studies. We are also actively introducing alternatives to disposable containers. At several universities and corporate locations, we have successfully introduced a reusable plastic clamshell for to-go orders.

What happens to the products post-use is crucial as well. We recycle as much as possible and compost at many of our locations, whether through municipal pickups, campus farm onsite piles, or arrangements with local farmers.

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2002

Sustainable Seafood

Our chefs strive to serve only seafood species that are rated Best Choice or Good Alternative according to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® guidelines for institutional buyers.

Postr for our Save Seafood Tour

Poster for our Save Seafood Tour

In 2002, we partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium and learned about an internal guide they had created to steer seafood choices toward sustainable fisheries — what would later become the world-renowned Seafood Watch® program. Spurred by learning from the Aquarium about overfishing and ocean degradation, we began a nationwide rollout of Seafood Watch in 2002 and made adherence a non-negotiable food standard in 2004 for all our fresh and frozen seafood purchases. We were the first food service company to address the problems with seafood, and we’ve made the most comprehensive commitment to sustainable seafood of any national restaurant or food company to date.

After adopting the Seafood Watch standards as our own, we co-sponsored the making of the Emmy-nominated documentary Farming the Seas and, together with Seafood Watch, created the Save Seafood Tour to educate people about the issues surrounding seafood and activate them to make sustainable choices.

Supporting sustainable seafood has become more than a food standard. It is part of the Bon Appétit culture — part of who we are.

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Bon Appétit’s commitment to sustainable seafood sourcing remains second to none.

Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Director of Seafood Watch

rBGH Free

All our milk and yogurt comes from cows not treated with artificial bovine growth hormones

As part of our commitment to responsible animal welfare practices and the health of our guests, in 2002 we switched to using only milk from cows not treated with rBGH. We later added yogurt to this sourcing standard.*

Recombinant bovine growth hormone (known as rBGH and also in its patented form as rBST) is a genetically engineered hormone that is injected into dairy cows to raise their milk production. It has been shown to increase the rates of mastitis and lameness in cows. A significant body of scientific data has also linked its use to possible increases in certain types of cancer and to antibiotic resistance in humans. Most other industrialized nations have banned the use of rBGH.

*The Food and Drug Administration requires that voluntarily labeling of dairy “from cows not treated with rBST” be accompanied by the statement that “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows.” Not all of the suppliers of our other dairy products can guarantee that the milk they use comes from untreated cows.

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2003

Circle of Responsibility

Educating our guests about how their food choices impact the environment, community, and personal well-being

In 2003 we launched a new staff-and-guest education program called the Circle of Responsibility that took a macro view of wellness, designed to give our employees and our customers information (both online and in-café) about how food choices affect their environment, community, and well-being. In addition, each café’s menu prominently displays Circle of Responsibility icons that help guests identify foods that are vegetarian, vegan, organic, locally sourced, and more.

For our staff, we offer interactive online modules that examine how Bon Appétit’s kitchen principles support the environment, the community, and personal health. After completing the training, café staff members are prepared to engage guests and teach them about our company’s core sustainability principles and their beneficial effects.

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Fighting Antibiotics Abuse

Sourcing chicken, turkey, and ground beef from animals raised without antibiotics as a routine additive to their feed or water

In 2002 we partnered with Environmental Defense Fund to look at how we could support decreasing the meat and poultry industry’s abuse of antibiotics, and in 2003, we committed to buying only chicken raised without the routine, “non-therapeutic” use of these drugs in their feed or water — the first food-service company to make this switch. We extended our policy to purchases of turkey breast in 2005 (and to all turkey in 2010), making us the first restaurant company to take a stand on antibiotic use in turkey production.

Starting in March 2007, we required our chefs purchase only “natural” ground beef. While there is no strict legal definition of “natural,” our suppliers commit to following these standards:

  • No antibiotics (ever)
  • No added growth hormones (ever)
  • No animal byproducts in feed (ever)

What does antibiotic use in agriculture have to do with food service? As a socially responsible company, we are committed to helping address the public health threat from antibiotic resistance.

Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, depend on giving animals drugs — the same ones humans depend on to fight disease — for both growth promotion and preventing illness from overcrowding. By an FDA finding, 80 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are fed to farm animals that are not sick, in order to promote growth or prophylactically treat diseases caused by questionable animal husbandry practices. This has given rise to drug-resistant bacteria that are causing a crisis in human health: recent studies have linked the routine use of antibiotics in animals to the rise of drug-resistant infectious bacteria like MRSA, which now kills more Americans every year than AIDS.

 

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2004

Trans Fat-Free Oils

Switching to non-hydrogenated canola oil in our fryers

When research came out linking heart disease to fats, we converted all of our frying oil to canola oil. In addition, heart-healthy olive and canola oils are used for everyday salad dressings, and specialty oils are for other purposes (e.g., sesame oil for Chinese cooking). In 2004, a non-hydrogenated canola oil came on the market and Bon Appétit was the first food-service company to use it throughout all of our operations. The result is healthier food for our guests.

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2005

Reducing Food Waste

Decreasing what we send to the landfill, to cut our greenhouse gas emissions

At Bon Appétit, we hate food waste with a passion. It’s a big contributor to climate change. Wasting food means you’re also wasting all the energy it took to grow, harvest, transport, and cook it. In addition, food decomposing in landfills releases methane, the greenhouse gas that is 20 to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States.

As part of our Low Carbon Diet program, Bon Appétit launched a 12-week Food Waste Reduction campaign in all cafés nationwide. By April 2009, we reduced food waste generated in our cafés by 30% through

  1. educating chefs and kitchen staff on proper portioning and prepping techniques,
  2. a daily waste-monitoring program in all kitchens, and
  3. a consumer-waste reduction educational campaign, which included weighing and measuring food at dish return stations and encouraging trayless dining where appropriate.

As a result of these efforts, we achieved a weekly reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions between 40 and 50 tons.

We are proud to have been able to keep our food waste tonnage down since. Currently, the teams at our cafés divert more than 40 percent (by weight) of what remains of their food waste from landfills. We try to stop waste from happening in the first place by:

  • Preparing food from scratch. We encourage snout-to-tail and stem-to-root cooking by making all of our own stocks and soups — great destinations for bones and vegetable trimmings.
  • Batch cooking. Our vegetables are prepared in batches at the last possible minute and served in the smallest possible quantities to ensure both freshness and minimize waste.
  • Talking people out of trays. In 2005 our general manager at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine pioneered trayless dining after he found he could cut consumer waste dramatically simply by removing the trays from the café. Trayless dining is now a nationwide movement — dozens of our college dining halls and corporate cafés have tossed their trays. Going trayless encourages people to take just what they can eat, not what they can carry, and substantially cuts down on post-cooking food waste.

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    A Wheaton College student prepares to go trayless

Even though we’re proactive, there is always inevitably some food going to waste. We try to find alternative uses and destinations for it by composting and recycling. We compost food waste on site and through municipal programs; we send scraps to Farm to Fork partners (for animal feed or composting) and waste fryer oil to biofuel processors. In fact, a handful of our catering vans run on waste vegetable oil from our cafés! And in 2013, we began a concerted campaign to promote food recovery partnerships.

USF student Kathleen Shelton helps guests sort their waste into the right bin

USF student Kathleen Shelton helps guests sort their waste into the right bin

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Composting the Kitchen Waste

The Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation

Changing the way chefs and consumers think about food

When the idea of a nonprofit associated with Bon Appétit Management Company arose in 2005, our thinking was to create an entity apart from the business through which we could step back, research, and educate others about the underpinnings of our food system, providing a structure that would catalyze positive change.

Since its launch that year, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation has become an invaluable source of practical information for Bon Appétit chefs, managers, clients, and guests: about what sustainability means for seafood choices, how the food system contributes to climate change (and how climate change affects the food system), and what steps we can take to uphold the rights of agricultural workers.

In its first year of operation, we used a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to host the Save Seafood Tour in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. We made presentations to more than 1,000 Bon Appétit guests and 400 Bon Appétit kitchen staffers at 20 locations about seafood choices and their connection to maintaining healthy oceans.  And also as part of what we called the Making Waves project, we encouraged other food companies to change their seafood buying practices and to be consistent with internationally recognized conservation standards. We’re proud to say that as a result of our work, a resolution was adopted by the board of our parent company, Compass Group, in November 2005 to phase in new purchasing standards for seafood. This change in purchasing practices affected more than 1 million pounds of seafood each year.

Subsequent activities:

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Eat Local Challenge

Celebrating our farmers annually with a 100% local meal

Six years after we launched our Farm to Fork program, but long before the word “locavore” entered common usage, we decided to challenge our chefs to hold an event with a meal made completely from local ingredients (defined as coming from within a 150-mile radius of the café). If they wanted to serve a turkey sandwich, for example, then not just the turkey, but also the yeast and wheat for the bread, the milk for the cheese, the eggs for the mayo, et cetera all had to be locally grown. The only exception allowed was salt.

We thought that this challenge would illustrate the homogenization of our regional food choices, but we found the opposite was true. Our chefs were easily able to create amazingly diverse meals using ingredients specific to their food sheds — and an annual tradition was born.

St. Edwards University Executive Chef Elvin Lubrin and Katie Kraemer Pitre, owner of Tecolote Farms, on Eat Local Challenge Day 2013

St. Edwards University Executive Chef Elvin Lubrin and Katie Kraemer Pitre, owner of Tecolote Farms, on Eat Local Challenge Day 2013

Eat Local Challenge is hands-down our teams’ and our guests’ favorite companywide event. We love celebrating our local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food craftspeople and explaining to our guests why supporting them is so vital to our food supply. Although we serve locally grown food every day in our cafés, highlighting this extreme example of a 100% local meal has started lively conversations amongst guests and our staff. We are proud to be the first food service company to create and celebrate the Eat Local Challenge annually.

Read about 2013’s Eat Local Challenge in Bravo, our company magazine.

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Cage-Free Eggs

Switching our shell eggs to come from hens not confined to battery cages

In 2005 we began sourcing all of our shell eggs cage-free. A concerned student at a university account had first brought the issue of battery cages in the egg industry to our attention. We learned that in these tiny cages, each laying hen is allotted only 67 square inches of space, less than a standard sheet of paper, on which to live their entire lives. These barren enclosures are so restrictive that the birds can barely move, let alone engage in most natural behaviors such as nesting, foraging, or even spreading their wings.

In addition, battery operations stack literally hundreds of thousands of these hens into very tight conditions, creating massive amounts of manure. This can lead to poor air quality and potentially unsafe conditions for farmworkers, as well significant pollution of surrounding land and waterways.

We think this cruelty and negative environmental impact is unacceptable. We worked with the Humane Society of the United States to create a trustworthy program and decided that third-party certification was important. The egg farms that supply us must meet the animal welfare standards of one of three independent auditing organizations: Humane Farm Animal Care, Animal Welfare Approved, or Food Alliance. Battery cages are not permitted and the housing facilities must include areas for hens to nest, dust bathe, scratch, and perch.

Bon Appétit was the first restaurant company to make a national commitment to cage-free shell eggs and in 2012, we vowed to expand this commitment to precracked (liquid) eggs by 2015 — another first for food service. For us, it’s simply the right thing to do. Hear our CEO Fedele Bauccio and VP of Strategy Maisie Ganzler explain why, in this video for the Word Society for the Protection of Animals.

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2006

Mercury Awareness

Providing information to protect our guests from mercury

While medical experts agree that seafood is a healthful dietary choice, certain fish species may contain toxic levels of mercury. In 2006, we teamed with GotMercury.org to provide the necessary information for people to make educated choices about their seafood consumption. Signage in our cafés directs fish eaters to the GotMercury.org calculator, which they can use to gauge their personal mercury exposure and intake risk.

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2007

Healthy Cooking Initiative

Ensuring healthy menu items are a mainstream offering throughout our cafés

Growing portion sizes and “empty” calories are major contributors to expanding waistlines and health complications including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. As a socially responsible food service company, we knew we had to help our guests make a change.

In 2007, we took action to improve the health and wellness of our customers. In addition to our existing policies of using healthy cooking techniques, wholesome products and trans-fat free oils, we implemented more than 25 new guidelines designed to ensure healthy offerings are available throughout our cafés. Bon Appétit’s Healthy Cooking Initiative emphasizes the use of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as featured ingredients, utilizes “stealth nutrition” to camouflage healthy choices in everyday food preparation, and encourages guests to choose healthy dishes through ease of access and appealing presentation. Portion sizes are based on the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and high fructose corn syrup and trans fats are banned from house-made foods. (Learn more)

To develop and implement these healthy initiatives was no simple task, but Bon Appétit’s existing kitchen principles lent for a smooth transition. Because all of our chefs cook from scratch, we can control every single ingredient of our menu. Ultimately, our goal is to offer our guests great-tasting healthful food options any time, any place.

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Low Carbon Diet

Tackling climate change through our food choices

How we eat is affecting the planet, but a handful of simple dietary choices and practices can have the same impact as switching from driving a large SUV to a more fuel-efficient sedan.

Greenhouse gases created by the food system — including production, distribution, and waste — are responsible for one-third of global emissions. At Bon Appétit, we see that as opportunity to make positive change.

LCD_LogoIn early 2007, our Low Carbon Diet (developed by our Foundation arm) was the first national program to highlight the significance of food to climate change, and we became the first company to take steps to reduce the food service sector’s contribution to the problem. We partnered with a science research team, headed by the highly respected nonprofit Ecotrust, for data gathering and number crunching. Our campaign was three-pronged:

  1. Develop an interactive, database-driven tool, the Low Carbon Diet Calculator, to convey the relative carbon-equivalent emissions impacts of common foods.
  2. Recommend menu and operational changes our teams could implement.
  3. Create an educational campaign for our chefs, managers, and guests to understand the issues.

As part of the Low Carbon Diet, we developed these five guiding principles for our teams and our guests (for explanations, visit our site Eat Low Carbon):

  1. You Bought It, You Eat It — Don’t Waste Food
  2. Make “Seasonal and Regional” Your Food Mantra
  3. Moooove Away from Beef and Cheese
  4. Stop Flying Fish and Fruit — Don’t Buy Air-Freighted Food
  5. If It’s Processed and Packaged, Skip It

In 2012, we reached our five-year commitment to reduce the company’s carbon footprint in the highest impact areas by 25 percent. We stopped buying air-freighted seafood entirely, as well as nontropical fruits and vegetables from outside North America. We reduced our use of tropical fruit by half. We shrank our beef purchases by 33 percent and cheese by 10 percent, and our food waste by one-third. These and other efforts achieved reductions of approximately 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent each month — and more importantly, have been incorporated into our everyday menuing and practices.

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2008

Low Carbon Diet Calculator

How low carbon can YOU go?

To help guests understand how their food choices contribute to global warming, we built an interactive Low Carbon Diet Calculator. The calculator uses a point system based on lifecycle assessment studies from published research gathered by two teams of science advisers. More than 40 peer-reviewed papers were studied.

For Low Carbon Diet Day 2013, we relaunched the calculator as an interactive website, Eat Low Carbon, offering tips for minimizing one’s “foodprint,” a wealth of external education links, and a fun photo quiz that asks diners to choose which sample meal offers the lowest total of CO2 emissions on their plates.

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Low Carbon Diet Day

Educating guests about food’s impact on climate change

On April 22, 2008, for our first annual Low Carbon Diet Day, all Bon Appétit cafés were transformed into “low-carbon learning” venues. Although operational changes in our kitchens had started one year prior, Low Carbon Diet Day marked the beginning of our customer education campaign and the launch of our interactive website, Eat Low Carbon.

We’ve continued to celebrate Low Carbon Diet Day on or just before Earth Day every year. For this one day, each Bon Appétit café illustrates the principles of the Low Carbon Diet in its menu choices and signage. For example, beef and cheese are high-carbon foods because they come from cows, and cows emit methane gas, which is 20 to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. So, at the grill station on Low Carbon Diet Day, we replace beef burgers with lower carbon choices such as turkey or black bean burgers, and explain the switch with signage.

By highlighting creative and great-tasting low carbon menu options on this particular day, our chefs prove to diners that eating low carbon does not mean sacrificing flavor. In fact, many “Low Carbon Diet Day specials” such as cheeseless pizzas have proven so popular, they’ve become staple menu offerings in our cafés!

In 2013, we reversed our focus. Instead of talking about how food choices affect climate change, we gave guests a taste of how climate change is affecting some favorite foods. To prepare, we commissioned a review of more than four dozen scientific papers projecting how important crops such as corn, wheat, rice, fruit, dairy, and coffee will fare in a changing climate — and what pressures they are already under from climate change. In addition to distilling the research into eye-catching educational signage and materials, we added a performance element to bring it to life. Bon Appétit chefs around the country used a cooking demonstration to discuss these global agriculture trends as well as to encourage guests to choose planet-friendlier foods.

For our seventh annual Low Carbon Diet Day, we’re dialing back the doom and gloom and asking our guests to “meat in the middle,” by swapping beef and dairy for equally flavorful but planet-friendlier options such as chicken, pork, and vegetable-based proteins.

Read the news coverage of Low Carbon Diet Day >

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2009

CIW Fair Food Agreement

Establishing game-changing fair labor requirements for Florida tomato growers

In the vast tomato fields of south Florida, farmworkers are exploited and abused, to the extent that one federal prosecutor called Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” Federal civil rights officials have prosecuted seven slavery operations involving over 1,000 workers in Florida’s fields since 1997. When we heard about this situation, Bon Appétit’s CEO Fedele Bauccio, Vice President Maisie Greenawalt and a chef, Francisco Alvarez (then Mount St. Mary’s executive chef, now working for us elsewhere) went to Immokalee, FL, where they witnessed these deplorable working and living conditions firsthand.

As a result of this experience, we partnered with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker organization spearheading the fight for more humane farm labor standards in Florida, and forged a new agreement that frames acceptable working conditions and enforces those conditions with a strict code of conduct. Highlights of the agreement include:

  • A “Minimum Fair Wage” – Workers are paid a wage premium that reflects the unique rigors and uncertainty of farm labor.
  • An end to traditional forms of wage abuse – Through standards requiring growers to implement time clocks and to reconcile wages paid with pounds harvested, workers are paid for every hour worked and every pound picked.
  • Worker empowerment – Workers are informed of their rights through a system jointly developed by the growers and the CIW. Growers will also collaborate with the CIW and Bon Appétit to implement and enforce a process for workers to pursue complaints without fear of retribution.
  • Worker safety – A worker-controlled health and safety committee will give farmworkers a voice in addressing potentially dangerous working conditions, including pesticide, heat, and machinery issues.
  • Third-party monitoring – Growers must permit third-party monitoring that includes worker participation.

Read the full text of the Code of Conduct (PDF)

We are proud to have been the first food service company to partner with the CIW and establish such extensive fair labor requirements for Florida tomato growers. By doing so, we aim to drive lasting changes that will help agricultural workers achieve the level of dignity afforded all American workers while providing sustainable competitive advantages for growers.

Read the Washington Post article, about our landmark agreement: Putting the Squeeze on Tomato Growers to Improve Conditions for Farm Workers

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The BAMCO Foundation Fellows Program

Spreading awareness about where our food comes from, and why our choices matter

As part of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation’s mission to provide education about food system issues, in 2009 we began a program of hiring three recent college graduates — who were sustainability champions on their campuses (all Bon Appétit clients) — as our West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast Fellows.

For stints of 1-2 years, the Fellows serve as a resource to students on Bon Appétit campuses in their region and are creative and resourceful in finding the best way to fit into their communities. They often work directly with faculty to integrate food system issues into their curriculum or guest lecture in classes, connecting what students are learning to what they are eating on campus. And, whenever possible, Fellows take students off campus, by hosting field trips to local Farm to Fork vendors or other relevant educational opportunities.

Fellows’ projects are constantly changing, but their focuses have included reducing food waste, defining fair farm labor, creating a network of student gardeners and farmers at colleges around the country, providing support and resources to students interested in running the Real Food Calculator, and starting food recovery programs. Their work provides us with fresh ideas and insight to help us live up to our motto, “food service for a sustainable future.”

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Student Garden Guide

Supporting the next generation of farmers and local-food advocates

As the local-food movement grew and expanded to college campuses, our chefs had enjoyed teaming up with students to buy produce from campus gardens. In conjunction with our fifth annual Eat Local Challenge in September 2009, we released an innovative Student Garden Guide as a downloadable PDF. Developed with assistance from numerous student gardeners and Bon Appétit chefs and managers, the guide offered advice for student gardeners on any college campus (not just ours) who wanted to work with their food-service provider. The useful topics covered ranged from planning the year’s crops to properly invoicing buyers and promoting their foods in the café.

In 2011, we updated the Guide and turned it into the Campus Farmers online network, comprising the CampusFarmers.org website, Facebook group, and Google Drive document library.

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2010

The Bon Appétit Foragers Program

Seeking out small-scale producers and building regional foodsheds

Our chefs have always considered it part of their jobs to seek out the best, most flavorful, local ingredients, and Farm to Fork has been embedded in our operating philosophy since 1999.

To help meet our goal of supporting 1,000 Farm to Fork suppliers by the end of 2010 (which we handily surpassed!), we appointed a dozen-plus “foragers” within Bon Appétit. Drawn from the ranks of our chefs and managers, the foragers are located in each of the different regions of the country that we serve. They are tasked with discovering the best small-scale farmers and food producers in their regions and helping their fellow chefs bring these local products into their cafés.

The foragers’ work inspires our chefs to think creatively, about unusual heirloom vegetables and utilizing whole animals. By dedicating staff time to discovering new suppliers, we hope to continue to help more small producers scale their businesses.

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2011

1,000 Farm to Fork Vendors

Building a web of regional food producers

In 2010, we set a goal to sign up our 1,000th Farm to Fork supplier by the end of the year — and we made it. This milestone represented an increase of 46% in the total number of small-scale, independent vendors with whom we worked companywide.

We wanted to cast our net wider, to fishers, and to harness the vast creativity of local artisans. So we appointed 15 regional company “foragers” to seek out the very best local products in each region and bring them into our cafés.

Supporting family-scale producers in every climate zone, through every season of the year, is the first step toward creating an economically and environmentally sustainable food system. Our purchasing efforts help small producers find larger markets and expand their operations, often providing the support they need to start supplying other local restaurants and grocery stores. Supporting healthy, locally produced, great-tasting food pays dividends not only in flavor, but in more local jobs and ultimately, a stronger regional food supply.

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The Farmworker Inventory

Detailing the reality faced by the nation’s 1.4 million crop farmworkers

In a unique for-profit/NGO joint venture, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers of America, with support from Oxfam America, released a groundbreaking report on March 31, César Chávez Day. The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States compiled and analyzed data from multiple federal, state, and private sources to give the most comprehensive picture yet of the reality faced by America’s least-valued but critically important workforce.

The report was the first of its kind to detail the lack of laws and protections for crop farmworkers in the U.S., and it represented an important step toward addressing the issue of farmworker rights in our business and driving change in the food system. It laid the groundwork for the development of verifiable and enforceable standards for agricultural work that can be supported by both individual consumers and socially responsible corporations.

By releasing this report, we aimed to encourage other companies and consumers to ask, “Who picked this food?” — and ultimately to drive lasting business, regulatory, and policy changes that will afford agricultural workers the same rights and dignity as those enjoyed by people in other employment sectors.
Report: Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States
Download: Executive Summary (PDF; 430KB) | Full report (PDF; 6.3MB)

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Midsize, Humane Farm to Fork

Taking local meat to the next level

The meat industry’s consolidation into a handful of gigantic producers has been accompanied by myriad modern problems such as contaminated food outbreaks, animal mistreatment scandals, and environmental pollution. Yet in the course of seeking out the small-scale hog and poultry farmers and beef ranchers that we have been supporting for years, we’ve discovered that there are responsible, midsize regional producers with similar values struggling to survive and grow.

That’s why in September 2011, we opened registration in our Farm to Fork program — our landmark preferred-purchasing program previously restricted to small farms — to midsize poultry and hog farms, cattle ranches, and dairies that meet our stringent criteria. By doing so, we hoped to nourish this critically endangered segment of agriculture known as the “disappearing middle.” And by requiring third-party certification (by either Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance, Humane Farm Animal Care, or Global Animal Partnership), we hoped to increase the supply of ethically raised meat and poultry, which has not kept up with demand as the meat industry consolidates under ever-more-massive factory farms.

See our Farm to Fork registration criteria >

 

 

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Fish to Fork

Defining “local and sustainable” for seafood sourcing

“Eating local” has become a way of life for many consumers, but even dedicated locavores flounder when they enter the murky waters of local seafood. Just because a fish came off a nearby dock doesn’t mean it was “locally caught,” and “local” doesn’t always equal “sustainable” with regard to certain species or catch methods. Meanwhile, many conscientious consumers avoid farmed seafood entirely, unaware that responsible local producers exist.

In September 2011, we announced a breakthrough in sustainable seafood sourcing with our Fish to Fork preferred purchasing program, the companion to our Farm to Fork program launched in 1999. Developed with help from a marine science expert, the Fish to Fork program outlines what “local” and “small-scale” mean for both wild and farmed seafood and elevates certain overlooked species that have both great flavor and robust supplies.

Among the guidelines:

  • Traceability: Seafood suppliers must present a reliable system of traceability from the farm or the boat to Bon Appétit kitchens.
  • Size: Boats must be individually owned and operated and not process the seafood on board. Aquaculture operations will be limited to those grossing less than $5 million per year per species. Small-scale fishing and aquaculture operations that practice integrated multi-species fishing or aquaculture will be emphasized.
  • Distance: Boats should travel no more than 100 miles out to sea per trip. Distribution distance for wild fish or aquaculture products is limited to 500 miles by truck from dock or farm to Bon Appétit kitchens.
  • Species preferences: Low-on-the-food-chain species (such as sardines, oysters); species whose edible portion could be better utilized (such as scallops, much of which gets discarded by U.S. processors); less-widely eaten larger species (Seafood Watch “green”- or “yellow”-rated) that can substitute for one of the “Top Ten” species, such as tuna, whose popularity is endangering the species.

We also designated 14 chefs in different areas of the country as “piscators.” Like the Farm to Fork foragers, they locate and develop purchasing relationships with local fishers and fish farmers who meet the criteria and who will then serve clusters of cafés. Similarly, Fish to Fork will also channel our supply-chain clout toward helping hundreds more small, environmentally responsible producers, creating local jobs and healthier communities.

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Fair Trade Uniforms Pilot Program

Taking ethical sourcing beyond the plate

When most people think of Fair Trade, they think bananas, coffee, or tea. However, cotton is one of the largest commodity crops in the world, and it touches the lives of far more farmers. Fair Trade cotton has been available in the United States since 2005, but only recently has the problem of sweatshops in the garment trade been addressed by Fair Trade certification of both the farms that produce the cotton for the garments and the factories that sew them.

In October 2011, timed to honor Fair Trade Month, we launched a pilot program supplying Fair Trade Certified shirts to student employees in two of our university cafés, with a slogan that read, “Organic, Fair Trade…This Uniform is Ethically Delicious!”

We hope to expand the project to front-of-the-house employees in other Bon Appétit Management Company cafés.

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TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change Conference

Bringing together farmworkers and labor-focused activists, academics, and artists

In October 2011, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation hosted TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change, a special one-day conference that focused on farmworkers and labor movements, at Mills College near the Fruitvale district of Oakland, CA. The 24 speakers and 100-plus attendees included farmworkers, farmers, activists, artists, students, professors, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs. The live webcast was watched by groups all around the country; the 23 videos are available on YouTube via the links below.

 

MEET

SESSION ONE: MEET

Movement

SESSION TWO: MOVEMENT

Money

SESSION THREE: MONEY

WHAT IS TEDX?

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxFruitvale, where x = independently organized TED event. At our TEDxFruitvale event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

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2012

Crate-Free Pork, Cage-Free Eggs

A groundbreaking commitment to humane animal treatment

In February 2012 we proudly rolled out the food service industry’s most comprehensive farm animal welfare policy to date, to be implemented in all of our cafés in 32 states.

As part of the new policy, Bon Appétit is:

  • Requiring that ALL pork we serve — currently 3 million pounds annually — be produced without gestation crate confinement systems, using higher-welfare group housing systems instead, by 2015.
  • Switching ALL of our pre-cracked (liquid) eggs — currently 11 million eggs annually — from hens confined in barren battery cages to hens living in cage-free farms, as we already do for shell eggs, by 2015.*
  • Entirely eliminating foie gras (livers of force-fed ducks) and veal from calves confined in crates from our menus, effective immediately.

Ridding our supply chain of gestation crates and battery cages represents our minimum standards — and we also set new, aspirational higher ones. We vowed that by 2015, 25 percent or more of our meat, poultry, and egg purchases companywide must be sourced from producers whose practices meet the animal welfare standards of Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance, Humane Farm Animal Care or Global Animal Partnership. These four programs not only prohibit such cruel practices as gestation crates and battery cages, but also require animals to be allowed to engage in their natural behaviors.

In January 2014, we were able to switch to gestation-crate-free bacon companywide. Watch VP of Strategy Maisie Ganzler’s TEDxManhattan talk about the behind-the-scenes challenges, “How the Humane Sausage Gets Made.”

Some of the news coverage of our initial announcement:

*Like our shell eggs, liquid eggs will have to be certified as being “cage free” by Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance, or Humane Farm Animal Care (GAP does not certify eggs)

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Humane Ground Beef

Mooving toward happier burgers

As of September 1, 2012, all ground beef served in Bon Appétit cafés must come from suppliers that have met the strict standards of one of four independent animal-welfare organizations. (Beef purchases from small, local producers who are registered through our Farm to Fork program will continue to be permitted.)

The companywide “moove” is a step toward Bon Appétit’s commitment to the most sweeping changes in our meat supply of any food service company, by the aggressive date of 2015. As part of a groundbreaking announcement from February, we vowed to purchase at least 25% of our beef, pork, and poultry from ranches and farms whose practices have been certified by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC)’s Certified Humane program, Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance,or Global Animal Partnership. These four groups are independent, not industry led, and have high animal-husbandry standards.

Read about our switch in the Washington Post >

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Eat Local Fish Challenge

Celebrating local, sustainable seafood

By 2012, eating locally and seasonally had become a significant trend. Many Americans now know the names of the farms that grow their food, but even as we’re urged to eat more fish for its health benefits and its gustatory pleasures, few consumers can identify sustainable local species or the fishing operations that supply them.

The time was ripe for local fish. On September 25, 2012, we hosted our first-ever Eat Local (Fish) Challenge, which was held simultaneously in all 32 states in which we operate. The event was an outgrowth of the Eat Local Challenge, which we launched in 2005 as a fun way to highlight locally harvested, seasonal flavors through a meal made entirely of locally grown ingredients. For the Eat Local (Fish) Challenge, local seafood — sustainably caught or farmed within 500 miles by a Fish to Fork partner — had to be one of those ingredients. In addition to the special all-local meal, our teams offered educational information about sustainable seafood, the particular seafood item being served, Five Reasons to Eat Local Fish, and a take-home recipe for a regional fish dish.

Our chefs found, cooked, and served more than 50 different species of regional seafood, from amberjack to yellowtail, and relished the new twist on an old challenge. Read about how they got hooked on local fish in Bravo, our company magazine, or check out the news coverage in the Boston Globe, Forbes.com, and Sustainable Business Oregon.

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2013

Focusing on Food Recovery

Fighting food waste and hunger simultaneously

Keeping food out of landfills has long been a critical part of our mission of food service for a sustainable future, and we attack food waste through myriad approaches. Our practice of cooking meals to order results in few unsold, unusable items at the end of a meal. However, overly generous estimates for catered events sometimes result in tasty leftovers such as entrées, whole-grain salads, and baked goods. In April 2013 we announced a new partnership with the Food Recovery Network, a student-run organization dedicated to recovering leftover food from college campuses to give to those in need.

The BAMCO Foundation’s three Fellows, who perform educational outreach about sustainable food systems on college campuses for the company, will continue to help interested students and staff at Bon Appétit-serviced colleges and universities start FRN chapters.

In August a BAMCO Foundation Fellow coauthored the newest resource for FRN’s organizing toolkit. A Guide to Food Recovery for Chefs and Managers (PDF) walks students and food service providers — not just Bon Appétit’s — through the process of launching a food recovery program. It addresses frequently asked questions and concerns raised about food donation such as food safety and liability.

In addition to partnering with FRN for food recovery, we’ve teamed with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, with more than 200 member food banks and 61,000 partner agencies such as soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters.

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Campus Farmers

Connecting students who want to feed their fellow students

The average age of U.S. farmers is 57 and is getting older. But alongside this worrying USDA Census of Agriculture statistic is a more cheering one: the number of young people entering farming seems at last to be on the rise.

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Many of these for-profit growers got their hands dirty for the first time in college, volunteering on a farm or even banding together to start one at their alma mater. To support these efforts, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation launched Campus Farmers, an online network that connects students and staff growing food on college campuses across the country. The network aims to facilitate conversations and the sharing of resource sharing between all of those passionate about growing food, from wannabe campus growers to those who have already set down roots.

Campus Farmers is the Web 3.0 version of the Foundation’s 2009 Student Garden Guide. This resource hub offers a wealth of information about starting an on-campus farm, managing farm finances, and staying in business. Through the website, users can connect to an online document library and browse important farm resources such as project proposals and farm business plans. And if they want to find out, say, a chemical-free way to fight an infestation of tomato worms, they can pose the question to the Campus Farmers Facebook group.

Even the social network-savvy farmer needs someone to lend an ear once in a while. When facing leadership transitions or the task of putting together a business plan, sometimes there’s no replacement for an old-fashioned phone conversation. In fall 2013, the Campus Farmer Conversations Webinar Series was launched to provide a platform for discussing both common challenges and best practices associated with growing food on campus.

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Sodium Reduction Campaign

Helping our chefs and guests shake their salty habits

Salt. We need it to live — indeed, most chefs would say we can’t live without it. But because we care about our guests’ health, we’ve been willing to take on the challenge of reducing our use of it.

We’ve always been committed to cooking from scratch, including stocks and soups. Company guidelines require that these be unsalted, in contrast to the high sodium levels found in canned stock. Our chefs have always taken a light hand with added salt in preparation and focused on ingredients such as fresh herbs and spices to add flavor.

In 2013, with this strongly salt-conscious culinary foundation, we felt we could go further. We partnered with the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has made sodium reduction a key focus, to launch a three-pronged sodium-reduction campaign.

In the weeks leading up to the third annual Food Day — a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food that culminates on October 24 — we focused on culinary training, purchasing, and education to decrease sodium usage. Our nutrition team talked to chefs about taste thresholds and ways to cut salt use in the kitchen, while the purchasing team identified lower-sodium substitutes for several commonly used ingredients. CSPI offered an award for those Bon Appétit accounts that took a jointly created Sodium Reduction Pledge, making a commitment to purchase certain products and execute specific education programs. More than 50 café teams took the pledge.

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“Americans have gotten addicted to salt. We have to help our guests adjust their palates.”

Fedele Bauccio, CEO
2014

Imperfectly Delicious Produce

A cutting-edge program to rescue flavorful but cosmetically imperfect produce from going to waste on farms and during distribution

Bon Appétit Vice President of Strategy Maisie Ganzler was standing in a supplier’s California organic strawberry field that had just been harvested when she spied quite a few strawberries left on the plants. “They’re white shouldered,” the farmer told her. “They weren’t ripe yet, so the pickers leave them.” She was shocked to find out they would never be picked — even though 80% of the strawberry was a luscious ripe red and would have tasted great in fruit salad or a smoothie.

Visit any abundant growing region, such as California’s San Joaquin Valley, and you may see entire fields of perfectly good fruits, vegetables, or greens getting disked under, returned to the soil rather than picked. Over 40% of the edible food in the United States goes to waste each year, both pre- and post-consumer; a large portion of that waste happens before the food even reaches our plates.[i]

Vast amounts of produce go unharvested, left in the fields because they don’t meet stringent cosmetic standards for shape, size, and color. Other items might fail to make the cut for Grade A product standards later, and either get sold through secondary markets as “seconds” or simply tossed. And finally, there are parts of vegetables that get wasted because they are deemed undesirable or unsellable, when in fact they are fine to eat and could be incorporated into dishes with a little creativity. All of these possibilities can be financially damaging to the farmer.

“We’ve long tried to address waste in our kitchens and cafés, and the Imperfectly Delicious program takes us a step forward by moving down the supply chain to work with our farmers and distributors. Being a leader in more sustainable food service means stopping perfectly good food from going to waste wherever we find it happening.” – Fedele Bauccio

Wasted food is also an environmental disaster. When we waste food, we waste all the resources — the water, oil, chemicals, land, and labor — that went into growing and processing it. Food in landfills decomposes and emits methane, the greenhouse gas that’s 20 to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

That’s why in May 2014 Bon Appétit launched a groundbreaking pilot program to work with our farmers, distributors, and chefs to save this cosmetically challenged produce from going to waste. Food service operations use produce in many different ways, and visual perfection is necessary for only a small percentage of them. Size and appearance matter little; flavor matters the most. Through the Imperfectly Delicious Produce program, we’ve engage our distributors, farmers, and chefs to identify opportunities to rescue produce from going to waste on a regular basis. We work with:

  • our farmers, small and large, to identify produce that can be rescued,
  • our distributors, to set up the systems for purchasing and transporting the produce to our cafés,
  • our chefs, to find creative ways to incorporate the produce into menus.

Through the Imperfectly Delicious Produce program, we are able to prevent waste in the supply chain and reduce the negative impact it has on our environment while putting money back in the pockets of farmers who need it most.

Learn more about how Bon Appétit is fighting food waste >

[i] Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40  Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill (PDF)

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