Food Service for a Sustainable Future, 2.0

Click the image to fly around the map of our responses

How Bon Appétit Management Company defines “food service for a sustainable future,” that tagline that follows our company name, also defines our very identity as a company. For a while now, it’s been clear we’d outgrown our working definition of sustainability: Food choices that celebrate flavor, affirm regional cultural traditions, and support local communities without compromising air, water or soil, now and in the future. It had served us well, but it didn’t fully explain anymore why we choose the kind of food that we do, or cover what we hope to achieve going forward.

Bon Appétit employees at Regis University sharing their thoughts

In honor of our quarter-century anniversary, we asked all of our employees to brainstorm with us, through group meetings with a flip chart or whiteboard, or by submitting their thoughts directly. It was so gratifying to see the photos of Bon Appétit team members eating popcorn out of 25th anniversary bags and to read the thoughts they recorded on flip charts in different handwriting!

We also reached out to our guests and the public. We hosted a “Tweetchat,” a free-form public discussion on Twitter held at a designated time to discuss a particular topic, in this case what “sustainability” should mean for a corporation like Bon Appétit. People could join, weigh in, and follow the chatter using an agreed-upon label called a #hashtag. More than 75 people, including reporters, farmers, and representatives from the National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Association, did so, Tweeting comments using the hashtag #BAsustain, to their combined 194,000-plus Twitter followers.

In the end, though, all those thoughts and ideas had to be shaped into language broad enough to cover all that we have done and that we might do in the future, and yet specific enough to be meaningful and inspire. Condensing them is one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever had as a professional communicator. I submitted draft after draft to CEO Fedele Bauccio and Vice President of Strategy Maisie Greenawalt, and we argued passionately over every nuance, every comma.

The result:

A sustainable future for food service means flavorful food that’s healthy and economically viable for all, produced through practices that respect farmers, workers, and animals; nourish the community; and replenish our shared natural resources for future generations.

It was unveiled at 25th anniversary birthday parties and can now be found on our Sustainable Food Service page. In the coming months, we’ll be working on a report that shows how our commitments and initiatives fit into this vision, and points toward the work we still have left to do.

Thank you to all who care about what this company stands for, and particularly to our employees, who bake our values into our food with every meal. Your passion is inspiring, and contagious.

As Robin Fortado, director of catering at Emmanuel College in Boston, wrote in the “other thoughts” section of her submission: “I have to say — sometimes when I talk about my job people are just in disbelief… I make believers out of them that it is possible to eat and live responsibly. I feel proud to work for this company, and I think we just need to keep getting the word out there. Let’s give interviews, post signs, update our websites, and just talk talk talk about our sustainable values and goals!

Here are some of the answers we collected in response to three questions. Check out our Sustainability Popplet, an online, multimedia brainstorming tool (pictured at top of post), for many more.

1. What’s missing from our current definition of sustainability?

-BAMCO@Circle 7, GC3 and Big D Cafés, Southern California

Biodiversity, animal welfare, service/client satisfaction. Spread the education aspect of fresh food!
-Roxanne McLarry, BAMCO@Cafe Modern team, Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX

Encouraging and inspiring a new generation of farmers and food activists!
-Nicole Tocco, BAMCO Foundation East Coast Fellow

Genetically engineered foods, local beverages, landfills.
-Jim Klein, BAMCO@Target, Minneapolis

If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads (Environmental Defense Fund).
-JC Corcoran, student, Santa Fe University of Art and Design

2. What values drive YOUR food choices?

 Looks good, tastes good, and is affordable without compromising resources and is socially equitable
-Cynthia Jimenez, BAMCO@University of Redlands, Redlands, CA

Quality, such as how things are handled in transport (ruining good salmon, produce)
-Jim Dodge, BAMCO headquarters, Palo Alto

3. What would you like to see us tackle in our next 25 years?

At times we stress the use of ice as part of the “look” and I feel this is unsustainable. Fresh water is going to be a hotter topic the farther we go along. I would also love to nationalize the growing trend to eliminate wasteful single-use gloves in foodservice production.
–Jeff Leahy, BAMCO@Collective Brands, Topeka, KS

Expand our definition of COMMUNITY – help the less fortunate get access to healthy food.
-Cassie Roth, BAMCO Headquarters, Palo Alto

Use your purchasing power to improve wages & working conditions for farm & food workers.
-@foodchainworker, #BAsustain tweetchat

Declare war on food waste, our most prevalent social and economic enemy.
-Aaron Rubstello, BAMCO@University of Portland, Oregon

Mandatory education for our staff. They present what our standards are; they should understand them.
-Mark Smith, BAMCO@Hitachi, Santa Clara, CA

The Café Modern staff gathers to talk sustainability


The Palo Alto, CA headquarters team, post-brainstorming