Our major milestones and initiatives


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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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. (Read about how we celebrated the 15th anniversary by giving away $50,000 in Fork to Farm grants for farmers.) Our chefs strive 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.”

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.

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. In 2014, we defined our Locally Crafted category, for local artisans who support socially and environmentally responsible practices through community entrepreneurship.

See our Farm to Fork registration guidelines >

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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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Reusable takeout containers

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 commercial 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 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

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 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 voluntary 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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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 Food Standards 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, pork, and ground beef from animals raised without antibiotics as a routine additive to their feed or water

As a socially responsible company, we are committed to helping address the public health threat from antibiotic resistance.

Since the 1950s, cattle, hogs, and poultry have routinely been given antibiotics to make them grow faster and to prevent and treat diseases caused by the unnatural and unhealthy conditions in which they are being raised. The Food and Drug Administration has estimated that as much as 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States goes to food-producing animals. This overuse has resulted in a human public-health crisis, with the rise of drug-resistant superbugs. Yet withholding antibiotics from sick animals can be inhumane.

As the first food service company to address this issue, we have had a patchwork of different antibiotic policies for many years. 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 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 began requiring our chefs to purchase ground beef from suppliers who commit that they do not use antibiotics (ever), added growth hormones (ever), or animal byproducts in feed (ever). And as of 2016, all our contracted pork also comes from animals never given non-therapeutic antibiotics or growth promoters.

In January 2019, following extensive consultation with the Center for a Livable Future, an independent group of experts at Johns Hopkins University, we streamlined our antibiotics policy to state that we will strive to buy only meat, and poultry, and seafood raised without the use of antimicrobials, except where necessary to treat sick animals in the documented presence of disease in the flock, herd, or fish population as verified by a veterinarian.

Temporary Change in Chicken Antibiotics Compliance from Sept. 2023 – Jan. 2024

A kink in the supply chain: Bon Appétit Management Company’s comprehensive and companywide responsible antibiotics policy includes ensuring our chicken is from birds raised without the use of antimicrobials, except where necessary to treat sick animals in the documented presence of disease in the flock, herd, or fish population as verified by a veterinarian. We have met or exceeded this commitment since its implementation. Our purchasing team is currently working to transition to Better Chicken Commitment (BCC)-compliant chicken, which is the food industry’s leading set of standards for chicken welfare. As BCC-compliant chicken is new to the large-scale marketplace and involves a change of multiple suppliers and distribution processes, timing the transition precisely is difficult. Therefore, while we transition, from roughly September 2023 to January 2024, we will be purchasing from a variety of sources. While all of the chicken we source in this time period will continue to be raised without nontherapeutic antibiotics, some of our supply will not be ionophore-free and thus will not completely meet the standard in our responsible antibiotics policy. (All chicken breasts will continue to meet our policy.) This change will be temporary, and we expect to be serving chicken that meets our policy and the improved welfare standards outlined by the Better Chicken Commitment starting in early 2024.

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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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Preventing and Reducing Food Waste

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

Bon Appétit Senior Fellow Nicole Tocco and Real Food Hamilton leaders Heather Krieger and Victoria Blumenfeld prepare to make food waste visible

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 (EPA), 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.

Read more about our subsequent food waste fighting commitments >


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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 our shell eggs from cage-free hens. 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 the end of 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 World Society for the Protection of Animals.

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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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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 Food Standards 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.

In 2015, we updated and relaunched the Low Carbon Diet as the Low Carbon Lifestyle with a renewed focus on four impact areas >

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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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CIW Fair Food Agreement

Establishing game-changing fair labor requirements for Florida tomato growers

In the vast tomato fields of south Florida, farmworkers have been routinely 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 our executive chef at Mount St. Mary’s 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 signed on to the CIW’s Fair Food Agreement, which frames acceptable working conditions and enforces those conditions with a strict code of conduct (PDF). 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.

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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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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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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Fair Trade Baking Chocolate

Offering the first Fair Trade brand to be manufactured at origin

Starting Valentine’s Day 2011, as part of our companywide commitment to support farmers and workers both locally and globally, we introduced Cordillera Fair Trade Certified™ baking chocolate to the kitchens of our hundreds of university, corporate, and specialty cafés nationwide.

Cordillera Chocolate, made from a blend of Criollo and Trinitario cacao beans grown in Colombia, is an exceptional brand of chocolate used by renowned chefs worldwide in fine desserts and confections. Cordillera is unique in that it’s not only grown in Colombia, it’s also manufactured there, which leads to higher quality chocolate and better traceability from bean to finished product. The farmers receive a fair price for their beans, as well as fair trade premiums to use for schools, medical clinics, clean water systems, and skills training in their communities. Production workers are employed by Cordillera, a company committed to fair labor practices.


Update: Bon Appétit has ceased using Cordillera since it decided to discontinue Fair Trade certification. We’re actively looking for a national replacement but meanwhile do offer alternative options in select regions. 

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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.









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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Phasing Out Gestation Crates for Pork and Battery Cages for Hens

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 31 states.

As part of the new policy, Bon Appétit:

  • Required that the contracted pork we serve — currently 3 million pounds annually — come from sows raised in higher-welfare group housing, without unnecessary reliance on cruel gestation crate confinement systems. (The switch was completed in early 2016. In 2019, we notified our supplier that we require full elimination of the use of gestation crates by the end of 2021 and to encourage them to continue their important research on more humane farrowing environments. We would like to see enriched environments for all pigs as well as tail docking and castration either phased out and performed with pain management by 2026, or sooner if there are breakthroughs on resolving these issues.)
  • Switched our pre-cracked (liquid) eggs — 11 million eggs annually as of 2012 —from hens confined in barren battery cages to hens living in cage-free farms, as we already do for shell eggs, by 2015.* (Completed in early 2016.)
  • Banned 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 should 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. (Update: We achieved this goal in July 2017.)

Read a detailed report card on these goals or watch Chief Strategy and Brand Officer 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 are 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 should be sourced 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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tocco_harris robinette cow_small_1420

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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Focusing on Food Recovery

Fighting food waste and hunger simultaneously

Chefs holding food donation box

The Bon Appétit team at Marymount College, which is Food Recovery Verified

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. A BAMCO Foundation Fellow coauthored the newest resource for FRN’s organizing toolkit. A Guide to Food Recovery for Chefs and Managers 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.

And in 2016, we committed that the majority of our accounts (at least 80%) will be Food Recovery Verified, meaning we’re regularly donating our excess food to people in need and verified by an independent 3rd party.

Read more about our food waste fighting initiatives >

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Campus Farmers

Helping students and corporate employees successfully grow food on campus

The average age of U.S. farmers is 57 and is getting older. But in the last few years, there’s been good news: the number of young people entering farming seems at last to be on the rise.


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 or join one of the Campus Farmer Conversations Webinars, a platform for discussing both common challenges and best practices associated with growing food on campus.

In 2015, we decided to help corporate employees get in on the fun, with materials for corporate campus farmers. Just like college campus farms, these newcomers are a diverse bunch with a wide range of goals. Some projects focus on cultivating employees’ gardening skills while others prioritize growing more local food for the on-site kitchens or providing unique ingredient that chefs can’t find anywhere else. Whatever the garden’s particular mission, these initiatives foster greater engagement in the food system and appreciation for the story behind the food — both activities near and dear to our hearts at Bon Appétit.

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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.

Read more >


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

Fedele Bauccio, CEO

Locally Crafted

Working with local artisans to support socially and environmentally responsible practices through community entrepreneurship

For many family farmers, ranchers, and artisans, the act of producing food is about community, a way to share their craft and expertise with people and connect with something larger than themselves.

Since the 1999 launch of our Farm to Fork program, Bon Appétit has worked to source at least 20 percent of our ingredients from small local farms, ranches, and food businesses, bringing food grown within 150 miles of our kitchens onto the menu. Conceived as a way to strengthen the communities in which we live, work, and play and to showcase regional flavors, Farm to Fork has resulted in hundreds of successful partnerships across the nation.

But sourcing locally grown food isn’t the only way to build a more sustainable food system. Over the years we connected with vibrant local businesses near our cafés that may not actually grow food like our Farm to Fork partners do, but they craft delicious products in traditional ways, and make a concentrated effort to sustain their community through their business practices. Businesses like a group of Latino women making handmade tortillas the same way their great-grandmothers did, a small-batch chocolatier sourcing Fair Trade cacao beans, or a bakery that makes a point of hiring and training formerly incarcerated gang members.

Lick Honest Ice Cream in Austi, TX, uses only milk from a local dairy to make small batches by hand

Lick Honest Ice Cream in Austin, TX, uses milk from a local dairy as well as seasonal, local ingredients in its ice cream

In addition, our Locally Crafted vendors must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Locally Sourced: At least 50% of the product’s ingredients are from small, owner-operated farms within 150 miles of the Bon Appétit kitchen.
  • Responsibly sourced: At least 50% of the product’s ingredients are responsibly sourced as verified by an approved third-party organization, such as Certified Organic or Fair Trade.
  • Humanely sourced: The eggs, dairy, and protein in the product meet all Bon Appétit’s own sustainability standards.
  • Traditional/artisan: The product is a staple of a specific cuisine, made in the traditional manner with a minimum of additives and preservatives, or in small batches by hand using traditional methods.
  • Justice through ownership: The business is majority minority or woman-owned and -controlled.
  • Justice through training: As a founding principle, the business seeks to provide job opportunities to a disadvantaged population.

We are proud to nourish the people in our local Bon Appétit communities who — like us — are trying to change the food system through their businesses.



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Imperfectly Delicious Produce

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

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.

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.

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 engaged 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. In 2016 alone, we saved 2 million pounds of cosmetically challenged and underappreciated fruits and vegetables, such as:

  • “Clipped” or “second cut” spinach, baby kale, and baby chard: These second-harvest greens represent a whopping 50 percent reduction in water usage. (Greens don’t all grow at the same pace. A machine harvest may clip the top of shorter leaves that could be harvested on a second pass, so most farmers don’t bother. Give them a market for those leaves and they will, though.)
  • broccoli florets aka fineBroccoli “fines”: The small florets left over in processing when the big heads are broken into retail-sized bags. They’re usually thrown away, but they’re great for stir fries and quiches, and another revenue stream for farms.
  • Cauliflower oddballs: Giving a home to the smaller- or larger-than-average heads or ones with weather-related blemishes can mean a 20 to 40 percent increase in harvest yield for cauliflower farmers.
  • Romaine leaves: The craze for “hearts of romaine” has left the outer leaves in the dust, literally. Buying some of what would otherwise be disked under can translate into a 10 to 15 percent increase in crop yield for romaine farmers and less water used per pound of romaine harvested.

Learn more about how Bon Appétit is fighting food waste >

Learn more about food waste in Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40  Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill (PDF), by Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council:

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The Garden at AT&T Park

A unique edible garden and culinary classroom for a Major League ballpark

We partnered with the San Francisco Giants to open The Garden at AT&T Park in San Francisco, a first-of-its kind venue at a Major League ballpark. Supplying fresh-picked greens, vegetables, and fruit for Bon Appétit’s ballpark menus, the Garden is both a unique gathering place for fans to enjoy AT&T Park before and during games and a culinary classroom for children in the community.

Learn more about the Garden at AT&T Park >

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Hampton Creek Partnership

Joining forces with a San Francisco startup to develop better, more sustainable cookies and mayo

San Francisco-based Hampton Creek is a revolutionary startup that’s already changing the food world on a massive scale — by reinventing products that usually use eggs into more sustainable, healthful versions without sacrificing taste or raising the price. Its first product, Just Mayo, debuted to instant meteoric demand; Hampton Creek was named one of Fast Company’s 10 Most Innovative Companies for 2015.

Bon Appétit Management Company is proud to be Hampton’s Creek first food service partner. Under the direction of Bon Appétit’s renowned baking expert and Director of Specialty Culinary Programs Jim Dodge, Hampton Creek developed Just Cookies, which use sorghum flour as a plant-based binding agent instead of eggs.

Starting in April 2015, Bon Appétit also began offering Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo as our preferred purchasing choice instead of standard mayonnaise. Using yellow peas in lieu of eggs, Just Mayo is a great-tasting, all-natural spread that’s healthier for both our guests and the environment.

By moving to Hampton Creek products in our kitchens and cafés, each year our guests will collectively:

  • Avoid eating 12 million grams of saturated fat and 806 million milligrams of sodium
  • Save 4 million square feet of land and 245 million quarts of water
  • Prevent almost 500,000 lbs. of carbon emissions

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FAD-Free Tuna

We are proud to serve tuna that comes with a signed statement that no fish aggregating device (FAD) was used.

Perhaps because the vast majority of the tuna Americans eat comes a precooked beige in cans, people seem to forget it’s a fish. Jessica Simpson famously asked if “chicken of the sea” was chicken or fish. Well Jessica, tuna are fish — and they’re in big trouble! All that canned tuna we eat is having a negative effect not just on tuna species like albacore and skipjack, but also on center-of-the-plate “fancy” tuna. To help reverse this dismaying trend, many conservation groups have called for a ban on the use of all fish-aggregating devices, or FADs.

What’s a FAD? It sounds innocuous enough. Fish like to congregate around objects in the water — underwater and on the surface. Scuba divers know this. That’s why they seek out reefs and sunken ships. Fishermen are also well aware of this predilection, too. For centuries, fishermen around the world have been making floating FADs out of bamboo, scrap wood, and metal or whatever they have on hand to attract fish.

What was harmless on a small scale becomes problematic as it gets bigger. According to 2012 research by Pew Charitable Trusts, there are now as many as 100,000 drifting FADs around the world — basically floating pieces of junk put into the ocean and equipped with transponders by the global purse seine fishing industry. These FADs allow industrial fleets to quickly find — and harvest — large masses of fish.

Here’s the catch (pun intended): Their purse seines are enormous nets that draw closed like a purse, surrounding and capturing all the life attracted to the FAD, not just the target species. That “bycatch” can include sharks, swordfish, marlin, and juvenile fish such as bigeye tuna — which then don’t have the chance to reproduce, further destabilizing the world’s fish populations.

Bon Appétit Management Company is proud to announce that starting in January 2015, all of the skipjack tuna we purchase — currently 233,000 pounds, or 91.5% of all processed tuna we buy — will be caught without the use of FADs. Our supplier has committed that every tuna shipment destined for our cafés will be accompanied by a signed statement from the boat captain including date caught, location, and a commitment that no fish aggregating device was used.

Read press release >

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Companywide Food Recovery Commitment

At least 80% of accounts to be Food Recovery Verified by the end of 2024

Studies estimate that if just one-fourth of all food thrown away by food service providers each year was donated, we could theoretically eliminate hunger in the United States, where 1 in 6 people are food insecure, many of them children.

Bon Appétit has long believed that wholesome, excess food should feed people, not waste bins or landfills. We follow the EPA’s Wasted Food Scale*, which recommends best practices for how to sustainably prevent and manage food waste, meaning we make sure our accounts are actively preventing waste at the source and donating leftovers to local hunger relief organizations, in that order.

Food Recovery Verified stickerAt the 2015 Food Waste and Hunger Summit held in Athens, GA, we announced we were taking it a step further with a new, formal commitment to food recovery. We vowed that by 2018, 80% of our accounts would be Food Recovery Verified, meaning they are regularly (not just occasionally) donating their excess food to people in need and are certified by an independent third party. While the majority of our accounts were regularly donating food, we did not meet our verification goal. In 2024, we recommitted to meeting this goal by the end of the year. We track our progress toward this goal in the Food Standards Dashboard.

*When we first made this commitment in 2015 we followed the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, which was updated in 2023 to the Wasted Food Scale. 


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Fair Trade Tea

Extending our sustainability commitments to farmworkers far away

While more and more Americans are thinking about where their food comes from, few if any are thinking about the hands that picked the leaves in their cup of tea. But Bon Appétit is. We’ve long recognized and celebrated the people at the very beginning of our supply chain, for example through our Farm to Fork program and advocacy for farmworkers’ rights. Tea may start a few extra thousand miles away from where our vegetable and animal protein stories begin, but we’re up for the challenge.

“Bon Appétit Management Company has been and continues to be a true leader in sustainable sourcing. They were one of the first food service providers to bring U.S. farmworker issues to the limelight, and are again blazing trails to support tea farmers and workers worldwide through Fair Trade. Wherever the bar was set in the industry, Bon Appétit has raised it.”
— Sri Artham, Vice President of Consumer Packaged Goods, Fair Trade USA

Bon Appétit is proud to be the first food service provider to make a commitment to Fair Trade tea. On October 1, 2015, in honor of Fair Trade Month, we announced we were switching all the tea* we serve our guests — including single-serve brewed and bulk-brewed (hot and cold) — to Fair Trade Certified tea. We have selected Numi® Tea as our preferred supplier of Fair Trade brewed tea. In locations where bottled and/or canned teas are sold, our cafés will also offer Honest Tea® as a Fair Trade Certified option.** Accounts will have one year to make these changes.

The story of most tea is hard to swallow. The majority of leaves are grown in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, where they are picked almost exclusively by hand and mostly by women (75 percent). Workers on tea plantations often face human rights abuses, cripplingly low wages, and health issues caused by the backbreaking work of picking and pesticide exposure. On small farms, the same is true, compounded with international market pressures that yield minuscule profits for small growers.

By moving to Fair Trade Certified tea, Bon Appétit is helping to alleviate poverty in ways that improve lives, empower communities, and protect the environment. Fair Trade offers producers stable prices, a Fair Trade premium (paid on top of the agreed Fair Trade price, the premium is used to invest in local communities, often going toward education, healthcare, or farm improvements) and empowers farmers and workers (committees comprising men and women democratically decide how their premium is used). It also sets standards for safe working conditions, sustainable wages, and rewards and encourages farming and production practices that are environmentally sustainable.

Everybody wins — including the Bon Appétit guests who can enjoy a calming cup knowing they are contributing to a more just and sustainable system.


*The only exceptions to this policy are where it conflicts with requirements from our nationally branded concept partners, and the tea we source through enrolled Farm to Fork vendors.
**Our Pepsi®-exclusive units may offer Honest Tea only if their agreement allows for it. 

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Food Standards Dashboard

Bringing greater transparency and accountability to our companywide commitments

The first generation of our Food Standards Dashboard was a groundbreaking companywide reporting and tracking tool that brought our wellness, culinary, and sustainability commitments together in one, easy-to-access (and easier to manage), visually driven place. A new version of the Dashboard was launched in 2022, read about it here.

About version 1.0: Custom-built by an in-house team of developers, the 2015 version of the dashboard software collected data from many sources and made it accessible and transparent at a glance to our chefs and managers. Features included showing each unit where they stand on Bon Appétit’s many sustainability and well-being commitments, such as their Farm to Fork purchasing expenditures (each chef is required to source at least 20% of her ingredients from small farms and ranches within 150 miles); whether they’ve accidentally ordered any seafood not rated Green or Yellow by Seafood Watch; their percentage of lean versus fatty protein choices, and their average number of vegetarian, vegan, and In Balance options per meal period.

Additional data was collected specifically to keep teams on track for Bon Appétit’s Low Carbon Lifestyle program’s focus areas, such as the average number of ounces of beef being served per guest at each meal, and of animal proteins in general. Each café manager was also required enter information about that location’s waste-related programs, including food recovery programs, Imperfectly Delicious Produce purchasing, and composting, to make sure we are meeting our goal of making landfills be our last resort and our specific companywide food recovery commitment.

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Low Carbon Lifestyle

Updating and measuring our efforts to reduce the climate-changing impacts of our food choices

2015LowCarbonLifestyleLogoWhen Bon Appétit started our Low Carbon Diet program in 2007 — making us the first restaurant company to connect food and climate change — it was with specific targets in mind for how much carbon emissions we wanted to lose over five years. And we did it, meeting our goals and resulting in reductions of the equivalent of approximately 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide each month.

After a few years of happily maintaining our weight, we decided it was time to mentally move from a time-limited diet aimed at a quick reduction to a long-term, sustained way of living. Enter the Low Carbon Lifestyle, a new set of commitments that we can live for the foreseeable future and continue our dedication to reducing the climate-changing impacts of our food choices. We consulted with food and climate change experts across the country, from the Environmental Working Group to the Union of Concerned Scientists and Rainforest Alliance. We settled on these four focus areas:


  • Serving reasonable, clearly defined portions of animal proteins based on U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendations
  • Skewing the menu mix away from beef and cheese
  • Emphasizing plant-based proteins
  • Tracking the ounces of various proteins we serve per guest per meal period, to make sure we stay on target


Prioritizing waste reduction according to the EPA’s Wasted Food Scale*, to make landfills our last resort

  • Requiring our teams to actively engage in preventing waste at the source, by tracking their participation in our Imperfectly Delicious Produce program
  • Continuing to prevent waste in their kitchens and recording their efforts using a waste tracking system (now by using our proprietary software Waste Not™)
  • Donating leftovers to local hunger relief organizations on a regular, not occasional basis.  (In 2015, we made a goal that by 2018, 80% of our accounts would be Food Recovery Verified. While the majority of our accounts are regularly donating food, we did not meet our verification goal. In 2024, we recommitted to meeting this goal by the end of the year.)


Examining both distance traveled and, more critically, the mode of transportation when we’re making purchasing decisions in order to prioritize carbon-efficient transportation of food.

  • No air-freighted seafood
  • Restricting purchases of vegetables, meat, non-tropical fruit, and bottled water to North America
  • Encouraging purchases of seasonal and regional fruits and vegetables
  • Training chefs and managers how to prioritize tropical fruit that is typically boated or trucked versus air-freighted when needed


Supporting sustainable forestry and agricultural management through our purchasing practices:

  • Purchasing meat from North American farms and ranches (fed with U.S.-grown crops)
  • Opting for paper products that are FSC Certified and/or made from recycled content
  • Setting measurable goals for purchasing coffee from Certified Organic, shade-grown, Rainforest Alliance or Bird Friendly certified (by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center) farms

At the same time, just like a diet plan often asks you to get on a scale, we’re weighing our progress on a monthly basis using our Food Standards Dashboard to make sure we stay on track with our goals.

*When we launched the Low Carbon Lifestyle in 2015, we followed the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, which was updated in 2023 to become the Wasted Food Scale. 


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Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchen

Hands-on cooking classes empower kids to make healthy food choices


Cooking is a powerful teaching tool. It’s interactive, engaging, and of course, deliciously rewarding. Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchen is our nutrition and culinary education program, created with the goal of empowering children to make healthy food choices for themselves and their communities. Through this program we transform our kitchens and cafés into hands-on classrooms for kids.

The roots of the Healthy Kids program were planted in our Outdoor Classroom for Kids in the Garden at AT&T Park,  We’ve learned through teaching hundreds of kids  that introducing children to the vibrant flavors and textures of garden-fresh produce in an interactive social setting can help to shift their taste preferences toward fruits and vegetables. In addition to sparking curiosity about new foods, Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchen also connects young minds to the stories behind food – where it comes from, and how it nourishes their bodies and community.

In each two-hour program, kids:

  • Play a fruit and vegetable name game.
  • Touch, taste, and smell garden-fresh vegetables.
  • Learn about edible plants.
  • Cook tasty, kid-safe recipes.
  • Enjoy a healthy kitchen picnic.

In July 2016 we took this fun, interactive program beyond AT&T Park and into college and corporate campuses. As the program grows, children of the staff members at our corporate and university accounts as well as kids from local community organizations (such as Boys and Girls Clubs that our clients want to support) will join our team members for hands-on lessons in gardening, healthy eating, and cooking.

This is an invaluable opportunity for us to invest in the future of the communities where we live, work, and play.


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Hitting Our 25% Humane Target

Prioritizing third-party-certified humanely raised eggs, beef, pork, chicken, and turkey

In 2012 we vowed to take a series of concrete steps to improve the welfare of animals in our food supply, including ceasing all purchases of foie gras and crated veal, switching to Certified Humane ground beef, to cage-free precracked (a.k.a. liquid) eggs (our shell eggs have been cage free since 2005), and to pork from sows raised without dependence on gestation crates.

The final remaining challenge was to source at least 25 percent of all our meat, poultry and egg purchases companywide from producers that meet one of four third-party animal welfare humane certifications: Humane Farm Animal Care, Animal Welfare Approved, Global Animal Partnership (GAP), and Food Alliance. These four represent the top tier in verifiable standards, ones that 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 July 2016 we first hit that target, and we completed fiscal 2017 at 26.7% certified product. Millions of Bon Appétit’s purchasing dollars are now being directed monthly to both small and large producers who treat their animals responsibly and humanely.


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"We believe in delivering on our promises, reporting on our challenges, and in continually striving to seek out the most ethical, socially and environmentally responsible food we can manage as a company our size."

Chief Strategy and Brand Officer Maisie Ganzler

Wellness @ Bon Appétit

Taking wellness to where our guests are — online

Wellness @ Bon Appétit is our suite of new and refreshed wellness education materials and activities for our guest-facing websites. From fueling our guests for their best performance to helping them understand how their gut affects their health to learning to make more sustainable food choices, we cover it all. Our team of registered dietitians updates our library biweekly with emerging topics in nutrition and wellness, some of which we also publish on our company blog. These include The Buzz, a series of short articles designed to tell guests what they really need to know about timely topics in food and nutrition; answering guests’ questions in a monthly Wellness Tips column; creating digital health-related events; and sharing delicious healthy recipes.

The Wellness @ Bon Appétit materials have resulted in a 26 percent increase in traffic to our guest-facing wellness pages. From reaching our clients’ employees or students where they are (online!) to giving subtle small nudges toward the healthy options, we nourish a culture of wellness.

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The Last Straw

Taking a stand on needless plastic waste

Americans use more than 500 million straws every day — more than one per man, woman, and child. Numerous campaigns in England and some U.S. cities have sprung up to ban these sucky polluters.

On April 18, the University of Portland in Portland, OR, became the first U.S. university to ban plastic straws at all food or beverage outlets on campus, in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company, the university’s food service provider. A few days after UP announced its ban, a California school also went strawless, followed on April 25 by Knox College in Illinois (which, like UP, is a Bon Appétit client).

And on May 31, Bon Appétit announced that it was banning straws and plastic stirrers companywide, in our 1,000 cafés and restaurants in 33 states. The phase out has begun and will be completed by September 2019.

Bon Appétit is the first food service company — or major restaurant company — to make this commitment in the country.

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When Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education

Researching a widespread problem and collecting the diverse campus solutions that seek to address it

As we learned with The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States, a report we coauthored in 2011 with United Farm Workers and Oxfam America, the first step to  solving a pervasive, complicated problem is to study it and define its scope, and begin gathering resources and examples of ways to address it.

Report Cover thumbnail photoWhen Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education (download PDF) is based on  research collected in early 2018. It draws heavily on work by the Bon Appétit Fellows, its waste programs manager, and one of its nutrition project managers, a registered dietitian.

Those projects inspired Bon Appétit’s senior leadership to recognize campus food insecurity as one of the most pressing issues facing our guests and clients and to dedicate resources to studying it.

Food insecurity on college campuses first appeared on the company’s radar in 2014 after we began partnering with the Food Recovery Network to set up food recovery programs on our college campuses, and began looming larger in fall 2016 when we received the first of several requests to help university administrators establish food pantries. In January 2017, our waste programs manager created and disseminated a food pantry setup guide for Bon Appétit’s college dining teams with examples and best practices. One of the company’s registered dietitians, whose college roommate had struggled with food insecurity, attended a Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) conference and began advocating internally for proactive steps to combat the problem. Inquiries about whether its mini-market locations could accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits followed. (Under current government regulations, the answer is no.)

When Students Are Hungry was written by Bon Appétit National Marketing Manager Cheryl Sternman Rule, who holds a Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she worked as a researcher and co-authored a three-part book series on higher education. She was assisted by Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Jack’s book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, will be published in 2019 by Harvard University Press.

Download When Students Are Hungry: An Examination of Food Insecurity in Higher Education


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Revising Our Responsible Antibiotics Policy

Simplifying our purchasing standards to reflect positive changes and push for more progress in the marketplace

Bon Appétit Management Company has long been aware of the threat to public health posed by the animal agriculture industry’s routine abuse of antibiotics — to promote faster-than-normal growth and to prevent disease in healthy animals. Since 2003, we have enacted various purchasing standards to support producers who are using antibiotics responsibly.

In January 2019, following extensive consultation with experts at the Center for a Livable Future at John Hopkins University, we announced a revised purchasing policy designed to streamline what had been a patchwork of standards by species, as well as to reflect positive changes in the marketplace and to continue pushing the industry forward.

Bon Appétit Management Company is committed to supporting farms whose practices eliminate the need for routine antimicrobials. (“Antimicrobials” is a more comprehensive term for the class of drugs that includes antibiotics) We believe strongly that good farm-animal health should rely on healthy living conditions for the animals, not drugs. Our new purchasing standard companywide is to buy only meat, and poultry, and seafood raised without the use of antimicrobials except where necessary to treat sick animals in the documented presence of disease in the flock, herd, or fish population as verified by a veterinarian.

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More Sustainable Coffee

Our dual global/local sourcing commitment ensures all coffee-bean purchases come from either third-party-verified, socially/environmentally sustainable sources or registered Farm to Fork vendors

More and more Americans are thinking about where their food comes from, and the conditions in which it was grown. That goes for coffee, too.

Fueled by our Low Carbon Lifestyle program and our longtime focus on socially responsible sourcing, in March 2019 Bon Appétit pledged that by the end of 2021, all of our coffee-bean purchases will come either from a third-party-certified/-verified source or from vendors enrolled in Farm to Fork, Bon Appétit’s local-sourcing program.

Accepted certifications are Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Bird Friendly. Accepted verifications are Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E) Practices and Enveritas.

Bon Appétit is also proud to have been the first food service provider to make a commitment to Fair Trade tea, in October 2015.


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Toward Cleaner Plates: A Study of Plate Waste in Food Service

Collaborating with NRDC to understand causes of edible plate waste in food service environments and seek solutions

Until now, little research has been done to understand why people dining out leave food on their plates. It’s a problem that the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates to account for 20 percent of all food wasted in the U.S. To better understand the causes of edible plate waste in university dining and corporate café environments, Bon Appétit Management Company, in collaboration with NRDC, conducted a study whose findings were released in the whitepaper “Toward Cleaner Plates: A Study of Plate Waste in Food Service.” (Download report)

The study tracked how much plate waste was generated at 20 Bon Appétit cafés across the country over a variety of meal periods. The locations were evenly divided between cafés located at business and industry locations and institutions of higher education and covered a total of 40 meal periods surveyed between May 2018 and March 2019. During the study period, plate scrapings were obtained from more than 12,000 individuals, 1,572 of whom completed a written survey.

For some of the key findings of the report, read the press release.


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Ambitious New Climate Change Policy

Building on a long history of taking action to mitigate the food system’s role in climate change, Bon Appétit committed to reducing emissions by 38%, per calorie of food, by 2030.

The companywide commitment aligns with the science-based criteria of the World Resources Institute and objectives outlined by the Paris Agreement, which seek to prevent global warming past 1.5 Celsius. By targeting calories instead of a net emissions reduction target, Bon Appétit centers the conversation on food as a significant contributor to climate change. The company is working to achieve this ambitious calorie-based target without the use of external carbon offsets by arming its chefs, operations teams, and guests with new tools and easy ways to make food choices that are lower in carbon, such as:

  • An update to Bon Appétit’s proprietary Food Standards Dashboard that now delivers World Resources Institute-compatible data tracking, synthesizing a complex set of purchasing and sustainability data to offer a snapshot of where greenhouse gas emissions are most impactful in an operation.
  • Bon Appétit will continue to track red meat and cheese consumption through the Food Standards Dashboard, as it has done since 2007, and has set an aggressive target of less than 1-ounce-per-guest-per-meal for beef and less than 2.5 ounces for all meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Bon Appétit’s Plant-Forward Culinary Collaborative – a working group of chefs tasked with creating plant-forward resources for the company’s culinary staff – will work together with the company’s wellness team to conduct regional plant-forward trainings, helping to skew menus away from carbon-intensive meat and cheese, and toward plants.

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Food Standards Dashboard 2.0

A next-generation sustainability and wellness data superpower

The second generation of our proprietary Food Standards Dashboard launched in 2022. We expanded the capabilities of the industry’s most sophisticated sustainability and wellness reporting tool to incorporate more than a dozen new indicators and expanded data capture capability in a highly visual, easy-to-navigate format. The Food Standards Dashboard is available to all Bon Appétit accounts at no additional cost, giving chefs and general managers actionable data that helps them make their operations and menus more sustainable and healthier for guests. Sound like a bold claim? The Dashboard has the data to back it up! Dedicated tabs for purchasing, climate change, plant-forward menuing, and wellness each pull information from purchasing, finance, and menu management systems, to synthesize a complex set of data and compare it against a long list of business rules in order to calculate compliance. Curious about the greenhouse gas emissions related to purchases? Check the climate change tab. Want to see the breakdown of animal versus plant protein purchases? The plant-forward tab has the answer! The tool offers a wide variety of new features including:

  • Color-coded indicators, downloadable graphs, trend lines, and charts that offer at-a-glance action items for chefs and managers.
  • Rollup/rolldown functionality so data can be monitored at the café or campus level (for large operations with multiple cafés).
  • Robust reporting on local purchasing and compliance with a wide variety of sustainability criteria at the product level.
  • World Resources Institute-compatible data tracking offers a snapshot of where greenhouse gas emissions are most impactful in an operation.
  • Animal and plant products are tracked and measured by both weight and spend, showing a café’s adherence to Bon Appétit’s plant-forward initiative.
  • “The Wellness Plate” offers an easy-to-understand visualization of how the average plate in a café aligns with the guidelines of the EAT Lancet Commission’s diet for planetary and human health.

Read the press release to see a complete list of features and capabilities.


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