The Business of Food

From foodtank.com, by Sarah Small
The Business of Food

“The restaurant is always focused on the customer,” Scott Davis, former Executive Vice President of Panera Bread, said in the introduction to this panel. Davis emphasized the changing business for restaurants, which is being led by millennials asking more questions about the health of their food. Davis says this pressure trickles down to the suppliers.

This panel focused on the business of food, with perspectives from producers, manufacturers, and buyers of food, moderated by Eliza Barclay, reporter and editor for National Public Radio.

Scaling the supply chain for Chipotle needs to grow along with the company, said Josh Brau, Program Manager for Food with Integrity at Chipotle. “We need to see the growth of farmers producing food in the way we hope they’ll do it.”

Paul Willis, co-founder and manager at Niman Ranch Pork Co. said, “We used to say we can add another farmer every time Chipotle opened a restaurant, but they got going pretty quickly.” Other challenges for his farming include the ethanol craze, as feed is such a significant cost of raising a pig.

Nora Pouillon, founder of Restaurant Nora, is committed to only buying organic products and has been doing it for decades before it was popular. “Now, my supply chain has come full-circle,” she says.

A larger company, Marriott, has promised to serve only cage-free eggs by 2015. Brad Nelson, who oversees the culinary strategy for 18 global brands with Marriot International, said, “Anybody will grow or raise anything if you agree to buy it at a certain price.” Nelson said part of the business model is about building an infrastructure along with a new hotel.  For example, with their new hotel in Haiti, Nelson said, “We are committing to these farmers and buying everything they grow,” which he said provides a consistent income important for farmers.

Vicky Rateau, campaign manager for Oxfam America’s food and climate change campaigns, said Oxfam takes a theme and a commodity to focus on issues. Rateau is a part of Oxfam’s team that encourages companies to address deeper issues such as hunger. “Companies can play a role in addressing hunger in their supply chains,” Rateau said.

Written by Meredith Turk, Food Tank Volunteer