With so many allegedly healthy food and drink establishments popping up all over the place, it’s more important than ever to be able to identify which ones are doing it right and which ones are simply attempting to capitalize on trendy buzzwords. Companies like Charlottesville-based Foodwaze - a regenerative farm and restaurant resource - provide an invaluable service by shouldering some of this burden, but at the end of the day, if truly healthy and sustainable consumption is important to you, it’s critical to do some of the work yourself.
From the start, we’ve prided ourselves on running a completely transparent business. This is perhaps the most important principle that guides us, since without transparency, all of our other principles are rendered moot. A juice company can easily claim to use organic ingredients, but if the entire kitchen and process is kept behind closed doors, nothing is stopping them from juicing pesticide-laced produce all day long. Same goes for the process they are using, additives they might be concealing, general cleanliness of the kitchen, etc.
We’ve designed all of our spaces to be wide open and visible to our customers. When we were building out our first space, our architect suggested closing off our prep area - You don’t want your customers to be able to see that. Actually, yes, we do! Otherwise, how will our customers ever be able to be certain that our words are backed up by our actions?
Ever wonder about a place that claims to use all the best, healthiest ingredients but charges surprisingly low prices? Unfortunately, there’s no magical equation that makes this possible. Most restaurants are dealing with substantially similar fixed costs (rent, equipment, upkeep & maintenance, wages, etc.). The major difference is found in the cost of goods sold, which is entirely dependent on the quality and source of ingredients and materials used. Cheaper ingredients = cheaper price point. Does a $1 cheeseburger or $3 “fruit smoothie” scare you yet?
So what can you do as a consumer? Start by asking questions whenever you go out to eat. If something is unclear, ask for clarification or further information. If the answer sounds a little sketchy, it probably is. If you hear the phrase “organic when possible” or any variation thereof, you can pretty much count on the fact that they’re mainly (or entirely) using conventional produce (we figured out how to be 100% organic, so we can tell you definitively that it is possible!). Ask to see information or labeling pertaining to the source of any ingredients or products used. We show and explain to our customers all the time where and how we source our ingredients. In DC, our bottled juice fridge is part of our main storage cooler, so there’s no need to even ask, you can see all of our ingredients stored right behind the beautiful juice!
The food industry at-large is not going to change until enough consumers demand that it does. Restaurants will continue to cut corners and use cheap, processed ingredients until we choose to stop consuming them. It’s your money - start demanding and getting more for it.