Living Up to Your Restaurant’s Sustainability Claims

Organic salad bar with fresh vegetables

Pick a buzzword: local, organic, sustainable – it doesn’t matter which one. Consumers are drawn to them or the connotation of them. What matters is that you can back these claims up.

Toronto Life looked at the claims of local salad bar ingredients and didn’t take them at face value. They found that Canadian restaurateurs were less likely to outright lie when it came to claims regarding the origins and sustainability of their ingredients and can actually find ways to stand behind their claims.

For example, produce is available year-round, even if it is more expensive.

“Anybody that squawks about finding ingredients in winter is using a single-source distributor,” Brad Long, chef and owner of Café Belong, told Toronto Life. “It’s a dead giveaway, because the distributors’ raison d’être is to try to keep prices the same all year long.”

Restaurants can also have a rotating menu that changes seasonally to reflect what is available locally.

“Everything that’s grown locally is cheaper, so there are times when prices can go down, too,” Long said.

Jessica Watchorn, manager at Urban Herbivore, tells Toronto Life that the restaurant uses Ontario produce like alfalfa, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, ginger and potatoes, as well as spring mix, baby spinach, and spinach from California; arugula from Florida; and kale, cabbage, and red leaf lettuce from Canada.

“If it’s in season in Ontario, it will be cheaper and better,” she explained. “We buy in season when we can but obviously for most of the year, all of the food is coming from California, Florida, or Mexico. It’s a salad bar — if we were going to have all local food, we’d have to close the restaurant.” Read more