Spotlight: Bob Desautels from The Neighbourhood Group

This week we’d like to highlight the amazing sustainability work being done Bob Desautels and his team at The Neighbourhood Group, based out of Guelph, Ontario. This network of restaurants includes the The Wooly, Borealis Grillehouse & Bar (locations in both Guelph and Kitchener), and Miijidaa Cafe + Bistro. The Group has been leading buzz-worthy innovations in restaurant sustainability for over three decades! Once again, Desautels was named Restaurateur of the Year by Ontario Restaurant News in 2016. 

Bob has a long-standing passion for sustainability, which he began integrating into business through his first restaurant, La Maison, back in 1985 through a focus on local brews and food. He strongly believes in the power of myth and story for influencing our values. Bob’s own story is one that includes great food, community, and “operating as a force of good,” which has led to impressive achievements like their status as a B-Corp, which is a certification for companies which adhere to rigorous social and environmental standards.

Bob Desautels  Source: Guelph Mercury Tribune

Bob Desautels

Source: Guelph Mercury Tribune

In his chat with Lucy Cullen, terus CEO, Bob referenced some of the sustainability figures that have influenced his philosophy and business trajectory -- including David Suzuki, and Patagonia’s pioneering Yvon Chouinard. For himself, Bob said he is proudest of the fact that The Neighbourhood Group restaurants are 100% carbon neutral through the purchase of carbon offsets. As a true environmentalist, he was quick to acknowledge that he still thinks of this somewhat as “cheating,” and would like to move towards a more integrated approach, with a company such as Bullfrog Power.

Bob believes sustainability is fast becoming the norm and restaurants are likely going to be under increasing pressure to improve their business from both a social and environmental standpoint, especially with increasingly savvy customers and their use of social media. He has seen that sustainability is also very important to his restaurant staff and it's often a major reason for the restaurants' impressively low turnover rates. 

Clearly, sustainability isn't just a phase for Desautels and The Neighbourhood Group. They have not only had long-term cost savings, and attracted and maintained loyal customers, but are continually and naturally integrating new practices that are based in compassion for people and the planet. The next time you're in Guelph or Kitchener, make sure you stop by one of their spots for something fresh, tasty, and local! 

Spotlight: The Chase Hospitality Group

This week we are putting the spotlight on Toronto-based restaurant, event and catering company, The Chase Hospitality Group. Their restaurants include The Chase, Colette Grand Cafe, Kasa Moto and The Chase Fish and Oyster. Most recently, the Chase added Planta, an upscale, full service, plant-based restaurant with Chef David Lee. Planta puts sustainability on your plate with a completely plant based menu. 

We recently spoke with CHG President, Steven Salm and Marketing Manager, Anna Lewis about their company-wide initiatives. We love what they are doing when it comes to sustainability!

They first started implementing environmental initiatives because of a "growing awareness of environmental issues and obvious shift in our guests' attitudes and knowledge towards the damaging effects of mass food production, specifically how it relates to livestock farming." They saw the strain that our consumption of animal products places on the environment.

According to Anna, after realizing the need to make the shift to more sustainable practices, they immediately started addressing things across the company that could be easily changed, such as "reducing laundry needs, finding new ways to use ingredients without waste, reducing our paper printing needs, [and] adopting more plant-based menu items." They then created a long-term plan for initiatives that could not be changed as quickly. 

Credit: The Toronto Star

Credit: The Toronto Star

Guests can look for sustainably farmed seafood, grass-fed beef and plant-based items on 25% of their menu across their locations. They can learn more about CHG's sustainability initiatives through email communications, and table-side via the service team.

According to Anna, both guests and staff have been very enthusiastic and excited about the transition towards sustainable hospitality. And staff are consistently coming up with more ideas for sustainability initiatives. 

When asked about the future of hospitality, they see a huge shift away from meat-based dining, as there is no longer a way to ignore the environmental damages caused by livestock production and cash-crop agriculture. 

We love what The CHG is doing as they lead the industry towards a green future, and can't wait to see what they do next. In the mean time, you'll find us at Planta munching on Fried Kimchi Dumplings.

Why You Need Eco-Friendly Uniforms

Picking staff uniforms is crucial to representing your brand and standards. This week we are showing you the importance of considering the people who produce your uniforms. Below are 3 certifications to consider when choosing uniforms for your staff: 

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

1. Organic cotton: Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land and accounts for 25% of the world's insecticide market and 10% of pesticide sales. Making it the most pesticide intensive crop on the planet. The World Health Organization estimates that 20,000 people/year die in developing countries from pesticide poisoning, and a further 3 million from chronic health problems. Asking for Certified Organic Cotton ensures the health of the farmers producing it.

2. Fair Trade: 1 in 6 people in the world are involved in the fashion industry. If you look at some of the clothes in your closet, you will find many of them are from Bangladesh. There are over 5,000 factories in Bangladesh and 3.6 million garment workers. Minimum wage for garment workers are among the lowest in the world in Bangladesh, at approximately $38 CDN a month. Asking for Fair Trade Certifications ensure that the workers are paid fair wages. 

3. B Corps: This certification body ensures that businesses have met specific social and environmental standards, public transparency and legal accountability.


For cost friendly uniform basics like t-shirts, check out PACT. For dress shirts, check out ZADY.

To learn more about sustainable fashion, check out the documentary True Cost on Netflix.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Why You Need Kegged Wine

Attaining ecological sustainability doesn’t just improve your bottom line as a restaurateur. One of the upward trends in this area is with wine service, where kegged wine offers the triple threat of savings, consistent quality, and sustainability.

Wine-by-the-glass is one of the most wasteful areas for a restaurant operator. The second a bottle is opened, exposure to oxygen, light, and fluctuations in temperature deteriorate the quality of its contents, making it unsellable within anywhere between 2-5 days, even with the use of vacuum pumps and expensive enomatic equipment. For operators who aren’t open seven days a week, or for whom wine sales are not consistent enough to ensure that a bottle will always be sold within a few days of opening, the result is unavoidable waste. Other operators struggle with economies of space – glass bottles need recycling, ensuring that they occupy the same space in a restaurant when they are empty as when they are full, posing a double-edged conundrum.

The wine industry has, increasingly, been adopting a new model for sale and service to the restaurant sector as a result: wine on tap. Sold either in stainless steel kegs like beer, or disposable plastic containers more akin to the bag-in-box wines seen in kitchens and at the LCBO, they offer a practical alternative for many restaurateurs. The similarity ends there, however, as the quality of wine available in kegs is far higher than those found in tetrapaks at liquor stores.

Ontario wineries such as Kew, Fielding, and Henry of Pelham have been quick to adopt the keg service method, available through companies such as Freshtap. Several high-value biodynamic wineries, such as Tawse, or California’s Qupe, have also partnered with kegging services.

By employing a combination of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to occupy empty space in the barrel, keg wines are able to eliminate oxidation and preserve wines for up to eight months after tapping, and a steel keg can be reused and recycled for up to 20 years. The risk of cork taint is also eliminated.

Presidio’s Marlena John performs the basic math in her article for TriplePundit: ‘Each standard sized, 19.5L keg, holds 26 bottles worth of wine.  Also, wines sold by the glass account for up to 80% of wine sold in restaurants, which equates to approximately 600 million bottles per year.  If 10% of that was served from a keg, that would save 60 million bottles yearly.  Since only about 27% of glass is recovered for recycling, this would divert millions of bottles from landfills.  Furthermore, kegs lessen transported wine weight, which accounts for one-third to one-half of the industry’s transportation carbon emissions.’

Although the installation of a wine-on-tap system comes with an initial cost (between 2 and 3 thousand dollars), savings add up extremely quickly, and kegged wine frequently outsells its bottled counterpart when sold side-by-side, highlighting the impressive rate of adoption by consumers.

For operators focused on consistency and quality, kegged wine offers a smart solution that produces both savings and environmental benefits.


What You Need to Know: Paper vs. Cloth Napkins

In this two-part series, we take a look at how something as simple as switching to cloth products can increase your profitability, enhance your brand, and reduce your operational costs. In today’s post, we focus on the benefits of using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, and in the next edition, we’ll compare cloth towels to paper towels.

Can something as small as a napkin have an impact on branding and profits? Can making the initial investment in cloth napkins save you money in the long run? Which option is more environmentally friendly? We’re diving into the associated costs, waste and guest experience to answer these questions.

1. Costs - Even though the cost of one rental napkin is 2.7 times higher than one paper napkin, on average, customers use 3 paper napkins per sitting compared to 1 cloth napkin per sitting (according to a study conducted by Jackson Marketing Group in 2012). This means that switching to cloth napkins can result in savings of 10%, without even considering the reduction in waste haulage fees!

Credit: Etsy, LittleBluNest

Credit: Etsy, LittleBluNest

2. Waste - Both paper and cloth napkins produce GHG Emissions throughout their life cycles; from production to disposal. While paper napkins only require materials, water and energy when being produced and disposed of, cloth napkins also require materials (e.g. cleaning products), water and energy for washing throughout their life cycle. Although the exact environmental impact of paper and cloth napkins is hard to quantify because of the large variety in napkin materials, sizes and washing methods, a study done in 2014 for the Textile Rental Services Association of America concluded that one paper napkin made of no recycled materials has an environmental impact over 3 times higher than one cloth napkin being washed with the least-efficient washing machine. Keep in mind that this number doesn’t account for the fact that customers use 3 paper napkins per sitting compared to 1 cloth napkin per sitting!

3. Guest Experience - A cloth napkin on a table instead of a paper one can quickly enhance a customer’s view of your restaurant; according to the study performed by Jackson Marketing Group, 88% of customers associate a restaurant with cloth napkins as one with better service and 82% consider a restaurant set with cloth napkins as one with a better appearance and ambiance. Best of all, there is no advertising required, as table settings are one of the first things people notice about a restaurant!

Not only do cloth napkins improve the look and feel of your restaurant, they can improve the profitability of your menu items too; customers who prefer cloth napkins are willing to pay up to 64% more for an entrée at a restaurant that is set with them.

Make the change from paper to cloth napkins and let us know what feedback you receive! Also be sure to look out for our upcoming post, where we break down the costs, waste and guest experience associated with using cloth towels versus paper towels.


Sources: 1. Consumer Napkin Preference Study, Jackson Marketing Group, 2012 2. Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable vs. Disposable Textiles, 2014 (prepared by John Jewell of PE International for the Textile Rental Services Association of America)