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! 

5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

You deal with it at work every day, throwing perfectly edible food into the garbage. Whether you are FOH or BOH, it is an issue we can all relate to and an unfortunate side of the industry that we can change. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could snap your fingers and that edible food getting thrown out goes to someone in need, or those food scraps are diverted from landfill? Not only is it tragic, but it is also money out the window. That’s why we are kicking off our blog with your number one concern… Food waste!

Below are five simple tips to help your restaurant reduce food waste:

1. Efficient Bin Placement: It should be easy peasy and mindless for staff to properly sort waste from the dining room. Since most of the waste coming from the dining room is food waste, then the organics bin should be the most convenient in the dish pit. That way putting food scraps into the compost bin will be automatic, and food waste is diverted from landfill. If you are doing waste haulage with the City of Toronto, this will also save you money on garbage bin pickups, since composting is free.

2. What is left on the plate?: Keep an eye on what guests are leaving on their plates. For example, if you find that perhaps the portions are too large, try scaling back. This will reduce your food waste, and the associated ingredient and waste haulage costs. This seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised.

3. Allow mods: We know modifications can slow things down in the kitchen, especially during brunch service! But allowing guests to feel comfortable asking for a portion of their meal to be excluded will keep them happy, and also can reduce your food and waste costs. If they don’t want the bun, what is the point of keeping it on the plate if it is going straight in the bin after?

4. Find uses for any scraps: This one can seem a bit obvious, but keeping this in mind can be very useful. Got scraps from prepping vegetables? Make stock for a soup special! Got apple cores and skins leftover? Add water, and you’ve started your own vinegar. Loka in Toronto does something that we love, which is take water leftover from preparing potatoes, reducing/dehydrating it and creating potato glass. Guests love it, adding to their experience! Notice what you are throwing out, and get creative.

5. Feed it to those in need: Did you know that when donating food, you are not liable according to Ontario’s Donation of Food Act, 1994? Get that delicious grub to someone in need, and donate to Second Harvest! They do regular and one-time pickups, at no cost, and you also save on waste haulage fees! Win-win. More info about donating: