A new rating for local purchasing and Impossible Burger expands…to two more restaurants

Unsplash/Clem Onojeghuo

Rate expectations. In 2010, the New York City Health Department began requiring restaurants in all five boroughs to post letter grades reflecting their sanitary inspection scores. Suddenly, the name of a favorite corner joint became harder to remember than the bold, green “B” or orange “C” posted in its window. And New Yorkers got a fresh way to tally up value in a guidebook-giddy, three-star-preoccupied city, where “ratings” can alter a chef or restaurant’s economy virtually overnight.

There are plenty of ways to evaluate our restaurant experiences: a quick skim through Yelp calls up a roster of cheers and jeers from consumer reviewers, nationwide, about everything from saucing to service. But what about a restaurant’s value, beyond taste? How do we measure impact, for instance, or claims about sourcing and sustainability?

The Good Food 100 Restaurants list, launching Thursday, aims to make such an evaluation possible. A project of the nonprofit Good Food Media Network, co-founded by food industry entrepreneur Sara Brito (whose pilot economic impact analysis with seven Denver chefs we reported on here), the new, annual survey spotlights restaurants—from fast casual to fine dining to food delivery—that use their purchasing power to support local food economies.

The ratings are based on online survey data analyzed by University of Colorado, Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, and Good Food 100 Restaurants are measured by the percentage of their total food purchases spent in support of local, regional, and national producers and purveyors. The survey is still collecting data from interested restaurants and food service operations, who can self-report their good food purchases here.

The official list will be announced in June 2017. Gentlepeople, gather ye data.
–Kate Cox

Progress report. We reported on the Impossible burger last March, back when it seemed like the plant-based patty might never make it to a bun. At the time, the bleeding veggie burger was backed by $183 million in investments, had raised almost as much in its Series D investment round as Blue Apron, and had yet to sell a single burger. The rumors swirling around the notoriously secretive Silicon Valley startup had an early eighties sci-fi vibe: A celebrated biochemist, Bill Gates’ personal investment, lots of fake blood.

Then, in late July, the Impossible burger suddenly resurfaced. David Chang put it on the menu at New York City’s Nishi for $14, topped with lettuce, tomato, and special sauce. Still no mention of when it’ll hit shelves, but we finally got to try the legendary plant-based patty over the summer. It really does bleed. And it tastes pretty great, too.

Since then, the burger has continued its slow creep into the mainstream via trendy coastal restaurants. This week, it was introduced on two menus in New York—at Saxon and Parole and the Michelin-starred PUBLIC. At Saxon and Parole, it’ll be served with roasted oyster mushrooms, sherry onion, and truffle cream. That plus an order of fries will cost you $17.

As the Impossible burger continues its Instagram-fueled trudge through San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, its competitor Beyond Meat (also plant-based, reportedly meat-like, but backed by a paltry $17 million with investors that include General Mills and Tyson) has taken the opposite approach. It launched its burger patties in the meat case at a few Whole Foods locations in the Rocky Mountains, selling two-packs for $5.99 (about $3 per burger). Since then, it’s expanded into more than 250 Whole Foods stores in 29 states.

Both companies hope to win over meat lovers and vegetarians alike. One’s going after coast dwellers with deep pockets, and one’s fanning out from middle America. It’s a little like a marketing battle between city-slicker Tom Cruise and down-home charmer Tim Allen. Will the winning model look like Mission: Impossible, or will we already be loyal to infinity and Beyond? —Claire Brown