Innovation in the foodservice industry

Innovation is a hot topic in the foodservice industry lately. It seems there is always a new or hot trend that consumers are eating up. And we’ve been happy to see some practices that were once considered ground-breaking, such as local food, sustainable seafood, recycled napkins and eliminating styrofoam, becoming commonplace. We believe that true innovation is about lasting change and should transform the way we do things.

At LEAF, we are currently in the process of updating our certification criteria and planning the release of Version 4.0 of our Foodservice Evaluation this fall. We regularly update our criteria to capture the ever-changing technology and innovations in the environmental and foodservice industry and ensure our standards accurately designate those who apply for certification.  These new standards will reflect the changes we’re seeing in the industry and continue to recognize leaders who find ways to improve their operations and bring sustainability to new levels.

We’re seeing this with simplified menus that cut down on food waste, chefs growing their own food on-site like Level 3 LEAF certified Chic Alors in Quebec, and menus that revolve around seasonal produce. The Coup in Calgary, who are also Level 3 certified,  have bee hives near by, which end up helping produce some of the veggies that diners get to enjoy. Some chefs are taking the hyper-local trend a step further and pickling their produce so that it can be used throughout the year, which is great way to offer out-of-season products in unique ways while staying true to a local and sustainable goal of offering in-house food. Although none of our LEAF certified restaurants have begun their own in-house butcheries, we think it’s positive that we’re seeing a rise in the number of chefs who are butchering their own meat. This means that a restaurant can use everything from nose-to-tail, bone marrow to broth, which truly make sure there is a little waste as possible.

Step away from food and more restaurants are also building their spaces with sustainability in mind. Deane House in Calgary is the lovely sister of Level 3 LEAF certified River Cafe and they have completely renovated their new space.  New repurposed elements of the original house are included, as are repurposed building materials, salvaged wood, used found artifacts and decorative elements, custom designed LED lighting, natural plaster walls, extensive composting and recycling systems, and an onsite edible garden. Deane House is in the process of becoming LEAF certified and the menu is similar in philosophy to River Cafe’s with a focus on local and seasonal farm-to-table.

“Sustainability at River Café and Deane house is a commitment and mindset, a constant reassessment of methods and systems,” says Proprietor Sal Howell.  “We’re continually looking at how we can be even more local and for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively. Our goal is always to reduce our impact on the world, which means opportunities for innovation truly guides our purchasing decisions and practices.”

Innovation is also happening with many of our LEAF approved suppliers. With consumers demanding transparency and sustainability from the foodservice industry, restaurants and suppliers are increasingly investing in food and agriculture practices. Hop Compost is a great example -- their food scraps are sourced directly from select food merchants and prepared in small batches.  Their closed-loop-system ensures each batch is made in one continuous load so that Hop microbe cultures never change. What’s more, each batch is made within sealed Cleantech containers using live data to automate temperature, moisture, and oxygen levels. The process takes 11 days and is so thorough it gives each batch a perfect zero lab score for Salmonella, E.Coli, and pesticide and herbicide traces.   

“Hop is invested in a more thoughtful composting process,” says Kevin Davies, Hop Founder and CEO. “We’ve taken care of our product, so that farm-to-table food merchants can contribute their scraps to a compost worthy of moving table-to-farm. This way, we can create a closed loop with local organic growers.”