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Restaurants that Hit the Triple Bottom Line


Hana Dickman

It would be safe to assume that if you ask 50 people having dinner in a restaurant if they know what a triple bottom line business is, only a handful would know the answer. A triple bottom line business, sometimes referred to as a “3P”, is a business model that focuses on people and the planet, while also seeking profits. In other words, it means that a for-profit entity adheres to the ideals of helping people and not harming the environment while running their business. The concept has caught on across all industries, including food services and hospitality.

Attracting Customers by Being Social and Green

\It’s a great thing that so much of the population today is more informed and concerned about how businesses treat people, get involved in the community, and recognize the fragile nature of our planet. The millennial generation in particular is leading the challenge to restaurant owners to get with the program and become more sustainable and socially concerned. Restaurants that ignore the growing public support for businesses that put people and planet on par with profits, will inevitably lose ground to their more socially and environmentally conscious competitors.

If a small business owner wants to gain public support, and more customers for their restaurant, he or she has to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Offering a free slice of pie with every meal on Wednesdays, or having a recycling bin behind your restaurant is not enough to call yourself a triple bottom line business. Your restaurant has to participate in a more meaningful way. The following businesses illustrate what it takes to be a triple bottom line business in the restaurant and food service industry.

The Corner Kitchen

Asheville is an eco-friendly city that sits in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Several years ago, a major green initiative took place in the local restaurant industry and 16 restaurants were certified green. Asheville became the first city in the country to be designated as a Green Dining Destination. To become Green Certified, restaurants had to meet certain requirements such as sourcing food locally, recycling, and demonstrating other sustainable and planet-friendly behavior. One of those restaurants awarded the distinction is a triple bottom line business called the Corner Kitchen.

A hundred years ago, Aunt Molly might have lived in this two-story cottage located at 3 Boston Way in Historic Biltmore Village. Today, the renovated cottage has become one of the most popular places to dine in all of Asheville. Back in 2010, the staff used all of their southern charm to welcome President Obama and the First Lady. The Corner Kitchen serves southern-style cuisine with an urban twist for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Locals always suggest the Corner Kitchen when guests come to town.

While providing delicious food and a cozy atmosphere, the owners and operators of the Corner Kitchen stick to the mission of being a green restaurant. Food is sourced from more than a dozen local farms and vendors. Cooking oil is recycled with a local bio-fuel company. The company participates in a number of different community events and supports charitable causes. Judging by the lines outside the doors, the Corner Kitchen is doing quite well and is a perfect example of a triple bottom line restaurant.

Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar

Serving the freshest fish and the best burgers has made Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar one of the “go-to” places in the upstate New York city of Ithaca. Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, is also a very progressive city in the heart of Finger Lake country. College students and residents of all ages care about preserving and protecting the natural beauty of the area. Maxie’s actively pursues green policies that help sustain the planet.

Maxie’s gets most of the seafood it serves from a supplier in Boston. The daily catch is packed in ice and shipped in refrigerated trucks so it arrives absolutely fresh within 48 hours of being harvested. Whenever possible, local sources from the Ithaca area are used to obtain the supplies needed to run the restaurant and bar. Maxie’s supports small local farmers who provide fresh produce and other ingredients that go into making their traditional New Orleans style menu items.

Maxie’s is a triple bottom line business (people, planet, profit) because it understands that people and the planet are just as important as profits. An excerpt from the company’s mission statement forms the basis of Maxie’s business model:

To provide all who work with us a friendly, cooperative and rewarding environment which encourages long-term, satisfying growth employment. To be a giving member of the Ithaca community and to use our restaurant to improve the quality of life in the Finger Lakes region.

Catering Consciously

The name says it all. Founded in 2008, this NorthGlenn Colorado catering company, located just north of Denver, hits all the right buttons that qualify it as a triple bottom line business. The company takes an innovative four-pronged approach to business that benefits workers, communities, customers, and the environment. Catering Consciously earned the Business Seal of Approval from Green America and became the only Colorado company in the Restaurants/Clubs/Catering category to be listed in the nation’s most recognized green economy company’s national Directory of Products and Services for People and the Planet.  How did they earn the honor?

  • By using only natural cleaning products
  • By using disposable plates and cups made from biodegradable corn starch and sugar cane
  • By composting all food scraps
  • By donating safe, non presented food to local food banks and charitable organizations
  • By using local, organic, seasonal and sustainable food products
  • By recycling
  • By using Denver based, eco-friendly Beanstalk Solar Hosting to host its website

It Takes Money to be a Restaurant with a Conscious

Small business owners in the restaurant industry often have to deal with seasonal swings in business. A restaurant has overhead expenses year-round, but may do most of its business in the spring and summer months. Running short of working capital in the “slow season” may force a small business to lay-off workers or not be able to meet commitments and contribute to community causes. A good solution for many restaurant owners short on cash may be a small business loan from an online lender like Credibly.