Have you heard of Slow Money? It’s an organization dedicated to funding ventures that contribute to the building of more sustainable, efficient, and locally-based food systems – think small-scale organic farmers, local and regional food processing and distribution players, and even progressive-minded restaurants.
George Weld, owner of Williamsburg’s Egg, is on a mission to develop a new way of running restaurants – one that emphasizes the importance and value of working with good food, that supports ‘human-scale’ producers and purveyors, and that creates a sustainable work environment, with fair pay and benefits.
George recently spoke at Slow Money’s national gathering. Here’s his presentation:
Here are a few highlights -
Can changing the way restaurants do business really impact our food system? According to George, absolutely:
“Restaurants are too important for us to ignore. They’re a major driver of our economy. Almost half the money Americans spend on food gets spent in restaurants. What happens in restaurants affects almost everyone in this country directly. 130,000,000 people eat out every day in restaurants…Right now there are 10,000,000 people working in restaurants, which is seven times as many people who work in the entire armed forces. Imagine the effect we could have if we changed this industry from the dead-end one it is, into the life-giving industry it could be.”
And how can restaurant owners and operators change the playing field?
“We start by leading by example. We offer proof that it can be done,” says George. “…That’s what we’ve been working toward at Egg for almost seven years in Brooklyn. We run a highly principled, mission-driven business, that sources from human-scale purveyors. We put over $200,000 per year into the pockets of small and organic producers. We’ve created a work environment that makes it clear that we think that working with food is some of the most important work a person can do. We pay our staff well and offer benefits to everyone, and we pack the house every day with people who love our food and love eating someplace where they know the food was made by people who care.
We’ve also started a small farm in upstate New York where we hope in a tiny way to stimulate a rural economy. The farm supplies the restaurant with some of the best produce we’ve ever eaten, but it also gives our employees a chance to work with food from beginning to end, and it helps reduce the alienation between urban and rural that plagues the food economy.”
So yeah. There’s a little more than that really good coffee brewing behind the scenes at Egg.