JP and Michelle MacFadyen are dedicated to sustainable practices in their restaurant and to sharing the bounty of their bakery with others through local food donations to feed the hungry.
By now we’re all familiar with the locavore ideal: buy food from local producers, family farms and businesses. In the pursuit of this ideal, sometimes people regard corporate franchises as not being local, family run, community oriented businesses. This is not always the case.
The married owners of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Lafayette, La., have molded their corporate franchise into their own image, reflecting their values of care for the community they serve and the environment we all depend upon.
JP says that they’ve taken to heart the Latin meaning of the word, “companion,” by breaking bread with others through their donations, instead of selling their day old bakery goods to customers at a reduced price.
He explains their business philosophy to Ethical Foods and the care that he and his wife take when choosing green practices that support sustainability and reduce waste, an effort that has resulted in their franchise earning the first green certification for a restaurant in Louisiana from the Green Restaurant Association, a national nonprofit.
You call your restaurant a “freedom franchise,” which you describe as having the freedom to customize your business so that it caters to the customers in your area. Is this an established franchise policy or something you decided to pursue on your own?
Great Harvest Bread Co. has always touted the ‘Freedom Franchise’ model. This means each store operates like its own neighborhood bakery with the ability to run the bakery as we—the owners—wish to do, only relying on the corporate personnel when desired. The last line of our mission statement (both for the franchise and our bakery) is: ‘Give generously to others.’ Donating day-old bread and sweets to our local soup kitchens instead of trying to sell it at a discount is our way of living out that piece of the mission statement. It is certainly not a policy that is mandated from the franchise, although there are many Great Harvest bakeries around the country that donate.
Besides being part of our mission, the idea of donating bread to help feed the less fortunate has long historical roots. Just take the [Latin] word companion, it literally means to share bread with someone!
Do you keep track of the amount of your donations made annually? What factors influence the amount of food that is donated?
No, we don’t track the donations in terms of total loaves or dozens of sweets given away. What we do try to manage is the donations as a percentage of the total bread baked. Ideally, that would hover around 5 percent. Sometimes it’s higher and other times lower. It can be somewhat seasonal, as there are weeks when we sell out every day and then there is nothing for the soup kitchens. However, when we sell out that is a bit of a double-edged sword. At first glance, a sellout might seem good from an owner’s perspective; however, it also means that some customers are leaving disappointed or empty-handed. There are other instances when we make bread specifically to donate like in 2010 when we brought hundreds of loaves to the fishermen and fisherwomen affected by the (Gulf of Mexico) Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Are there specific actions you take to limit creating excess food in the first place, like using portion control or adjusting the schedule for food preparation?
As a bakery, the excess is not so much about portion control as it is about production planning and scheduling. We often say while planning production, ‘You gotta make dough to make dough,’ and when planning goes well, customers are happy and there is always some leftover to help others.
How do food donations complement your other actions that promote sustainability like recycling and using locally sourced produce?
The Green Restaurant Association measures our sustainability across many different areas. One of those areas is waste. This includes everything from recycling, reusable glassware and tote bags to donations made to food banks.
Yours is the first restaurant in Louisiana to obtain a certification from the Green Restaurant Association? Why did you choose this path?
There are a couple of reasons that we chose to obtain a certification from the Green Restaurant Association. First, we strongly believe that everyone needs to play a role in helping create a sustainable future, whether that is taking individual actions, steps taken within the household, or broader initiatives within a business or community. As business owners, we felt like we needed to really incorporate sustainable practices into our business.
When we first started looking into ideas and practices, there was a lot of greenwashing going on. To decipher what supplies to purchase and what practices to adopt that would make a difference was, and still is, really hard—especially when we are trying to focus on the core pieces of our business. We decided to rely on experts that understood the best practices and also worked specifically in the retail food/restaurant space. Having a solid set of standards to measure ourselves against has been a worthwhile undertaking.
Visit the Great Harvest of Acadiana’s website.
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