Q: What inspired you to start the Positive Plate?
A: Americans are the most environmentally and socially impacting consumers history has ever seen. We need to find creative ways to more positively impact the environment and our communities through our consumer behavior. Food has always brought people together, and the way we manage our food systems should be no different.
Working with the restaurant industry gives us an opportunity to show what comprehensive sustainability planning looks like, in a sexy and dynamic arena one that holds the public’s interest long enough to show them something different, something more engaging more positively impacting. That, and we love food and having a good time!
Q: Do you have a history in the restaurant industry that led you to want to bring a level of corporate responsibility to that arena? Or do you come strictly from the sustainability side?
A: All of the Positive Plate advisory board has worked in the restaurant industry in some capacity at one point or another, however, our angle comes mostly from the work that we have done in sustainability related non-profit, academic, and business communities.
Q: Did Positive Plate begin in Orange County? What brought Positive Plate to San Diego?
A: The Positive Plate began in Orange County mostly because that’s where we lived when we came up with the idea. We have wanted to expand into San Diego for quite some time, due to the overwhelmingly positive response we would get whenever we would visit, and because the “farm to fork” movement here is so active.
Q: Restaurants, even great and frequented ones, are sometimes not particularly profitable, leading owners and managers to skimp in the very areas that Positive Plate addresses. (Which is why what you do is so worthwhile!) How do you catch their attention and change their purchasing/management habits? There are obviously reputation incentives. Are there financial incentives?
A: Reputation incentives are directly related to financial incentives for the most part, the “farm to fork” movement would not endure if consumers did not demand it. This is unmistakably a branding issue… positive branding leads to consistent business, which is more profitable. We don’t demand or even expect restaurants to do everything possible; that’s simply not realistic. If a restaurant fails as a business, it will not be because they have chosen to meet consumer’s sustainability demands it will fail for all of the reasons restaurants have always failed it’s a tough industry.
Q: Are all the Taste of Summer restaurants Positive Plate restaurants?
A. Actually, none of the Taste of Summer restaurants are Positive Plate restaurants. A Taste of Summer is our way of introducing ourselves to the community, and San Diego’s most sustainable restaurants. Hopefully, our event will show what we bring to the table, and we can help push this movement in a positive direction through our model.
Q: What kind of experience should people expect attending this event?
A: A Taste of Summer is intended to show people some of the great restaurants in San Diego that strive to address sustainability… and more to point, how good the food is! Much of the general public still thinks that eating sustainably is difficult; that there isn’t much choice, that what is available is boring and bland. Obviously, this is not the case. The Taste of Summer menu is amazing! We’ve also got live music, art, craft beer, local wines, organic cocktails, and a bunch of amazing people!
Q: Is Taste of Summer just a launch, or do you think you might repeat the celebration yearly?
A: Once we get going, our goal is to promote the program by repeating every year…any excuse to throw a party!
Q: Are there plans for Positive Plate to expand throughout and beyond Southern California, and possibly even further throughout the U.S.?
A: We have already been approached by groups from Santa Barbara and Los Angeles about establishing additional chapters. Right now, however, we don’t see a need to aggressively expand beyond Southern California, but we do want to make our model available for anyone that wants to use it.
Purchase tickets to A Taste of Summer here.