Rating Restaurants On How Socially Responsible They Are

Apr 17 2014, 6:24pm CDT | by

Gerald Mitchell wants to change behavior–specifically, to persuade consumers to patronize socially responsible restaurants.

He aims to do that through SWICH, a social enterprise site now in beta that lists and rates restaurants according to how well they score in five categories: “Health”, “Environment,” “Local,” “Workers,” and “Community.” The ultimate ratings are on a scale of minus five to positive five. (SWICH’s tagline is : “Buy better.”)

You’ve got to start somewhere and Mitchell decided it would be New York City and its “25,000-ish” restaurants. (That includes stores which are part of a chain or franchise.  In case you want to know, the number one restaurant retailer in New York City is Dunkin Donuts, with 7,190 stores, according to The Center for An Urban Future).  For now, about 8,000 restaurants have been scored.

Mitchell decided to focus on the retail level, rather than looking at, say, individual skus for a few reasons. For one thing, there are just too many individual products out there. For another, according to Mitchell, research shows excessive choice can be overwhelming when you’re trying to change behavior. “Our goal is to move people up the ladder. If we get you to where you want to go to a place that rates a zero, then we want to get you next to look for a two,” he says. “We want to make it so people will switch.”

What does SWICH base the scoring on? It’s a mix of crowdsourced responses and third party information from such organizations as the Green Restaurant Association, which scores restaurants on how environmentally friendly they are, and Restaurant Opportunities Center, which assesses how well employees are treated. Mitchell also looked closely at how B Lab does its questionnaire.

The crowdsourced information comes from a 25-question survey consumers can fill out, with questions that range from whether the business recycles to the percentage of menu items sourced locally.  (If you’re impatient, you only need to answer the questions you feel most passionately about). Then SWICH aggregates all the answers.      

The way the site works is, you can search by restaurant, category and neighborhood.  With that, you see a list of establishments with the rating and address, along with data from Foursquare—an overall quality rating and  how pricey the restaurant is.  Also, you can click on the rating and then drill down further into each of the five categories. Thus, search for restaurants in the East Village and you’ll see Angelica Kitchen with a stellar rating of five. Click on the “Local” tab and you read that the restaurant has more than 75% of menu items sourced locally.

 Mitchell got the idea after working for two years at a merchant bank that provided advisory services and financing to urban small businesses.  He decided he could make more  of an impact if he focused more on the customer—that is, finding ways to guide patrons to socially responsible businesses. “If we pushed more customers to them, then they would be more ready for capital expansion and  growth,” he says.

Exactly how he’s going to make money–so far, Mitchell has self-funded the company—is still up in the air. One possibility is to give diners discounts, deals and rewards. Another is to help restaurants understand how to improve their scores and “become more attractive to the SWICH community,” he says. According to Mitchell, he’ll avoid a conflict of interest that might be inherent in restaurants paying SWICH to see their scores,  thanks to the crowdsourced information. He figures scoring from patrons will account for much of the final rating, something he can’t manipulate. “The trust factor is very important,” he says.

Mitchell and his team have been working on the site since last June, although he’s been pondering the best approach to take for a lot longer than that.  As for his next step, expansion is a ways off and Mitchell still has to decide what makes the most sense—to branch out into other cities or stay in New York for the time being and include other types of goods or services.  In any case, he’s about to introduce an app version of the New York site  soon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

US reporter requests privacy after release
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS/EFE) The US journalist, who was freed this week by the miltants in Syria after two years in captivity, Wednesday thanked everyone for their efforts to secure his release and asked for privacy to be with his family.
 
 
Congo confirms six Ebola cases
Brazzaville, Aug 28 (IANS) Six cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Wednesday.
 
 
IMF chief faces investigation in corruption case
Paris, Aug 27 (IANS/EFE) International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has been put under investigation in France for "negligence" after being questioned for hours in a corruption case, judicial sources said Wednesday. She denied wrongdoing.
 
 
Whale tourism affecting marine animals' behaviour
London, Aug 27 (IANS) Boat trips to watch whales and dolphins may increasingly put the survival of marine mammals at risk, conservationists have warned.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Kidnapped US journalist's mother pleads IS to release son
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS/EFE) The mother of a US freelance journalist, who was kidnapped in Syria by the Islamic State(IS), Wednesday released a video in which she urged the jihadist group to "be merciful" and release...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Bieber compares himself to Princess Diana
Los Angeles, Aug 28 (IANS) Troubled singer Justin Bieber has compared himself to the late Princess Diana after he reportedly experienced a minor car collision when he was infuriated about being pursued by a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Styles helping rising star Meghan Trainor?
London, Aug 28 (IANS) English singer Harry Styles has reportedly offered to help rising star Meghan Trainor as she attempts to break into the music industry. Styles met her in the US during One Direction's 'Where We...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Chris O'Dowd and Dawn O'Porter expecting first child
Chris O'Dowd and Dawn O'Porter are expecting their first child. The 'Bridesmaids' star, 34, debuted his wife's baby bump in a video clip of his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday (08.27.14). Upon completing the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Maliki urges Iraqi political blocs to back Abadi
Baghdad, Aug 28 (IANS) Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on the political blocs to decrease their demands and hepl form the government lead by Haider al-Abadi. "Some of the blocs' demands are...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
UN delivers food to Gaza via Egyptian crossing
United Nations, Aug 28 (IANS) For the first time in seven years, a humanitarian convoy of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) successfully crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip Wednesday, a spokesman said...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Most people take my clothes too seriously: Rick Owens
Los Angeles, Aug 28 (IANS) American fashion designer Rick Owens believes his fans takes his designs too seriously. The California-born designer, known for his statement drop-crotch shorts and leather jackets, believes...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
US reporter requests privacy after release
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS/EFE) The US journalist, who was freed this week by the miltants in Syria after two years in captivity, Wednesday thanked everyone for their efforts to secure his release and asked for privacy...
Read more on Ad Balla
 
Chris Martin writes love songs about Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Martin is ''sweeping'' Jennifer Lawrence ''off her feet.'' The Coldplay frontman, who split from Gwyneth Paltrow in March after 10 years of marriage, has reportedly been pulling out all the stops to romance 'The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Neil Young will continue to support ailing son
Neil Young and Pegi Young will continue to co-parent their ailing adult son. The 68-year-old 'Heart of Gold' hitmaker, who filed for divorce from the 61-year-old singer last month after 36-years of marriage, stated in...
Read more on Celebrity Balla