By Zak Stone
Yelp may point eaters in the direction of restaurants with the best or cheapest food, but it won't tell them which eatery is most sustainable.
A new restaurant-discovery website and mobile app called GoPure appeals to eaters whose questions about restaurants extend beyond price and quality to a line of inquiry that's familiar from a Portlandia episode: Are the ingredients genetically modified? Is the beef grass-fed? Is the takeout container compostable?
Users can search for a restaurant nearby using criteria like whether or not it's vegan, how wasteful it is, or if the produce is local. "We make it easy to find healthy and sustainbly sourced food on the go, customized for your eating preferences," explains founder Brendan Murphy. And the customization gets pretty granular. If you wanted, you could call up only the cheapest Burmese restaurants with sustainable seafood in San Francisco, for example (and you, sadly, wouldn't find anything, but you get the idea).
To be a part of GoPure's database, restaurants must fill out a 45-question sustainability survey, asking about "everything from their food sourcing to some of their environmental practices," Murphy says. An algorithm processes that data to compute a "purity" score, based on how well each restaurant is doing in nine categories, including waste, beverages, and seafood. Restaurants that get the equivalent of an "A" are denoted with an icon of a big tree. Lower grades include a little tree, a sprout, and a seed. Murphy says that 15 to 20 restaurants in the Bay Area, where the company is based and launched first, achieved the big tree, the highest score. GoPure is about positive reinforcement rather than shaming, which explains why there's no toxic waste icon to indicate McDonald's or other fast food villains on the map.
It's also not about reviews. "We're not trying to be Yelp," says Murphy. While they plan to partner with a review company as the company evolves, for now, users don't rank the restaurants based on their meal but give feedback in the form of "discoveries," tidbits of information like "that place doesn't use genetically modified ingredients and all the containers are compostable," or whatever.
Murphy says that a review system might not be as important for the kinds of places GoPure features, since they're already paying attention to higher-quality ingredients, which tends to result in tastier food.
For now, the site is only fully launched in the Bay Area, but users can view restaurant listings for Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Portland. If you land on a restaurant that doesn't have a full profile on GoPure yet, you can click "nudge," and its owners will get an email asking them to fill out their profiles.
Murphy says GoPure's goal is to slowly "transform the $632 billion dollar restaurant industry," by putting information about sustainability front and center.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.