Off-the-wall or on the money? Has Otarian found the next fast food craze?
This vegetarian fast-food restaurant, with two New York City locations, not only lists the nutritional value of its offerings but also the carbon savings of eating, say, the portobello mushroom burger instead of a beef burger.
The carbon analysis includes everything, from farm to fork, that affects environmental quality. What's more, the restaurant itself is recycled: from chairs to ceiling, from fabrics to floor covering. Ingredients are purchased locally when possible and eco-sourced otherwise. Water and electricity conservation are built into the building design.
Now that's thorough!
Otarian picked a socially responsible niche -eco-friendly foods, and carried it further, to include its own use of resources in the building through its daily use of water and electricity. The plates and flatware can be composted and, like a number of other socially responsible eateries, a compost bin is available.
Online ordering is provided by Seamlessweb, which not only processes the order but confirms with the estimated delivery time. Or you can select the time you want your meal delivered. Purchases earn Carbon Karma credits that can be redeemed for free food. A new guise for an old concept, since good karma is the reward for good deeds.
A statement on the Otarian website is worth highlighting because it contains two critical elements: the realization that people and planet count, and an emphasis on good business practices:
First and foremost, Otarian loves life and the planet. That’s why we are in business.
And in order to do what we do for people and the planet, we have to stay in business.
But business for us only works if it improves quality of life and the environment at the same time.
Social entrepreneurship is about using business skills to solve social ills, and each aspect of that equation is important. A brilliant idea to reduce climate change is of no use if it can't be implemented, marketed, and sustained.
At the same time, a business that ignores its impact on the community: customers, neighborhood, employees, suppliers; may earn bad karma in the form of higher energy costs, high-cost employee turnover, and minimal customer loyalty.
Values-based business is about blending the practical with the ideal.
Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer.com, an online peer learning service for small business, especially those making a social impact such as nonprofits and social enterprise, and Stengel Solutions, strategic planning, marketing and marketing research firm. An adjunct professor at The New School, she honed her online experience at companies like Dow Jones and Physicians’ Online. Geri co-founded the Women’s Leadership Exchange. Geri is a past Vice Chair of Governance Matters, a nonprofit organization that counsels New York-based nonprofits on issues of stronger governance and a past board member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)-NYC.