Last week, PSFK reported on the recent opening of the Sno:La frozen yogurt chain’s second branch in Kyoto, Tokyo. Sno:La first opened in Los Angeles in 2007 and has received a great deal of critical acclaim.
Not only do they serve seasonal flavors using organic dairy products, the design of the new Kyoto branch utilizes reclaimed lumber from demolished buildings, it has soy-painted concrete floors, counter tops are constructed from recycled circuit boards, and customers in both locations are served biodegradable cups and spoons.
As a site for its second branch, Sno:la’s owner Masako Kawashima specifically chose Kyoto as a symbolic nod to the protocol agreement to reduce international greenhouse gas emissions.
Sno:La has plans to expand to sites in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, plus New York, Paris, and Santa Monica, joining the ranks of the several other fast food chains that have sprung up across the world.
From the Seller’s Markets in San Francisco to O’Burger in LA, Danku in New York City to even Nat. in Berlin, the trend of green and organic fast food options in recent years gestures towards the shift in people seeking healthier, more environmentally-friendly dining options in more mainstream settings – regardless of how cramped for time they are.
Have it Your Way
Last year, Gusto Organics moved into what once was a Burger King franchise in midtown Manhattan, trading the seminal Whopper, onion rings, and shakes for organic takes on traditional Argentine fast food like steak sandwiches, empanadas, and a variety of pastries.
As a NYMag artcle described, the restaurant’s business practices differ from BK’s in obvious ways: It recycles all of its trash and composts its food, the furniture is handmade, and the cleaning methods are environmentally friendly.
But owner Alberto Gonzalez sees the value of the chain, and wants to create a network of shareholders and six to ten franchises, he says.
Super Size My Garden Burger, Please
Gonzalez’ vision and Sno:La’s exhibited ability to expand – especially globally – proves that there is a significant business case for organic and/or green fast food restaurants. However, it begs a different question: Does this mean the way we consume and the way we eat is shifting as well?
Just because that quarterpounder is made from grass-fed beef, or those fries are made from organic potatoes (and the readers of Michael Pollan recognize the notion of large-scale organic farming is a contentious subject), it doesn’t necessarily change how we eat.
Despite increased awareness about what we put in our bodies, we still very much live in a super-size-me culture. As organic and green establishments increasingly move from the fringe or niche sectors to compete with more mainstream businesses, how will they affect how we eat? Will organic simply become the new standard? Will they push us to consume less, to consume smarter? After all, organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthier or better for you.
Or do these establishments have the power to stimulate change? GreenBiz featured a great discussion on the topic last August, talking about how some of the big names in the restaurant business have recognized the green trend in fast food, and the power that these types of businesses have in instituting systemic changes. Trans-fats have already been in these types of establishments in many cities and states across the country.
And if nothing else, sourcing sustainable building materials, creatively using recycled or salvaged goods, and using biodegradable products seem like a great start to creating that new mainstream…