In today's NY Times, on the front page, an article by Julia Moskin is entitled Hold the Regret? Fast Food Seeks Virtuous Side.
I think a lot of credit has to go to people like Alice, Dan Barber, Jamie Oliver and their ilk. Because even though their restaurants, and often their snootiness, turn a lot of people off (remember Alice, cooking that egg in a spoonful of olive oil over a fireplace in her kitchen?), they were early proselytizers.
But it sure seems like people are willing to pay a bit more for good fast food, if chains like Chipotle, Tender Greens, SweetGreen (my personal fave) and others are any indication. These chains:
offer enticements like grass-fed beef, organic produce, sustainable seafood and menus that change with the season. Most promise local ingredients; some are exclusively vegetarian or even vegan. A few impose calorie ceilings, and others adopt service touches like busboys and china plates.
And despite the higher costs and prices, all are thriving and planning national expansions, some directed by alumni of fine dining or of fast-food giants like McDonald’s.
Their success marks a milestone: After decades of public hand-wringing about the empty calories and environmental impact of fast food, the farm-to-table notions that have revolutionized higher-end American restaurants have finally found a lucrative spot in the takeout line. The result already has a nickname: farm to counter.
“This is not a passing fad,” said B. Hudson Riehle, the research director for the National Restaurant Association, who added that locally grown food and sustainability were the top two customer priorities reported this year in the group’s annual poll of American chefs. “It’s only going to get stronger.”