Meet Love Catering CEO, Jonathan Darr
Since our launch in 2020, JYBE has had the chance to work one-on-one with some great restaurant owners and managers to help hone the takeout materials they source. We know it’s a challenge to navigate the process of replacing so many specific items, and it’s why we’re eager to help out by vetting truly sustainable products and matching them to the chef’s needs.
By that same token, when restaurants make the transition, their customers will almost immediately notice the improvement and respond positively. We learned this in detail from speaking with Jonathan Darr, CEO of Love Catering, Inc., who worked with JYBE through our Provider Playbook program and swapped out some traditional plastic materials, as well as some products he thought were sustainable but were really just greenwashed versions of materials that should be avoided.
Jonathan spoke to JYBE’s editorial team last week and had this to say:
Prior to working with JYBE, how important was it to you and your clients that your disposable service items be green and sustainable?
We’ve used biodegradable disposables since we started in 2007 and many of our clients have expressed their need for more green disposable options since then. In the past, however, a lot of our catering was served on real platters and plates so we didn’t need to use as many disposable items. Since COVID began and we suddenly had to serve all food in disposable containers, we needed to source even more sustainable options and the demand for ever more green packaging from clients only increased.
So you were sort of catapulted into the realm of disposables in the midst of pivoting your business for COVID. When you purchased materials that were advertised as sustainable, what did you tend to buy, and what made you choose them?
We need containers for hot food, cold food, beverages, and more so our needs were fairly diverse. Firstly, we need everything to be functional, so we had to try a variety of options to figure out what worked best for our needs. Secondly, they had to be readily available and easy for us to get our hands on. Lastly, they needed to look good to match our overall aesthetic and be reasonably priced.
We’ve heard from a lot of our contacts in the restaurant business that they need their supplies to be available from a single source so they can reorder in one place, and track deliveries and expenses. But when you realized that a lot of materials labeled as compostable or sustainable by your supplier were just “greenwashing,” how did it make you feel about the whole process of trying to run your business in a sustainable way?
It’s very frustrating to try to determine which products are actually more sustainable. We always try to do the right thing but sometimes it seems like it’s a full-time job just to try to sort through what’s actually a “green” product.
We totally get your frustration. Deciphering all the claims can require a chemistry degree sometimes. But you’ve now adopted a lot of the products that JYBE recommends. How has it been to work with those items and are they meeting your service needs?
It’s been great and it’s very helpful to have items already vetted and know that the work has already been done to make sure the products are legitimately more sustainable. Some products work for certain applications but not others, but it’s certainly helped us find better products more quickly and easily.
We’re always open to learning about these containers as well, since real-world use is the best test. If there have been some issues with them, what are they, and what have you done to troubleshoot them?
Some of the boxes for food worked well when the food is served at room temp but didn’t hold up as well when we had to deliver food hot and hold it in transit, however it was pretty easy to find other containers that worked well for that purpose specifically.
Fair point, and we’re pleased to hear there was room for improvement. On the flip side, were you pleasantly surprised by any of the new materials – were there things they enabled you to do that you couldn’t before?
We had looked for coffee cup lids that were fiber-based that were actually biodegradable and it was so awesome to finally get some that actually work well and aren’t going to stick around in a landfill forever. They are very handy and look great too.
You definitely realize that some of these products actually look and feel a lot better, alongside their benefits to the planet. What sort of feedback do you get from your clients when they see how green you are?
We’ve had a lot of clients give us great feedback about our packaging and many of them have taken to social media to share pics of it. That’s the ultimate compliment and very good advertising. It’s been a very positive experience.
If the comments have been good, how’s the effect on your bottom line? Would you say the transition has been cost-neutral, and how would you describe the benefits you’ve experienced as a result of being an early adopter?
I think it’s really bolstered our reputation as a certified green caterer, and shows our clients that we really care about this issue and are happy to keep pushing until we find the most sustainable solutions. It’s certainly helped drive repeat business from some very incredible clients and sparked a lot of conversation about how to reduce waste and packaging. We are so grateful to be a part of this!
And we appreciate your leadership, Jonathan. As more restaurants, caterers and others follow your example, the more we are going to see your suppliers improve the products they offer.
For everyone in Los Angeles who is looking for a green caterer with terrific food choices, we heartily recommend you contact Jonathan Darr or a member of his helpful team at:
Love Catering, Inc.