Newark-based Going Green Services is making eco-friendly restaurant supplies and serviceware more accessible to a growing number of institutions across the state.
What started as an eco-friendly shop morphed into a wholesale distribution services that’s completing the “farm-to-table, table-to-farm” loop that’s becoming of increasing importance to consumers and restauranteurs alike.
Mike Bauer started the business with his partner Teresa Peters in 2010. Bauer brought 15 plus years of experience in program and project management for Fortune 500 health insurance companies, and Peters an interest in local and whole foods. Together they melded their skills and passions into an eco-friendly general store in Granville.
“The purpose of the store was really to try out the market, see how much interest there was,” Bauer says.
The 1,350 square-foot storefront was packed with local, whole foods, eco-friendly goods and reusable products. Once the store was off the ground, Going Green Services started looking at distribution to restaurants and businesses.
“What we found was there was really a lack of environmentally-friendly products that were available to smaller, farm-to-table type restaurants,” Bauer says.
Even larger institutions noted issues finding eco-friendly wares. Bauer says that most restaurant supply distributors see green products as a speciality, niche product and attach the price tag to match. There’s also a general lack of knowledge about the goods.
“To us it’s not a specialty product – to us it’s our bread and butter,” Bauer says.
And Going Green Services provides a more affordable price point to match.
“We rarely find anyone who can beat our price,” Bauer adds.
The wholesaler keeps their prices low by brokering with three of the largest green product manufacturers in the country. Distributing large volumes allows them to pass savings on to customers.
Going Green Services stocks all of the essentials for a meal as well as a wide variety of cups and to-go packaging. And the business doesn’t just sell the product – Going Green Services can help its customers select the product(s) that best fit their needs. Bauer says they will even take a look at everything a business is doing and make recommendations on areas where they can switch to more sustainable products.
“They are very receptive to that,” he says.
Many times it starts with one product like a to-go container, then it’s on to napkins and towels and a more robust usage of eco-friendly goods. Going Green Services has also built relationships with other local distributors to help its clients find speciality products and keep everything through one channel.
Going Green Services’ clients run the gamut from food trucks to hospitals. The wholesaler supplies One Line Coffee, Licking Memorial Health Systems, Denison University and recently added Otterbein University. On the opposite end of the spectrum, local food trucks like the Burrito Bus and Tortilla Street Food also stock eco-friendly goods.
“There are a lot of people that are very interested in eco-friendly serviceware and trying to complete the loop of farm-to-table and table back to farm,” Bauer says.
While there has long-been interest, there hasn’t always been accessibility. Bauer says that many customers once thought they couldn’t opt for greener products because of price or availability, but Going Green Services is addressing that issue.
“We are seeing more and more people that are interested,” Bauer adds.
Going Green Services closed its brick-and-mortar shop early this year to focus primarily on wholesale. It was a decision influenced by many factors. Peters passed away in 2013 and it proved difficult to continue both facets of the business. Store sales also plateaued while wholesale business rose. Bauer says the market for natural goods was becoming more saturated. When the store first opened, large chains only had a few eco-friendly or whole foods items, and it was pre Whole Foods at Easton and Lucky’s in Clintonville.
Moving forward, Going Green Services has already tackled one of their biggest hurdles – companies saying they aren’t large enough to service their business. Clients like hospitals and universities prove otherwise. Instead, the business is focused on getting clients to break those supply ordering habits and look for something new.
Bauer says they are also ready to interject themselves in bigger-picture discussions about eco-friendly habits.
“Commercial composting is very normal and we don’t really see that in Central Ohio yet,” he says.
He wants to help businesses complete that entire loop – a customer uses a plant-based piece of serviceware at a farm to table restaurant, that food waste gets composted back into the ecosystem and perhaps into a new piece of serviceware.
For more information, visit goinggreenservices.com.
Photo credit Dora Barth.