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Grace 2009 Innovator Award

Winner: Holly Elmore, founder and Executive Director of Green Food service Alliance

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If you had to pick two words to describe Holly Elmore, they would be “passionate” and “driven.” The founder and Executive Director of the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA), an affiliate of the GRA, has been instrumental in encouraging those in the foodservice industry to take action now to reduce its impact on the environment.

After a stint in the corporate accounting world, Elmore began her career in the foodservice industry when she launched Executive Catering & Events. Over the next 15 years, Elmore operated the corporate catering company along with two successful restaurants in the Atlanta market.

Something felt like it was missing though, so she changed directions. In 2007, she launched GFA and hasn’t looked back since.

“These are amazing times,” Elmore says. “The foodservice industry is mobilizing and changing its industry practices. It is thrilling to be one of the many catalysts motivating an industry to create new operating standards.”

One of the first, and most impactful, initiatives launched by GFA is the Zero Waste Zone, which focuses on downtown Atlanta’s convention district and participating foodservice operations. More than 10 companies, including the Georgia World Congress Center and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, have pledged to recycle, reuse spent grease for the local production of biofuel and compost or donate food residuals to decrease the amount of waste going to landfills. Plans are in the works to expand the zones to other areas within Atlanta, across Georgia and throughout the country.

Major industry trends in 2010: “Sustainability and integrity is more than a trend; in the near future these virtues will be demanded of corporate executives to maintain successful businesses in the new economic climate. It no longer works to only be concerned about a business’ profitability and its impact on the immediate community. Businesses must understand the environmental impact of their raw material purchases and the results their product has within the global community,” she notes.

Most pressing challenges facing the industry: “The current economic tide is serving as a cleansing device for the industry. Creative operators with flexible business models will ride the tide of evolution to phenomenal results. Adapting to customer demand for value is a key to success. Each operator must evaluate their own customer base to determine how to entice their customers to dine in their establishment. No one solution will work for the industry; these are times for creative exploration,” she adds.

Her greatest accomplishment: “Creating the Green Foodservice Alliance is the result of being true to my heart and not following a logical path. I am honored to be the engine behind an organization that is making national news and evolving the standard operating practices of the second largest industry in the nation,” says Elmore.

Innovator Award Finalists

  • Bill Johnson, Senior Principal,The Johnson Studio
  • Patrick Gebrayel, Executive Chef, Dunwoody Country Club
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