The Rise Of The Slow Food Movement And Sustainable Restaurants

For several decades, the restaurant industry was focused on speed, both for its food and its uniforms.

Whilst the end products are somewhat different, fast food and fast fashion have had a somewhat similar ethos of providing a basic, consolidated, universal product quickly, with the supply chain required having a significant range of environmental and welfare implications.

For fast food, this involved assembly-line style food production emphasising speed, often adding flavourings, preservatives and other additives to ensure that prices could be kept as low as possible so profits could stay consistent.

Fast fashion worked similarly to dispense with handmade, high-quality wholesale aprons in favour of fast-paced production, the use of industrial chemicals and the questionable treatment of clothesmakers.

Naturally, there have been movements that sit in opposition to these, with the Slow Food Movement emphasising local ingredients over a global supply chain, traditional dishes over universal menus, and high-quality food over quality.

Whilst smaller movements had existed for decades before this, the origins of a unified slow food movement began in 1986 with the founding of the Italian organisation Arcigola.

Activist Carlo Petrini had found out that fast food giant McDonalds had planned to open a branch of their restaurants at the famed Spanish Steps of Rome, he and other local activists demonstrated at its planned site, although ultimately to no avail.

Undeterred, three years later the Slow Food Manifesto was signed by delegates from 15 different countries, with its primary aims to promote local food, traditional food production, and to educate people about the effects of industrial food production.

The objection Slow Food had specifically was the rapidly increasing velocity of life that had made fast food a necessity and damaged culinary cultures in the process, with the risk of it damaging both natural and urban environments.

It was built on the idea that people have the right to “good, clean, fair” food, as described by founder Carlo Petrini, and he provided more specific definitions for these terms;

  • Good food is food that is high quality, flavourful and nutritious, enjoyed for its own sake rather than quickly consumed.
  • Clean food is naturally and sustainably produced with ingredients sourced as locally as possible to avoid the polluting effects of transportation.
  • Fair food is reasonably priced to ensure that customers can afford to eat it but at the same time, the ecosystem of farmers, producers, chefs and restaurant staff also receive fair prices and treatment for their hard work.

The Slow Food Movement has evolved into a wider slow culture aimed at slowing down the pace of life for the sake of human health and the general state of the planet, as well as emphasising quality over quantity.

One of the largest examples of this is in slow fashion, a direct opponent to the rise of fast fashion retail stores that emphasise low-cost, low quality fashionable pieces that are intended to be disposed of quickly, instead following the similar principles of local production, sustainable materials and traditional crafts.

October 17, 2022 — Jacob Blakey