The 12 Best Ethical Chain Restaurants In The USA

Photo of H.C. Hamblin
9 February 2017

Americans love eating out. But with the rise of fast food over the last forty years, many restaurants have turned to ingredients with sub-par quality. However, a growing trend is seeing a higher awareness from consumers. We look at twelve food chains dedicated to sustainability, ethical sourcing, and social responsibility.

wichcraft Pork & Cabbage sandwich | Courtesy ‘wichcraft


The wichcraft sandwich chain has multiple locations throughout New York, one in San Francisco, and offers ready-made products at some high-end food stores. The menu is simple; sandwiches, soups, and salads, made from high-quality ingredients, sourced from local purveyors. Vegetables abound in many of the menu offerings, which change often to reflect seasonal availability. The food is always fresh, and each item is handcrafted with care and attention. ‘wichcraft is the perfect place to stop for a quick bite, when you want to know you’re getting good, wholesome food.

Mixt Greens

Mixt Greens has coined the term ‘Eco-Gourmet’ to describe their progressive restaurant chain. Beginning in San Francisco ten years ago, the company has expanded to include restaurants in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, with a total of eight locations. The menu includes salads and sandwiches, all made-to-order from the freshest ingredients. Everything the restaurants serve is organic, locally-sourced, and plated using compostable packaging. Mixt Greens has an eye for environmental responsibility throughout every aspect of its restaurants, using energy-efficient equipment, renewable wood products, and recycled materials. This west coast eatery is a great place for a casual, guilt-free, lunch if you find yourself in the Sunshine State.


With New York’s prevalence of fantastic restaurants, it can be difficult to get noticed. But Bareburger stands out in the spotlight for its honest and unpretentious approach to America’s favorite food. The restaurant chain has made its name in the burger business. But don’t even think about comparing it to the country’s mega-chains that serve greasy burgers from questionable sources. Bareburger takes pride in offering the highest quality beef for its burgers, minus GMOs, pesticides, and feed lots. With over 20 stores in six states and provinces now, the brand just keeps growing. Americans have every reason to fall in love with the burger again.

○Tony Webster/WikiCommons

The Plant Café

The creators of The Plant Café have designed a place where healthful, sustainable food reigns supreme. With six locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the restaurant chain has access to some of the best produce in the country. All of the produce used in the restaurants is procured from local farms, and is entirely organic. The menu is broad, and offers selections for a variety of food preferences and dietary needs. but The Plant Café’s attention to sustainability doesn’t stop at the food. The restaurants themselves are designed using recycled, reclaimed, sustainable materials, and use clean energy sources to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

Jimmy Johns

If you haven’t heard of Jimmy Johns and their ‘freaky fast’ delivery sandwiches, this popular sandwich chain has over 2,000 locations across the country, and is still growing. The company has successfully established a brand based on a simple, straightforward menu, prompt service, and friendliness. Peers in the fast-food industry should take note: though their arm is far-reaching, Jimmy Johns strives to stay local, and strengthen communities. Each restaurant sources its produce from local farmers, and most of the packaging used is made from recycled, earth-friendly material. Visit the company’s website for an impressive list of the company’s sustainable and eco-conscious. suppliers.

Taziki’s Café

Taziki’s Café is a growing chain of restaurants, mostly in the American Southeast. As the name suggests, the cuisine has a decidedly Greek influence, and boasts bold flavors and healthy ingredients. Though the restaurants are in the fast-casual genre, the company strives to make guests feel welcome and like a part of the family. Taziki’s also goes above and beyond by using the freshest, most sustainable ingredients in everything they make. The chain takes food seriously, by offering locally-sourced produce, and preparing most of their foods in-house every day. Guests won’t find anything deep-fried or processed on the menu, making this a refreshing change of pace from a vast majority of the competition.

The first Chipotle store | ○CW221/WikiCommons


In the world of casual fast food, Chipotle is a cut above the rest. The Mexican grill has hundreds of locations across the country, and is still growing. Its growth and popularity can be largely attributed to the company’s business model: food with integrity. All of the ingredients that go into their famous burritos, tacos, and salads, are carefully selected. As much as possible, Chipotle uses organic and local produce and humanely raised meats, free of antibiotics and added hormones. The company strives to find the very best ingredients; delivering a product that Americans all over the country can’t seem to get enough of.

The Frothy Monkey

The Frothy Monkey brings a heaped dose of Southern charm to the hipster and trendy ethical food movement. This Tennessee-based restaurant chain is simply striving to offer the best food it possibly can to its customers, while also maintaining relationships with local farmers. The Frothy Monkey is open all day, offering the best of southern and homestyle classics. Almost everything is made from scratch daily, allowing the focus to really land on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. It simply doesn’t get any friendlier than this place, and while you’re feeling cozy, your conscience will feel good too.

© Busboys and Poets

Busboys and Poets

This Washington DC-based chain of restaurants is just as delightfully funky and eclectic as it can be. Busboys and Poets proudly goes above and beyond to provide food with integrity. The restaurant chain uses locally sourced meats and produce, only buys sustainable seafood, and brews fair trade coffees and teas. They also recycle much of the waste produced in the restaurants, use recycled paper products, and are using renewable energy sources in several of their restaurants. But Busboys and Poets is more than just an earth-loving restaurant; it is a community gathering place for thinkers, dreamers, and creatives. The brand now has six locations across Maryland, Virginia, and the DC Metro area.

○Michael Rivera/WikiCommons


BURGERFI brings us the classic, all-American hamburger meal, but with a totally different experience. Parting ways from the all-too-familiar sub-par burgers and greasy fries of so many fast food chains, BURGERFI slows it down, putting care into every juicy burger they make. The restaurant chain proudly uses 100 percent natural Angus beef, with no antibiotics or hormones. The rest of the ingredients and items on the menu are held to a standard that BURGERFI calls, ‘Farm to Tray’ ensuring the highest quality, and best taste. BURGERFI is the largest chain on our list, and is delightfully transforming the way this country sees one of its all-time favorite meals.

Hot Italian Pizza | © Hot Italian

Hot Italian

Great pizza, a clear conscience and a cool vibe; what’s not to love? Hot Italian is a burgeoning chain in northern California. The menu offers artistically-crafted pizzas, salads, and antipasti, with an Italian-inspired brunch on the weekends. The owners and creators are passionate about community in every way. Hot Italian’s menu is seasonally driven, sourcing ingredients from the surrounding area, and further connecting the community by providing a place for the sharing of culture, cuisine, and good times. With two locations and a loyal following, this idealistic restaurant idea is sure to spread.

Courtesy of Soupergirl


Though the soups at Soupergirl are slow-cooked in house daily, they definitely kick the homestyle comfort food up a notch (or two). The brand has two locations in Washington DC, both serving soups, salads and sandwiches to eager crowds. At the core of this vegan-friendly restaurant, is a belief that food should come from close-by, and it supports local farms, orchards, and farmers’ markets. Soupergirl doesn’t use any GMOs, and buys only organic ingredients whenever possible. Behind the scenes, all kitchen scraps get composted, ensuring that the restaurant wastes as little as possible.

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