Grand Rapids Restaurants Earn Special Social Certification

By Jane Whitttington on March 3rd, 2016 / Comments

Some of the best food available in Grand Rapids is on the menu at three eateries owned and managed by Essence Restaurant Group. Bistro Bella Vita has been a hometown favorite for close to 20 years and serves Mediterranean specialties including house made pasta, pizza and entrees like Parisian Gnocchi made with bay scallops, rock shrimp, maitake mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli in a lobster broth. The Green Well Gastro Pub opened in 2007 and is housed in a LEED certified facility, attesting to the venue’s emphasis on the fresh, local and sustainable. Grove joined the family in 2011 and focuses on farm to table cuisine in a casual, urban setting.

The three restaurants will soon be joined by a fourth, but the details aren’t yet available. Partners James Berg, Patrick Wise, Jeff Gottlieb and Jeff Getzen are committed to maintaining their high standards in all of their restaurants, and Grand Rapids foodies are looking forward to their latest entry into the marketplace.

But good food isn’t the only thing on the menu. Essence Restaurant Group recently achieved B Corps Certification, verifying that they meet specific standards as spelled out by B Lab, a non-profit organization designed to help businesses do well by doing good.

Their website states: “Individually, B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

It continues, “Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for goodTM. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the worldTM, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all.”

Lauren Jaenicke, Sustainability and Marketing Director, says, “We have long been interested in sustainability and in making sure we meet the highest expectations in that area. Buying and using local products and maintaining long-term relationships with our suppliers has been key in expanding our business. When we looked at the requirements for B Corps certification, we realized that we were already meeting most of their standards.”

She continues, “For instance, 80 percent of the food and ingredients we purchase are from independent Michigan farmers. Our chefs are very aware of what is available to them, and they seek out the very best. Besides making sure that the food products are superior quality, we also ask that our vendors follow sustainable practices in their operations.”

Jaenicke says that Essence Restaurant Group was the first recipient of B Corps certification in the restaurant industry in the United States. Other local establishments which have achieved certification include Gazelle Sports, Brewery Vivant, Cascade Engineering, and Catalyst Partners among others.

According to Jaenicke, “We take this very seriously; the standards set by B Lab have long been part of our culture here at Essence, and we feel that sets us apart as leaders. Our responsibility to our customers, our employees and our community is paramount in all we do.”

For more information about B Corps certification, visit and for information about the restaurants of the Essence Group, go to


About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.