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Ben Farella filling the healthy food gap through gd2go

'Over time, we have found a really interesting balance now between things that actually taste better than you would think and that are actually healthy for you and something that works economically'

“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market. 

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This is the first of a two-part feature highlighting local entrepreneur Ben Farella, Owner and President of gd2go and involved in the local film and television industry.

The restaurant gd2go is a homegrown concept that was developed by Ben Farella and his partner Tracy in 2012.

“I really started paying personal attention to it about three or four years in, when we moved from our old location on Regina Street and Main to our new one (on Foran Street) in 2017,” says Farella.

“It was exclusively designed around healthy eating. We felt there was a very big gap in the marketplace around fast-casual food that was done in a healthy non-processed way.” 

Farella says they were focusing on all the trends and the movement around food sensitivities at the time.

“We wanted to be at the forefront of filling that void for people who might need gluten-free options or people who are vegans.”

Farella says as they developed concepts they had dozens of gd2go ambassadors who would provide feedback, but they found a glitch in what they were trying to do.

“At the time we were so far into the organic and clean and healthy movement, and so what we were trying to do wasn’t going to be a sustainable business model,” he says.

“Over time, we have found a really interesting balance now between things that actually taste better than you would think and that are actually healthy for you and something that works economically. For instance, I would put our chicken ceasar wrap up against anybody else’s and I think it would beat anyone in terms of taste, and it’s as clean as you can get with having no chemicals and nothing processed in it.”

He says it did take a few years to really hit their stride.

“The first few years were good but tough and I get that it can take up to five years before you really get things figured out and so I think we have really hit our stride since we moved,” says Farella who adds that moving locations allowed them to expand their capabilities on how to serve people.

“The Drive-Thru really helped give us that access to serve people in a quicker way. Also, with the advent of Skip the Dishes and all the delivery iterations, it has helped even more. I think the location and its capacity have allowed us to get more food out. We’ve been building and every year has been getting better and better.”

Farella says they learned to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We learn things through adversity and that is what happened for us during COVID-19. We had to adapt and get creative in shaping our menu and service offering around drive-thru and people not leaving their homes. We got better at that and while you’re never finished with reinventing yourself, we’re always striving to get better and better.”

Farella says they have a business model that will also stay consistent.

“When you have a supply chain, you have something for two weeks and then two weeks later it is a different product and that just doesn’t work. We are agnostic and so if you feel like you are doing something that is bettering yourself, we will find a way to support that whether you are vegan or if you’re Keto or Paleo or whatever it may be.”

Farella says the movement to eat healthier is now spanning across generations.

“Like myself, the baby boomer generation HAS to eat healthier and the younger generation WANTS to eat healthier and those were two big motivations for our restaurant,” he says.

“Everybody wants to eat healthier but it’s a matter of having the time, access, and the knowledge to do that and we felt that if we could solve those three problems, then we would have a growing and sustainable business model.”

Farella says he hears from more and more people who were pleasantly surprised that a “healthy menu option” could taste as good as it does.

“I was recently with someone who works in the insurance industry who was doing a building inspection and he was an admittedly non-healthy eater, but he said to me, ‘you own gd2go right? I would never have gone there because I just assumed your stuff tasted bland, but I went there and had your breakfast sandwich and it freaked me out how good it was,’” says Farella.  

“So my message is that just because it is better for you, doesn’t mean that it does not taste better. We would put up the majority of our menu against anybody in town and I would argue it holds up in terms of taste and quality.”

He says what you eat can actually make you feel better about what you’re passionate about.

“If you’re a guitar player and you want to be a better guitar player, you need to eat better food that’s going to give you more energy and more clarity. And that applies to people in any job and in any walk of life. A lot of people don’t have enough self-awareness to do what’s best for them, but they will do something they are passionate about and so we want people to understand that regardless of what you love, this will make you better at what you love.”

Farella says he didn’t want that philosophy of feeling good about what you eat to just be attributed to their menu.

“It’s not just about the food. I tell the staff all the time it’s not what you do or what you say it's how you make people feel. That’s what we call the “goodness movement” where we want our place to be fun, and we want to make a connection and make people feel a bit better about what is going on in the world just by our energy and our vibe and, along with the good food, that goes a long way to spreading goodness.”

Farella says after many years of entrepreneurial investments, this is the first he has taken into a retail environment where he has people working who aren’t professionally trained in a certain skill set.

“It’s been really cool to have this connection with younger folks and provide them with more than a job. We really feel like gd2go is a family,” he says.  

“You talk to our staff or the employees who have worked with us in the past and they will talk about that. Our culture and how we treat each other is so important to us and the kindness and support and understanding we all have with each other.”

Farella says he received some advice early on about the best way to manage and work with your employees that he carries to this day.

“One of my early mentors told me that you’re never trying to just find an employee to fill a hole, you’re trying to provide a platform for them so that they can get better as a human being to then move on to do better things in their life and in the world,” he says.  

“I’ve always had that mentality and I’ve even driven people to their next interview or their first day at their new job because if we played a small part in teaching you about what it takes to go on and be better in something you are passionate about then I want to see you succeed at that.”

If you have a story idea for the "Jobs of the Future Series" send Matt an email at m.sookram@outlook.com 





Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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