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Intensely local cafe/restaurant idea  RSS feed

 
Posts: 34
Location: Tokyo
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I have an idea and I thought I'd see what you all think. Imagine a smaller restaurant/ cafe. Has more of a focus on raw foods and maybe soups and baked goods and whatnot. But, it sits on the front of maybe 20 acres, near a larger city. Your home (as owner of land and business) sits a bit further back for a little privacy. But it's based around local food. And your menu has a rating system for every dish/item, kind of like a 5-star based eco-scale that factors in how far it was shipped (if at all), how much input did it take, and how intensive it is on the land.
Stuff with 5 "stars" is straight from the 20 acres, didn't have to bring excessive inputs to make it happen. 4 "stars" is, maybe it has a couple things inside there that came from some place near by (within 10 miles). etc. Maybe Native plants and foods to the area would get extra points (I realize native doesnt always = better/ more eco).

Point is, people can see what went into what they ordered and ate and nothing would come from outside maybe your state or a 50 mile or less radius, regaurdless of its rating. maybe annuals would get a point off just for being annuals. Maybe this would help people see that its completely possible to not rely on tons of fossil fuels be burned just for a good meal.
Get a masonry stove in there to heat, maybe build the place from locally reclaimed materials, etc. And I would really try to not greenwash it up too much, that kind of frustrates me for some reason when people do, but I understand that if it's getting more people to participate then that's totally cool.

What do you all think? Any of you business savvy folk have any insight? I wonder if this would be easy to get financial backers for or not.
 
Posts: 644
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I'm not knocking the concept but the start up costs alone on the real estate end would be high. I guess it depends on the location but purchasing a property with 20 acres, farm house/buildings, and a restaurant...whoa.
 
Travis Toner
Posts: 34
Location: Tokyo
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I can see how that would be mega expensive. I plan to buy a 10-20 acre plot of land regaurdless, and this probably could become possible well after the purchase of land upfront. It may not be way close to a larger city, that would be the tough part, especially since I'd really like to stay far away from industrial farmers. I admit I don't exactly know the start up costs of restaraunts, if you exclude the equipment and building, I guess the liscensing would be the expensive part? And of course stocking goods that you dont have already in production on your land.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1925
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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So if you separate the cost of your homestead from the restaurant.
Your restaurant cost can be pretty low. Building $6,000, Food:$0 from land, Solar heater to seep tea: $600, Utensils/etc:3,000, Cooker/Fridge/ETC:10,000. Fuel?
 
Rion Mather
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Payroll, permit/license fees, taxes, insurance for the building, business, and possibly employees (depending on their hours), food, utilities, etc. On the building end, the structure would have to be up to code and inspected by the health department. The requirements vary by the state.
 
Posts: 39
Location: Upstate New York, Zone 6
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I think it is a great idea. Go for it and make it happen. You can build it incrementally.

Have you listened to the recent gourmet restaurant review podcast? If not, check it out, it will really put a bee in your bonnet. Thanks to Paul and Jocelyn for that episode. I found it fascinating, I listened to it three times. It inspired my girlfriend and I to suggest doing a pop up restaurant with permaculture/organic/local food at our friends' tavern where she works. It looks like it may happen. Our intention is to get food from local permaculture or organic farms, plus what a network of us are growing, and over time increase the food that our group is growing to eventually be the majority of what is served. This way we won't be pressured to produce everything initially.

Paul and Jocelyn mentioned that there is an Italian word for a restaurant that serves food that is grown on-site. I tried finding the word with some Google searches, but couldn't. If anyone knows it, can you post it? I think it would be a great meme to promulgate.
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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an Italian word for a restaurant that serves food that is grown on-site


Fattoria?
 
Zach Baker
Posts: 39
Location: Upstate New York, Zone 6
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Thanks John! Hahaha, I do hope that's not it though, I don't see that one gaining much traction here.
 
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Agrotourism is BIG in areas outside of cities. City people like to drive in the country and they like to have a destination to go to where they can interact some with farming or animals. Putting in a petting zoo (especially if you sell animal products) or a picturesque vegetable or herb garden, or a pond with fish and ducks by the restaurant would help.

I think it's a great idea, assuming you can get recipes that taste good. You'd probably want to keep abreast of the local health fads, too, tho moosewood I think mostly just did their own thing.

You'd also want it along a main route/highway, at least within a mile or less if it's far out of town. And other shops/farm stands nearby would really help because if there's a cluster of destinations near each other it will draw even more people to make the drive in your direction. Alternatively, you could plan a room/area to display the work of local craftspeople they want to sell, maybe for a small commission. Win-win situations are always good.
 
John Polk
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Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I like the idea of including a petting zoo...
...but, please check with your insurance agent first.

I know a guy who has a small carnival show that he travels with. They also have a petting zoo: sheep, goats, llama, etc.
They sell little paper cups (about 4 fl. ounces) full of animal pellets for 50ยข each. Basically, the kid's parents are paying the costs of feeding their animals. They probably get a couple hundred dollars out of a $20 bag of feed. He said that they can make over $100 per day on the animal feed at a good venue. (On the animal feed they would have given the animals anyway.)

But, little kids do get their fingers nipped on occasion.

 
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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It's a fine idea, I've considered it myself. If you can put it all together and make it work, it will be a major accomplishment.

However...

Jumping in head first will present a great many challenges and I fear some of them will be insurmountable obstacles if you attempt to take them all on simultaneously.
Consider approaching this project from a bootstrapping point of view: how to get from seed to plate. Because there are a number of facets involved, each of which will need to operate smoothly in order that the end project, the restaurant, is also able to operate smoothly, I think it would be prudent to examine each aspect of operation and build towards the end project.

Farm: grow crops and raise livestock
Lots of folks will say this is a major undertaking all by itself. There is soil, soil amendments, water, mulch, seed selection and saving, tending the crops, tools and equipment, planning the diversity and location of plants, greenhouse operation if you want the advantages there, tending, and finally harvest. Livestock involves breed selection, maintaining the gene pool, feed, water, housing, and harvest. Customer can be attracted with Pick Your Own vegetables and flowers, events such as a hay maze or pumpkin picking. All this can be done, it's done all the time. The next step is easy enough...

Farm Stand: market the product right on the farm to the customer
Pick Your Own is all well and good, but there are plenty of people unwilling or unable to get out there with the bugs and heat. You do the picking, wash it, and open up a produce stand. With a farm stand, you don't have to limit yourself to what is produced on site, you can bring in items from other local producers. That guy has honey, the lady down the street has maple syrup, a guy across town has garlic braids. Your product diversity expands, as does your opportunity...

Processing: use the goods available to expand the product line
At this point you get into health codes, kitchen licensing, inspections, and heightened sanitation issues. Using the fresh product in the farm stand, you have the ability to process it into other products: jams and jellies, applesauce, hot sauce, relish, spreads, herbal blends and teas, soups and stews, salsa and tomato sauce, ice cream, canned goods, cheese-your only limit is imagination. You'll need potable water, a solution to sewage, bathrooms and hand wash for employees and customers. Insurance would be an issue to seriously consider. Your little farm stand now has recipes. The next step is simple...

Deli: Hot and cold foods ready to eat.
You would need a regular staff to keep this going. Once prepared, the foods have a shelf life. Being open for business just a couple days a week means that prepared product will likely be lost if the place is not open daily. The soups that were in jars are now hot and served to customers in cups/lids. A salad bar can be put together. Hot and cold sandwiches. Entrees for take out. Tables or picnic tables added outside makes the leap to consumption on the premises. Now tweak it...

Bakery: baked goods
Add on bread, pies, pastry, cakes. A brick oven would be a novelty, but the food coming out of it can be inspiring. You still have the farm, farm store, and deli working for you. This is an add on step. You may not be baking every day. Maybe just Friday for fresh bread and Pizza Night. Take orders for holidays and special events. If sales warrant it, bake bread a couple times a week or every day. The staff is already in place from the deli. The investment here is in the oven and gaining knowledge. You may be ready for the last leg...

Restaurant: Diners come in, meals are prepared to order and served at a table.
Limiting most of your ingredients to what is available locally, your menu would change with the seasons. Food costs are low if much of the product is grown in the back field. You've got a variety of goods produced seasonally and stored on shelves, giving you out of season ingredients. You can still have the deli, with some of the product diverted to the restaurant, and the staff helping with some of the meal prep/baking/slicing. You've got the freshest bread. You still have outdoor seating, and could probably function seasonally with just outdoor seating. Adding a server and some kitchen equipment gives you this opportunity. How far can you take it? Indoor seating, table cloths, stoneware plates (produced locally), silverware, glassware, dish machine with solar heated hot water, chargrill, deep fryers (save the oil for biodiesel). Hang local artwork on the walls.

By bootstrapping the project, at each step along the way you have a viable enterprise. Each step here uses the previous developments for support, without sacrificing or discontinuing the previous step. Once you are able to operate effectively at each level you can move on to the next with the addition of equipment, some construction, and labor. You can probably find a business enterprise in your area right now that closely resembles each level, albeit with commercially acquired ingredients. You have the advantage of already having most of the systems in place before you move on. Waste from each step goes back to the beginning: compost, livestock feed, fuel. At each step there is an investment of time, money and faith. Risk is mitigated by not investing in a later stage until the current stage is developed and paid for. Your start up capital gets the land and the farm. Sweat equity builds it from there, without giving up your full time job. Work the farm until it pays the bills, keep it going with sales on weekends. Move to full time when you are ready. The need for debt, investors, credit are all reduced. This plan will take time, it's not an overnight success story by any means.

With hard work, perseverance and dedication to an ideal, you don't need as much luck.


 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Osteria: An osteria in Italy was originally a place serving wine and simple food. Lately, the emphasis has shifted to the food, but menus tend to be short, with an emphasis on local specialities.
 
Travis Toner
Posts: 34
Location: Tokyo
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Ken, thank you for your insight! That's probably more thought than I've put into it myself, haha, and appreciated. Definitely a slow process, yes. Maybe I could start off as a "pick-your-own," much as Sepp talks about in his book, with the steep hugelkultur mounds and trails, place for kids, etc. We would like to try having more people live on our land than my family and have them work with us on our land in exchange, so that system may be able to get rid of most of payroll. Overtime, as we diversify things would become more stable and more investment can be made into the eventual restaurant/cafe. Hopefully I wouldn't be too old by that point! I really like the idea of there being more community involvement, between artwork or musicians and things for kids as well. Pizza night is a great idea, I don't know if there would be an issue with health inspectors with the outdoor cob oven, my guess is there would be. I imagine less emphasis on baked breads and whatnot, as growing grain is kind of a pain from what I hear and takes up a lot of land, but different heritage maize would be pretty cool. Maybe let people have a go on a bike powered grain mill to mill their own corn flour to take home.

Producing cheese would be great, one day get a liscence to do meads or beers on site, grow hops use honey from the on-site bees. I think I would get the cow's milk from someone else though, that's just more room and feed input than I want to deal with on 10-20 acres. Goat cheese though may be doable. I feel like the Herb mix would be a good sell, very cheap to grow, dry. I know of a shop that seems pretty lucrative in downtown Traverse City, MI that sells exclusively herbs, herb mixes, and salts and things like that.

People getting used to a menu that changes daily is key. I think those people are out there that are totally open to that and trying new things each visit.

I would love to serve hearty soups in the winter time and reserve a flat area to freeze over for ice skating, too.
 
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