Growing Microgreens Indoors: Your Restaurant’s Indoor Garden
Growing your own microgreens is a smart move for restaurants in more ways than one.
Those tasty, nutritious, and visually pleasing little herbs and veggies are everywhere. Guests love them, chefs love to cook with them, and restaurant menus are enhanced with the addition of the word: microgreens. But you already know all this, and you know how expensive microgreens can be. Keep reading to learn why growing microgreens indoors is an obvious solution to increasing your restaurant’s profits while reducing costs and, ultimately, improving your patronage.
How much does your restaurant spend buying fresh produce each week? How much of that is disproportionally spent on microgreens alone?
What if we told you that there’s another way—a better way—to reduce your costs, increase your profits (while having a positive impact on the environment), improve your sustainability, and help to give your microgreen-obsessed clientele exactly what they want?
In short, we’re telling you to grow your own microgreens.
But it’s expensive…
It’s actually not that expensive, and it’s a real investment; it generates profit and pays for itself at the same time.
But I don’t have the space…
You’d be surprised to learn you actually do. From rooftops to the space behind a door, you definitely have the room.
But it’s too much work. How do you train staff to manage a microgreens garden?
Growing and harvesting your own microgreens is low maintenance, doesn’t require much time, and something anyone can learn to do easily.
You and your chef(s) already know that the cost of buying microgreens from your local farmers is not cheap. Depending upon your restaurant’s produce needs, microgreens alone can easily cost $50/week or likely a lot more.
This is because local growers know that microgreens command high premium prices. Chefs are willing to pay more for quality microgreens because their restaurant’s patrons are willing to pay more for dishes that include microgreens. Demand for microgreens is high, thus, their prices are high.
Growing microgreens indoors is actually pretty easy. All you really need to get started is a multi-shelved rack, some good lights, growing trays, and seeds. (You can definitely get more advanced than this, too.)
Specialized microgreen growing cabinets can cost upwards of $10,000 (though many are much less). These cabinets come with everything you need, including environmental controls to ensure the optimal growing conditions for whatever types of microgreens and other plants you want to grow. You could also hire a microgreens consultant to help you assess your space, choose the right growing set up for your restaurant’s particular needs, and supply you with whichever plants you want or need.
However, before you get excited about all the cool things you could do (and pay for), you don’t need much to get started on your own. This is the beauty of growing microgreens indoors.
With a small startup investment (under $1,000), a bit of time, and a slight change in how your kitchen preps, you can start growing microgreens indoors at your restaurant. In fact, you can have your own home-grown microgreens ready for guest consumption in under two weeks!
So, why not bring the farm indoors and start reaping the many rewards an indoor garden can offer your restaurant?
The Benefits of Growing Microgreens Indoors
Growing your own microgreens indoors comes with many benefits to your restaurant business. Here are a few of the key features:
You’re saving money by not buying from outside growers. Seed packets are inexpensive and often have very high yields. Maintaining your restaurant’s indoor culinary garden is cheaper than buying produce from vendors and markets.
No more worrying about shortages and availability. Costs won’t fluctuate with seasonal growth cycles and you’re going to have more produce available whenever you need it. You know exactly where your produce is coming from, you don’t have to worry about shortages and recalls. You can further differentiate your cuisine with uncommon herbs and/or vegetables that are not readily available.
The Freshest Ingredients—Literally
You know exactly what you’re growing what you need when you need it. Because of this, your microgreens retain their vibrant flavors. When you’re buying expensive microgreens, you don’t want to compromise on flavor quality. When your culinary garden is just a few steps away from the kitchen, you can guarantee the freshest microgreens every time.
Growing microgreens indoors reduces waste in the kitchen. You can reduce the amount of packaging waste that comes along with vendor, store, and market-bought produce. This has a significant impact on the environment, as less packaging ends up in landfills. Carbon emissions that result from transport between farms, vendors, and restaurants are also reduced.
Once you see how easy it is to grow microgreens indoors, adding more vegetables, fruits, and even flowers to your restaurant’s garden inventory is almost effortless. All you really need is the space to grow.
Making Space for Your Microgreens Garden
Now that we’ve discussed how growing microgreens indoors is an easy way to increase your restaurant’s profits, we should also look at the other major concern you’re likely to have: where to build your garden.
The beauty of microgreens is they don’t need to be grown outdoors. Microgreens are well suited to grow indoors because they grow rapidly and can be harvested frequently, which is precisely what your kitchen needs for the freshest ingredients.
Next to startup costs, the other major issue that concerns restauranteurs most about growing microgreens indoors is space. Many restaurants are already packed to the brim with equipment, product, and inventory, not to mention a fully staffed kitchen and serving crew. Not all restaurants have a plot of land with space available to start a small culinary farm. Where the heck do you find empty space for a microgreens garden?
The good news is there’s always more space, especially when you get creative.
Rooftop gardens are an obvious choice—especially for more robust gardens—but not always available. Getting one started is definitely a worthwhile investment, but it will take some time and start-up capital.
For microgreens, there’s no need to wait until you have found a plot of land or growing space somewhere on your property. A multi-tiered shelving rack and lights only take up a few cubic feet worth of space. This can be found in a utility closet, in a breakroom, along windowsills, on a fire escape, in a back office, or even in the space behind a door!
Display the Beauty of Your Microgreens Garden
Keep in mind, there’s no need to keep your microgreens garden out of customer sight. A simple microgreens garden can be proudly displayed somewhere in your restaurant’s dining space—ideally somewhere out of the way and near enough to the kitchen to keep the back of the house moving smoothly.
If you really wanted to make your microgreens garden a prominent guest feature, look into growing your microgreens hydroponically. This is a soil-less approach that requires a nutrient-rich water source for your microgreens.
You could take your restaurant gardening a step further and set up an aquaponics system—a fully sustainable microgreens garden growing directly above a fish tank. Incorporating fish into your microgreens garden creates a biosphere that is self-sustaining and can really take your environmentally conscious efforts to the next level. A stylish approach to aquaponics will wow your guests and can easily become an attraction-like feature for your restaurant.
By letting your guests know that your microgreens are grown on-site, you’re also proactively engaging your customer base in a number of positive ways. Many diners are environmentally conscious and often choose a restaurant that adheres to green practices over one that does not.
Growing microgreens in full view of your guests can enhance their dining experience, especially if you also train your front of house staff about the many benefits to the environment—and to your menu. Hosts, servers, bartenders, and managers should all be able to inform guests that your microgreens culinary garden reduces waste, carbon emissions, and ensures the freshest, most flavorful ingredients.
No matter what size space your restaurant operates within, there’s no excuse not to move a few things around to make room for growing microgreens indoors.
What Kinds of Microgreens Should You Grow?
In part, the kind of microgreens you choose to grow depends upon the cuisine your menu features.
Additionally, an in-house microgreens garden can provide your chef with more options. This means they can be more creative and expand your menu into new territory, perhaps setting in motion a culinary tapestry you’ve only dreamed about being able to offer.
You can (and should) grow multiple herbs in the same plant bed or trays. So long as you’re careful to keep plants that require similar conditions together in the same trays, you won’t have any problems.
You’ll also need to keep in mind the environmental conditions different varieties of plants require. Many can grow just fine outdoors, but others require specialized conditions, such as more shade, more (or less) moisture, and even desert-like temperatures. Growing microgreens indoors is an effective and fairly easy way to manage the different growing environments and needs of your micro garden.
Once you have your micro garden (or larger) up and running, it’s pretty easy to increase not just the volume of your menu offering, but also the variety. Fruits and even edible flowers such as violets and roses are potential candidates, adding a simple, yet delightful vibrancy to your menu and food presentations.
No matter what you decide, growing microgreens indoors is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to boost your restaurant’s profits while reducing costs. Your guests will love your environmentally conscious efforts! In less than two weeks, you could already be harvesting herbs and other plants from your microgreen garden… so what are you waiting for?
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