From Roof to Restaurant: Starting an On-site Restaurant Garden
The benefits to building a green roof or on-site farm are clear.
If you run a local restaurant, chances are you’re looking to increase your profits while decreasing costs, draw in more customers and build local support from the residents in your neighborhood. Advertising is expensive and only goes so far. An exclusive, healthy and delicious menu is ideal, but the costs associated with this add up quickly.
They’re starting to pop up all over the country: restaurants that implement a multi-tiered solution to some of these environmental, community and profit margin problems. Their answer: rooftop and on premises urban gardens.
Sounds kinda radical right? Believe it or not, this green movement solution incorporates more benefits than problems, and will literally change the face of your community, your environment and of course, your business—all at the same time.
12 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs Its Own Garden
From sourcing to shipping, advertising to attractive price points, many local restaurants struggle to find a balance to grow their business, grow their profits and reduce their overall costs. Rooftop and on-site gardens/farms can be a very effective solution. Here’s why:
1. Decrease Costs Across the Board
Not only does it cost less, but you effectively cut out the middleman when you grow fresh produce on site. While start-up costs may be discouraging at first, try a cost/benefit analysis to determine long-term profits. You may be surprised at how quickly you’ll see a return on your investment.
If you go with the rooftop option, you’ll also save money in the form of reduced energy bills, including storm water management and HVAC maintenance—plus, you’ll notice a longer building lifespan. Why? Because a green roof protects and insulates your building from the damaging effects of the sun and adverse weather, including extreme temperatures.
2. Increase Your Overall Profits
Your customers will pay a premium for fresh, locally grown produce—especially organic. Not only do you lower your production supply costs, but you can charge a bit more for hyperlocal, fresh food.
3. Green Marketing Potential
A rooftop or on-site garden will raise the value of your branding. Advertising your homegrown, organic, pesticide- and fertilizer-free produce will attract new customers, expand your business and create a positive impact on your community. It will also help you build a loyal customer base who believes in what you’re doing and who will support your efforts. Additionally, your green roof will attract positive PR opportunities and media attention. People love this stuff! Your success will be newsworthy, which will also grow awareness about what you’re doing to improve the environment, your community, and local property values.
4. Extreme Quality Control
“Served when ripe—not ripened on the truck!” will become your new mantra, marketing campaign and mission statement. You and your chefs are directly involved with the quality of your produce. You can offer seasonally relevant, healthy food custom built around each season or harvest. You’ll also be able to guarantee the freshest, healthiest food around. People want to know where their food comes from—you can show them!
5. Menu Flexibility
It’s your garden—you get to grow whatever you want! Not only will this excite and inspire your chefs, but you can grow rare, exotic and hard to find produce. This will save you money and help define your menu as something unique and desirable to the public. Creating seasonally special menu offerings and ethnic food specialties will keep people coming back. Did we mention that this will save you a ton of money while helping you make even more?!
6. Protect Your Building and Its Roof
A big part of owning a business is the property itself. Maintenance, HVAC, energy usage, water and waste removal fees are major costs that can be reduced and brought under control by converting your unused roof space into an urban garden. It’s a common misconception that a green roof will damage the building and/or roof itself, but this is simply not true.
When constructed properly, a green roof actually protects the building instead. It absorbs heat and acts as an insulator. Your rooftop garden reduces costs associated with energy, water and waste—plus, you increase your profit margins and help the local environment.
7. Reduce Urban Pollution
Green roofs and living walls filter the carbon emissions and other toxins in urban air, as well as pollutants from rainwater. Creating cleaner air is good for everything that lives and reducing toxic runoff keeps our drainage and other water systems cleaner.
Green roofs and living walls also help control storm water runoff, and can reduce urban heat traps, which are a major problem in large cities, sometimes even resulting in death.
8. Lower Your Carbon Footprint
By growing your produce locally, you significantly reduce shipping pollution and the associated financial costs. Most food shipping trucks need to be refrigerated—a serious energy drain. They also burn a lot of fuel which greatly increases pollution.
Vegetation helps reduce pollutants in the air, and if enough businesses convert their rooftops into green roofs and urban farms/gardens, we may be able to help slow…or even begin to reverse the effects of global warming. If this were to become a global effort, we as a species might be able to repair the damage to our environment while also helping cities become self-sufficient and sustainable.
9. Raise Local Property Values
Green roofs and urban farms automatically increase the property value of the land the farm is on. Additionally the properties surrounding the farm increase in value—raising the neighborhood’s overall property values. Your happy neighbors will want to frequent your restaurant and support you because they see you supporting them!
10. You Create Beautiful Dining Aesthetics
Your on-site gardens also create beautiful spaces! Providing calming ambiance, beautiful scenery and pleasing urban backdrops, your increased profits can help fund creating classy, sexy and interesting outdoor dining spaces. And if you incorporate aquaponics gardening, the soothing sound of trickling water will also help add to the calming ambiance.
Additional Benefits of an On-Site Garden:
11. Invite Guests and Visitors for an Educational Tour of Your Garden
You can create awareness by offering tours of your gardening operations. This can be paired with special dining events and tastings that involve classy dinners and exclusive beer, wine and cocktail offerings—another way to boost your local media presence.
12. Create a Community Involvement Program
You can involve the community by inviting local schools for educational field trips, and local universities can build courses around studying the effects of green roof gardens and urban farming. Your restaurant can become a part of community partnership programs. You can even provide an opportunity for rehabilitation and recovery through change and education. By offering opportunities for the troubled members of our communities, you can help create positive experiences for those on parole, those reentering the workforce post-incarceration, and other people who may deserve a second chance.
The benefits to building a green roof or on-site farm are clear. You can help to heal the community on an environmental and personal level, not to mention contribute to education, property value and aesthetic improvement of your neighborhood. Becoming self-sufficient will create amazing opportunities for you and your community.
For local inspiration, we suggest checking out the hard-working folks of Milwaukee’s own Growing Power.