By Christopher Zook
It's no secret that one of the most important achievements a company can attain is vertical integration - controlling the raw material, production, and sale of a product from start to finish. Usually, vertical integration is used in conjunction with big brand-name corporations.
But now more and more restaurants are starting to vertically integrate to the mutual benefit of the establishment and the customer. Thankfully, all that corporate jargon can be broken down to something a little easier on the eyes: the "hyper-local restaurant".
What Is A Hyper-Local Restaurant?
A hyper-local restaurant is basically a restaurant cultivating its own food. A growing trend over the past two years, hyper-local food growth is a response to customer requests and the industry's desire for healthier food. And while it may sound like a stretch of the imagination, hyper-local restaurants are popping up all over the country and in every climate.
Chicago has been one of the more recent locations to pick up on the trend, proving that you don't need a massive plot of farm land to grow great-tasting vegetables. Instead, places like Frontera Grill and Uncommon Ground have taken to the rooftops to grow everything from carrots to salsa ingredients. In this scenario, the chefs partially take on the role of a farmer as they actually hand-pick the ingredients they'll use in different dishes.
But a rooftop with a view isn't necessary to start your own hyper-local farm. As long as you have water, the right soil, and a green thumb, any restaurant can cultivate local vegetables and leafy greens. Or, if you're really ambitious (and have a few extra acres), you could always copy a York, Pa. restaurant and raise your own cattle too.
What's The Big Deal?
Maybe the biggest advantage to going hyper-local is the idea of sustainable development, a principle that places equal importance on economic growth and environmental responsibility. Hyper-local farming is small-scale subsistence farming, meaning that you produce enough for yourself, but without the use of fossil-fuel machines, the addition of preservatives, or the threat of pest infestation associated with long-term storage. One of the possible benefits to this style of farming is that any extra growth means additional sales and a little more cash for your business.
As far as potential dangers are concerned, there are relatively few. As long as you or someone you employ knows how to grow food, you should be just fine. But there is the possibility that your harvest comes up short. In that case, solving the problem is as easy as going out and buying from a trusted local vendor. The long-term benefits to this solution are actually two-fold, as you're still growing your own food for your customers and helping the local economy.
Last, and this is exclusively a matter of preference, but who wouldn't want the opportunity to bring beautiful heirloom fruits and vegetables to their restaurant?
Can't I Just BUY Local?
We've covered the benefits of buying local before. It's true - you can easily buy fruit and vegetables from local vendors, and that would spur growth in your local economy. But not all local food is created equally.
With today's allergy-conscious customer base, knowing the origins, treatment, and freshness of the food you serve is incredibly important, and it's even better when you can say that it came from your own back yard (or roof). Your wait staff will be able to answer any customer's question, and growing your own food can even give your chefs ideas for how to better prepare the ingredients more quickly.
If you've always wanted to start a hyper-local restaurant but never knew the right time, The Webstaurant Store has you covered. Just check out our interactive growing season infographic to find the best month in your state to grow different foods!