Tag Archives: hyperlocal

Grow it Yourself! Hopping on that “Hyperlocal” Bandwagon

Spring has sprung and gardens are beginning to bloom. If you’ve ever thought about growing your own ingredients, or hopping on the urban farming bandwagon, this is the perfect time of year to start!

A trend among sustainability-minded establishments seems to be growing their own herbs and produce. This urban agriculture trend has taken big cities by storm, encouraging the ideal of growing local products in heavily populated areas instead of purchasing ingredients from national suppliers.

What are the pros of growing your own ingredients?

Consumers love knowing where their ingredients come from – not to mention supporting their local community. In fact, “hyperlocal” foods (foods grown by the restaurant themselves) has been a major trend for the last few years now.

These foods are often viewed as healthier and fresher, and there is a financial incentive to growing your own. One of the largest expenses restaurants face is the cost of goods. This could easily make or break newer businesses. Growing many of your own products cuts this cost down significantly, and it adds to the appreciation of where your food comes from.raised garden bed

Where to start…

If you’re new to urban farming or growing your own ingredients, we suggest starting small and working your way up. Raised beds are a great idea for beginners, especially if space is an issue. Raised garden beds are usually three to four feet wide and constructed of a solid wood frame, and almost any crop can be grown in them. For more benefits and instructions on constructing raised garden beds, check out this great resource.

You can also garden certain products, like herbs and spices, indoors. The most popular herbs for indoor kitchen gardens include:

  1. Thyme – spicy and clove-like; good with meats or vegetables because it lightens the profile of the dish, increasing the balance.
  2. Chives – thin, hollow leaves with mild onion flavor; great for a garnish.
  3. Mint – sweet, cool and refreshing; great for savory dishes.
  4. Sage – rich flavor with notes of citrus; combines well with other spices such as thyme.
  5. Basil – aromatic with scents of pepper, anise and mint; adds richness and depth to sauces and dressings.

One of the benefits of trying your hand at herb gardening is that many, like lavender and rosemary, thrive under less than ideal conditions.

Tips on Growing

If you’re growing your own herbs, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Soil and Light Requirements

The soil doesn’t need to be rich for herbs, but must be able to drain well. Also, make sure they receive at least five hours of direct sunlight a day.

Watering

Most herbs require about 1-inch of water a week.

Fertilizing

Most herbs don’t require fertilizer unless you have remarkably poor soil.

Harvesting

Cutting leaves and stems will allow your plants to become thicker, fuller and more productive. It is recommended that you harvest early in the morning when essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves and releases them.

Deadheading

Certain herbs require deadheading the blooms as to maintain plant productivity. Basil and mint, for instance, both benefit from having the flowers pinched back before they mature.

Cleaning Up

After the first killing frost in the fall, pull up the annual herbs like basil. In the spring, cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like mint, and prune overgrown ones by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.

window garden

Urban farming and herb gardening are both fun and rewarding, providing a great opportunity to save money while growing fresher products. For more tips, check out our GIY – Grow It Yourself – board on Pinterest!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our posts on Farm to Table: What is It? and Earth Day and Your Restaurant: Ways You Can Help!

5 Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Trends

The foodservice industry is constantly evolving.  One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up.  In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“).  Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.

So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months.  Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.

Pop-Up Restaurants

Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too.  A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.

However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time.  They are starting to show true staying power though.  Perhaps it’s because  it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.

Upscale Kids Menus

Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20.  Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children.  With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas.  For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Gen Y Changing the Game

A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s  “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food.  According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.

The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.”  Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.

Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus

This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously.  Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free.  Today?  Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu.  But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu.  In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe.  Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis.  To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards.  Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat.  For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat.  Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.

Local and Sustainability

Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc.  Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food.  This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food.  It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating.  There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow.  In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”

What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.?  Please share below!