“Look no further than your own backyard” is taking on a whole new meaning with the growing practice of urban foraging. Restauranteurs like Bowman Brown, botanists like Andrew Townesmith and world-renowned chefs like Rick Bayless are sourcing ingredients for menu items in the wild or growing them on their own urban farms. Chickweed, wild onion, dandelion and hundreds of other plant species growing in the wild are a new and largely untapped source of fresh, free ingredients that bring a flair of uniqueness to dishes.
The idea of scouring the land for ingredients to prepare for an upcoming service will not appeal to everyone, but the trend reflects a cultural shift any business can leverage.
- Natural and Fresh: People want to feel that their foods are as fresh as possible. Tout your use of fresh ingredients and highlight natural dishes for customers who value a more organic dining experience.
- Sourcing Close to Home: Getting supplies from nearby suppliers allows your business to fuel good will with the community.
- Being More Resourceful and Less Wasteful: More and more, people want to feel that they’re being good stewards of the planet. Little touches like recycling or offering biodegradable take-home boxes speak volumes.
- Differentiating from Competitors: Ingredients offer a big opportunity to differentiate. Creating a garden just for your restaurant tells patrons they are getting food they can’t get anywhere else that’s as fresh as possible.
Business leaders across the country are looking at little changes they can make to respond to changes in culture but also benefit their business’ bottom lines. Rick Bayless says, “We are a little urban farm in the middle of the city. I’m a huge proponent of urban agriculture, and for me urban agriculture is something that can be done in any city… Here in this space, with about 1,000 square feet of production garden, we actually produce a lot of product ‑ we do about $25,000 worth of product.”
How can you bring fresher, more unique ingredients to your guests? The answer might be in your own backyard.