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Would you eat at a Health(ier) Food Diner?


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I know this topic isn't going to be nearly as much fun as some of them around here so go ahead and put your popcorn down.  Sorry.

My husband and I have been knocking around the idea of opening a breakfast/lunch place.  Our options around here for healthier items are... limited.  We don't even have a Whole Foods grocery, though we do have a small, independent health food/supplement store.  One of our groceries carries a pretty good line of organics so that's helpful.  But restaurant eating?  Yeah, it's the same ol' crap.

So, my question is:  If you had the option of eating at, say, an IHOP or a smaller place that was HFCS/MSG free that served local meats (and hopefully eggs), with organic veges and such, where everything down to the chocolate syrup was hand prepared, would you go there?  Or is IHOP/Bob Evans good enough? 

I'm sure we would carry some industry standards, but I keep wanting to give people the option of the "better" choices.  The hubby works for a chain restaurant and insists people don't care.  I keep insisting that *I* care... but what do I know?

All input appreciated! :)

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I don't eat fast food. In fact, I don't eat out much. So my opinion might be in the minority. But I do like to support non-chain restaurants. Especially those with a focus in health. Good luck!

I think the 'healthy' aspect is something that would be secondary to the taste of the food. In the right location, you could advertise locally sustainable/organic, but truthfully, there's more cachet (IMO) in it being a unique little diner with outstanding food and a quirky vibe.

It wouldn't have to be standard iHop fare to be outstanding, it could be your own take on things, but what I think would be the selling point would be the fact that it's a local business. Now if you were advertising 'Gluten Free' that would probably be a draw, but 'no HFCS/msg' is something you'd put on the menu as a footnote, I think.

Regardless, Good luck! :D

I would love some more healthy options when eating out. I would choose the smaller place with better food every time. :)

Original Post by kathygator:

I think the 'healthy' aspect is something that would be secondary to the taste of the food. In the right location, you could advertise locally sustainable/organic, but truthfully, there's more cachet (IMO) in it being a unique little diner with outstanding food and a quirky vibe.

It wouldn't have to be standard iHop fare to be outstanding, it could be your own take on things, but what I think would be the selling point would be the fact that it's a local business. Now if you were advertising 'Gluten Free' that would probably be a draw, but 'no HFCS/msg' is something you'd put on the menu as a footnote, I think.

Regardless, Good luck! :D

LOL - have no fear on the taste.  How do you think I got chubby?  Again.

Definite hmmmmmm on the gluten free thing.  Something I've tossed around in my head in the past but haven't discussed with the hubby.  With all the food intolerances out there, may have to consider some alternative gluten free options too.  

Thanks so far!  Keep 'em coming. 

(*you know I'm just using you guys for free preliminary market research, right? Wink )

Around here, we have First Watch. We eat there once a week and wouldn't go elsewhere. I happily pay slightly more to have better quality food. Plus, they're happier to oblige my special requests (sub avocado for potatoes, milk for half-and-half in my coffee, etc.).

I think that taking it a step further and making the food with locally grown produce, eggs and even possibly meat would increase my interest even more. We also have a place like that around here.

The last time I ate somewhere like IHOP or something similar was when I needed a hangover cure. It made me feel worse.

I totally would!

But what about the demographic in your area? How brisk is business at the health food place - how long have they been open? What's the selection like at that grocery store, and how often do they restock the stuff?

Are you thinking of like healthier versions of classic diner food? Delish.

eta: But. I'm not sure I'd pay eg $15.00 for an omelette or bison burger more than once a month or so. What would the overhead be like? Have you got good relationships (friendships) with local suppliers/growers?

source: gordon ramsay's kitchen nightmares

Do your homework.
Do you have local farmers around that you can ask about what they grow seasonally?  And their prices and do they deliver?
What kinds of meals are local to your area?
Does your mother or aunts have a secret recipe that everyone loves and ask for?
What are the rents like around your area?
Talk to someone at the Board of Health and ask for info on what they look for.
Find out what licence fees are.
Talk to an accountant.
Scope out what kind of equipment you will need, tables, chairs, dinnerware, even curtains, signage and menu printing costs and it will cost you for equipment, either new or used.

Talk to a loans officer at your bank, maybe not about a loan, but he/she can give you info on just how many restaurants survive and give you an honest assessment to your dream.

Also have a back up plan on what you are going to live on because most business don't make a profit the first year.

And don't get me started on staff.

I know that this is all over the board, sorry.

I have weighed this topic over and over for a while.  Right now in my area restaurants are closing as fast as they open.  You need a special niche to make you stand out.
I want to start a gluten-free coffee shop.  Right now I work at a chain coffee shop and can't eat anything there because everything is made of wheat.
Right now I am practicing recipes because some things just don't work without flour.

 

I rarely eat out, but when I do, it is rarely at chains/fatty, gross food eateries. Actually there is a veggie restaurant and sandwich shop near me that I like, and I'd rather go there than even subway (which I had today, but that's besides the point, and very ... yes, rare).

What I would recommend though is getting opinions on this restaurant idea from people other than CC members. Most of us already know that local is better, but the outside population (and least a large population of them) don't get why chains, FF and processed foods are hindering our success.

I would suggest trying survey monkey if you can and ask people if they are willing to pay more for a healthier meal, too...because it will cost more to make.

Just some thoughts to consider, because I want you to be a success! Now is the time to do this type of restaurant. So many people ARE interested in supporting local establishments these days, so do your research and go for it.

GOOD LUCK!

ooooooo Bierorama!  I love those menus :)

Will definitely share those with the hubby in the a.m.  I still have to put flavored/colored waffles on mine though.  My brother insists.  Hoping to come up with good whole grain fruit mixes for those though.  Not a bit waffle eater myself but I have plenty of willing subjects around here to critique me.

We do have a local meat processor that only processes local critters.  The same cows I see hanging out in the fields around here eventually end up on my table.  Although it's a little disturbing when you see them unloading a cute, black, fluffy cow that's looking around like this was awesome and he just got to go for a ride... Undecided  It's somewhat disturbing.

We also have a couple local dairies (one about 45 mins south and another about an hour and a half north) that I would like to look into using.

heheheh - 4 a.m. Denny's run.  Just ain't nuthin' like it ;)

Jane:  the natural store has been there for eons now.  I remember when I worked downtown 20 years ago when all there was in town was a cute little herbal store -- then this place opened.  So about 20 years now.  And I've watched their business grow and increase a LOT in that time.  Years ago (even as few as 5) it wasn't unusual for me to be the only one in the store for a time.  Now I'm constantly tripping over people.  Silly people.  Don't they know it's MY turn in the store?

Um, yeah.  No egg is worth $15.  And while I like a good bison burger as much as the next person it's just not really cost feasible for what we're looking at.

Spoiled:  I live in Indiana.  We're definitely not at a loss for local farmers ;)  Do need to nail some of them down on whether they deliver.

Eberbody 'round these parts likes a good meat n' taters dinner.  Well, at least that's how it used to be, we've sophisticated up a bit.  Not much though.  Bacon Cheeseburgers are always a big hit with the guys and we do plan to deliver to local businesses too.  During our weekly dates (we do breakfast or lunch about once per week), I have noticed more people ordering for special diet considerations which is why I would really like to explore this notion.

Not to brag, but I have most of the secret recipes.  Most of them I created myself and then worked on perfecting for years until I was actually happy with them.  Though I will concede the twice baked potatoes to my mom.

Hubby is a kitchen manager... not worried about the board of health.  He's insanely OCD and knows all there is to know.

Embarassed We kind of already have investors that are just waiting on our word and a biz plan.  My father-in-law is one of them and he's an accountant.  Look!  Two birds/one stone :D (But seriously, we do have a local accountant in mind that does the payroll, taxes, *everything* so we wouldn't have to do squat - he was recommended by another local small biz owner)

LOL on staff - as long as my husband isn't allowed to talk to them we should be fine.  He has a very low stupid tolerance and it leaks out sometimes.  I have a very low stupid tolerance but know how to work within people's limitations.  Staff is the least of my concerns.

I've tried some gluten free recipes in the past for my grandpa and I agree... some are quite EW.  I did make a pretty decent bread once though.  If you open a coffee shop I'll have to send you my recipe for cinnamon scones.  You'll have to make it gluten free all by yourself though ;)

 

If I didn't address anyone personally, I'm not ignoring you!  Really, just even knowing that you would choose to eat at such a place is a huge help.  I mean... even though I argue it with the hubby, you know I have qualms myself.  It's such a big step.

I would love to find a diner like that. I'd probably end up going there several times a week. Between school and work, I usually don't have time to cook every meal--so I end up eating at least one microwavable something on most days. If I had the option of having someone else cook something for me that won't give me a heart attack in 20 years, I'd be all over it like a hobo on a hot biscuit.

Original Post by mjsophia:

I rarely eat out, but when I do, it is rarely at chains/fatty, gross food eateries. Actually there is a veggie restaurant and sandwich shop near me that I like, and I'd rather go there than even subway (which I had today, but that's besides the point, and very ... yes, rare).

What I would recommend though is getting opinions on this restaurant idea from people other than CC members. Most of us already know that local is better, but the outside population (and least a large population of them) don't get why chains, FF and processed foods are hindering our success.

I would suggest trying survey monkey if you can and ask people if they are willing to pay more for a healthier meal, too...because it will cost more to make.

Just some thoughts to consider, because I want you to be a success! Now is the time to do this type of restaurant. So many people ARE interested in supporting local establishments these days, so do your research and go for it.

GOOD LUCK!

Ahhhh... but there's the method to my madness.  If even people around here that could possibly have better eating habits than the general population wouldn't care if their 2 egg spinach omelet came from me or IHOP, then I just need to quit now. 

I do like the survey monkey suggestion :D

Thanks!

I think there's a market for it. Take a look at some of the major chains offering under 500kc menus (thinking Friday's/Applebee's).

They offer terrible stuff as well, but the under 500 menu is still about taste first, calories second.

It's basically, a lot of protein, a lot of veg, no carbs, light fat (ie avoiding calorie dense foods).

Yes!  We had a diner like that, and it recently closed.  Supposedly they weren't getting enough business, but they were always packed.  It wasn't exactly a healthy diner but they had a lot of decent homemade stuff and a huge garden burger menu.  Local sourcing isn't that uncommon for the restaurants around here.

I think that 90% of the time small family owned/private owned places are by far the best...Besides usually being healthier, they are usually much tastier too...Eating out nowdays can absolutely RUIN a healthy diet if you don't know a lot about nutrition....I would definately choose a healthy little private resturaunt over a IHOP anyday...:) Good luck!

Original Post by lysistrata:

Yes!  We had a diner like that, and it recently closed.  Supposedly they weren't getting enough business, but they were always packed.  It wasn't exactly a healthy diner but they had a lot of decent homemade stuff and a huge garden burger menu.  Local sourcing isn't that uncommon for the restaurants around here.

They probably sucked at pricing and/or portioning.

We got a guy that's opening his xth successful restaurant out here and I got to talking with him about it, because I know it's a tough business.

His comment was it's all about cost. You have to know down to the penny what each menu item is going to cost you so that you don't lose money when you think you're making it.

You have to consistently produce the same plates (same amount of food every time within tolerance).

And then there's things like keeping beer lines super cold so that they don't foam as much. It can save you a third of your keg.

 

Absolutely.

I only eat at local, non-chain places....and if it is healthy or healthier, all the more reason to go eat there!

I think, people care more and more about the quality of their food. A healthy food diner with vegeterian options, soups,  nice salads and freshly squeezed juices would definitely appeal to me. I only wonder if it would be possible to sustain "diner" prices in a place like this.

Having a break down for dishes' nutritional value (i.e. cal, fat, saturated fat, carbs etc) would be an advantage.

Another thought that comes to mind is to connect with a local health groups (such as Weight Watchers or Heart Awareness) and get them to organise their events in the diner - promotions, table quizes, master classes on healthy cooking, themed nights.   

Good luck with it!

mmmmmm soup...

Never thought of actually *fresh squeezing* juice.  Awesome thought.

As far as prices, I'm sure they'll be a little more than the $1.95 2 egg special, but they won't singe your eyebrows either.  I know I feed us good stuff around here for very little more than buying conventional crap. I can get 5 pounds of organic potatoes for $3.99-$4.99 - or a 12 oz bag of potato chips for $3.99.  Hmmmm, which is cheaper?  (Whenever anyone asks how we can afford to eat organics I always use that analogy and they're shocked at what they pay per pound for chips.)

Hoping to have a whole book with the nutritional info on each dish just so people that care can take a look.

Think if we do it I will just print off this thread for all your guys' awesome thoughts and ideas.  Probably wouldn't have local groups in right away, but that's an idea I don't want to lose track of too.

Keep 'em coming!  This is great Smile

Do a survey of the area in which you think you would like to open your healthy breakfast/lunch place. 

It is a struggle to open a mom an pop shop when everyone goes to the 'name brand' places.

Do your homework.  Have a lot of money in reserve to live off of/fund your restaurant.

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