Broccoli and Lettuce

How Farm’r Wound Up Being Considered Healthy

Here’s something you may not know, when developing the concept behind Farm’r, we weren’t trying to create a “healthy” restaurant.

The funny thing is, when you ask most people who have eaten here or are familiar with the concept, the first sentence always includes the word “healthy”.

You won’t see that word on our branding and it seldom appears on our website. At the same time, I will even admit, it seems ingrained into what we’re doing, all the way from the owners, to the employees, to our customers.

The Original Idea

The original concept we wanted to create was all about simplicity. It was based on one general premise:

“Let’s use better ingredients that are in season, then the need for complicated preparation won’t exist”

And that was it, our idea centered around being really simple. A simple protein, with some seasoning and a simple sauce, add a vegetable and probably something starchy (that’s easily roasted) and call it a meal!

Our original menu had things like sandwiches with cheese, brisket and potatoes. We did away with the deep fryer, but so what? That doesn’t mean we’re healthy.

But alas, that’s what we became.

What Our Customers Said

I’ve learned that when eating out people typically see food as either healthy or not. You can try hard, but pizza, fried chicken and hamburgers will never be considered healthy. Exceptions and miracles can sometimes occur, but in most cases people just assume, if it’s healthy, it won’t taste good.

In the minds of our customers, we fit into the healthy bucket, it’s that simple. And yes, that means we have to work hard to convince people it tastes good.

One of our challenges is that we’re afraid to brand ourselves as healthy for fear people won’t see the food as delicious. We all hope it can be both.

I won’t name names, but there are friends of mine and people who I have had good career related relationships with in the past and they still haven’t eaten at Farm’r. If you ask the right questions, the truth comes out: when dining out, they just don’t like “healthy”.

The thing is, when new people come to taste our food, they typically enjoy it. In many cases they’re usually surprised it tastes good. The reaction can be great to witness.

Most of the time you feel pretty good after eating it. There isn’t a complex reason why, it’s just that we don’t serve french fries, we don’t pound every meal with salt. Our kitchen just wants the food to taste good.

Accommodating Diets

Today, especially in an urban environment, there are a lot of people with dietary restrictions. I know lots of vegetarians and as someone who thinks about food all the time, I’ve experimented with many different diets myself.

Today gluten free is incredibly popular, as are paleo, keto, dairy free and vegan diets. Lots of people have nut allergies too.

Our food seemed to lend itself well to be accommodating. We weren’t necessarily trying to be vegan friendly, but we had lots of requests and it ultimately became easier to prepare things to be friendly towards vegans.

We started with sandwiches on the menu, but they didn’t sell well so we ditched them. At that point we were cooking with hardly any gluten products, so most of our menu became gluten free.

I have been meeting more and more people following paleo and keto diets. Both diets limit carbs and focus on meat and vegetables for the majority of their nutrients and calories. It isn’t something we tried to follow from the beginning, it just happens that our food works well to accommodate those diets.

Our Customers Love Choice

The bottom line is our customers love choice. Several times we have experimented with pre-composed items like sandwiches, salads and even pre-composed plates. The vast majority of people still choose to build their own plate.

Making the choice for themselves mean they can change it up easily, eat what they want and satisfy most diets.

The Future of our Menu

I’m convinced we will remain a “healthy” restaurant in the eyes of most people. Even though we have tossed around the idea of a macaroni and cheese special, our vegetable focused sides aren’t going anywhere.

If you have visited us in store lately you’ll see that the menu design has gotten simpler (click to see). Instead of overloading the page with items we are going to keep it simple and focus on putting lots of new and fun things on our specials menu.

We want to be able to experiment with new ideas all the time. As much as we think we’ll know what sells well, we’ve been surprised just as often.

We have heard that you want more vegetarian mains, and it’s in the works. We’re also going to continue to support the gluten free, vegan, paleo, low-carb, dairy free, nut free eaters out there.

If you have any menu ideas for us, please share.