It’s still serving milkshakes, cheeseburgers, pancakes and other classic American dishes, but the ingredients have changed.
The ground beef and eggs, for instance, travel about 100 miles from Black Eagle Farms in Nelson County. The side of bacon comes from pigs raised in Surry County. The bread is baked locally. Much of the seafood comes from the Chesapeake Bay. Even the coffee, beer and wine are all handled in some way by Virginia companies.
The Innsbrook location is one of the last in Silver Diner’s chain of restaurants, which stretches from its roots in Maryland out to Northern Virginia, Tidewater and New Jersey, to incorporate locally sourced ingredients.
Co-founder Bob Giaimo said the company is responding to changing palates that are increasingly hungry for locally farmed foods.
“We are sitting today in the center of a food epoch,” Giaimo said at an event celebrating the new menu. “People know where their food is coming from. The people are ready, they are demanding it and they are ready to pay for it.”
By using local ingredients, the company will be adding $1 million to its food costs, Giaimo said. Menu prices are rising 25 cents to 75 cents per item.
Giaimo said he hopes to show that other multi-location restaurants can also source food from local farms.
Chef and co-founder Ype Von Hengst said the menu contains 40 to 50 percent dishes with locally sourced ingredients.
“It is the right thing to do,” said Von Hengst. “The food tastes so much better. Why get strawberries from California when you can have it from outside your back door?”
He said they tested the concept out at two of their restaurants outside of Washington and found that diners didn’t mind paying a little bit more for better quality food. So they decided to revamp their entire supply chain.
That meant doing business with farmers such as Ralph Glatt, the president of Piney River Farms and Black Eagle Farm. Glatt’s farms provide eggs and ground beef for the Innsbrook Silver Diner, as well as the three Tidewater locations that will switch over this month.
Glatt said the partnership is a huge deal, his first with a restaurant. He sells mostly to grocery stores and farmers markets.
Glatt’s farm has been in operation for about 30 years and still uses old-fashioned farming techniques. For example, the free-range hens and pasture-fed cows are not given antibiotic or hormones.
“Never used to use hormones, that is just the way it was,” Glatt said.
Now customers are more conscious about how and where the food they are eating was raised, which Glatt said has made his operation more profitable now because people are willing to pay a premium for fresher food.
Also unveiled yesterday was a new rewards program called Eat Well Do Well. Customers get a $5 dollar rebate after five visits, and Silver Diner said they would donate 1 percent of sales from the program to nutrition and fitness programs at local schools.
That effort is supported by several agencies, including the Virginia Food Systems Council, Henrico County Schools and the Virginia Foundation for Health Youth.