Put your money where your mouth is

The Silver Diner in Innsbrook unveiled a new menu yesterday.

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.

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Blackbeered
Blackbeered
10 years ago

With transportation and distribution costs comprising ~ 50% of foods’ wholesale costs, I find it troubling that the owner states his costs are rising by dealing locally.

Can Virginia farmers be that inefficient?

dhg
dhg
10 years ago

Massive volume and mass production processes can often offset any transportation costs.It can be less expensive to use produce from Chili than from a hundred miles away.

Plus you are not just getting local products and circulating your money in the local economy,you are being spared some of those large corporate farms mass production processes including heavy use of chemicals and fertilizers.

khs
khs
10 years ago

I’ve never been to the Silver Dollar, but I would consider going now. I so appreciate knowing where my food comes from – and knowing that my dollars are supporting local vendors. Hope more local restaurants follow suit!

SFS
SFS
10 years ago

This is something to be proud of…I hope his business increases revenue because there are people who want this out there! This owner is making that bet and should be rewarded with more people frequenting his restaurant. Why wouldn’t people want more locally provided food…steps like this are a start to us repairing our local economies, OURSELVES….not by waiting on artificial “stimulus” to save us all….I think a good start is by supporting the businesses we live and work around……the efficiencies will increase over time, once more and more people start adopting this philosophy

james
james
10 years ago

Costs are higher for local food, blackbeered, because the guys who bring food in from California and other places do volume business, and Silver Diner apparently is now going to the local farms where they don’t do volume business.

I’m not a cheeseburger, milkshake and pancake guy so I won’t be going to Silver Diner, but it’s good that they are supporting Virginia companies. The more commerce we keep in state, the more we help our economy.

jill
jill
10 years ago

it doesn’t really matter to me where my food comes from, when the service is still horrible, and your facility is dirty. a northern virginia native, i was very dissapointed to see the silver diner construction at the entrance to my neighborhood last year.. in northern virginia, silver diners come a dime a dozen. i was baffled by the amount of traffic that the restauarant brought in, so after many many months of avoiding the restaurant at all costs, i did finally go there with family (that happened to be staying at the hotel next door). to no surprise, the… Read more »

SAL
SAL
10 years ago

I think it’s great that they’re buying locally. It’s means a lot of the money we spend there goes right back into our local economy. I know it’s a little unreasonable to only go to local stores for all products but I think it’s important to support some and to support the use of local resources by chains such as Silver Diner. Hopefully some other chains around here will do the same because I for one am not that big of a fan of Silver Diner so I’d rather support the local economy somewhere else.