At Zest Garden Cafe you will never see an upcharge on our gluten free or vegan options.
When we first opened, we did what all restaurants do, and had a small upcharge on our gluten free and vegan batter because we knew it cost more. After a couple months, once we finally got our costing done, we knew it cost close to $0.20 more per crepe compared to the classic batter. We immediately eliminated the upcharge.
It’s been two years since then, and since our reopening, and implementation of making our own oat milk, the cost difference between our two batters is now only $0.01 per ounce, with the GF/vegan batter being the cheaper option by a penny. We now offer pizzas and our cost difference is $0.55 per crust for the gluten free option we make from scratch. When we were purchasing frozen, premade GF crusts at Marci’s Bar & Bistro our cost difference was $2.18!
Join our mailing list for a detailed update on how and why we combined Marci’s Bar & Bistro and Zest Creperie last year to create Zest Garden Cafe and hear our vision for the future!
We want to be transparent about our costs, because we know there are options for restaurants to offer an equitable menu without upcharges on allergen free items. We made the choice to find a way. We also know the majority of restaurants continue to do this because they are buying premade products at inflated prices and passing those costs onto you, because they know you can’t or won’t eat anything else.
The reality is restaurant menu pricing is already done in a way to even out costs. Look at any pizza restaurant, or appetizer menu. Pepperoni, salami, sausage and Canadian bacon all vary in cost, yet are almost universally sold at the same topping price from a pizzaria. Fried food appetizers may vary from costs of $0.50-$2.00 per portion and all be priced at $9.95 to the customer. This is normal. Why are allergen free items being treated differently?
To other restaurants – we ask, do you want to be inclusive?
Do you understand how difficult our industry has made it for so many people to enjoy a meal with friends and family?
Do you know how many people don’t go to restaurants because of it?
Times are changing, and restaurants have an opportunity to be far more inclusive and equitable to a large segment of the population. If you want to know where to start, please reach out to us as we are eager to share what we’ve learned.
You may just find your percentage of Gluten Free and Vegan customers grow from 5% to 30% if they felt comfortable and welcome to dine in your restaurant… and if you sold 25% more burgers without the upcharge, wouldn’t you cover the cost of those buns & vegan cheese?
Our mission with “Dig Deeper” is to branch out of the kitchen and facilitate educational community discussions around food availability, production, packaging, preservation and preparation methods as they relate to health and waste. We have said we are a different type of restaurant taking a fresh approach to our menu and want to dig deeper into our food ethics & values and how they inspire our alternative approach to what is offered on our menu, as compared to the majority of restaurants.
Our Modern Food Industry & Food-Like Products
We know many of our modern food choices would be hardly recognizable as food even 100 years ago. Our variety of food choices has become so large, that it now encompasses many products that are more chemical than food, or so highly processed they have surely lost the majority of their nutritional value.
We would venture to say that our modern American culture places no ethical responsibility on food producers to ensure, or even care if their products are healthy or not. Every food consumption decision we all make is a health decision, as the entire purpose of food is nourishment of our bodies. As a country, we allow many chemical additives and food production practices that are banned in many other countries because they are known to have harmful effects to health. We require cigarettes to come with a warning label, but not products containing nitrates and nitrites, potassium bromate, propylparaben, BHA, BHT, TBHQ, titanium dioxide, BVO, PFAS, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and heavy metals we all likely unknowingly consume on a daily basis if we are not making active conscious food choices and avoiding most products available to us. We do everything we can to avoid any products in all of our purchasing, but it is not easy due to loopholes in FDA regulations that allow many untested chemicals into our food supply.
Why has our food supply been overrun by “food-like” products over the last half century? We were sold on convenience by entities with zero interest in health. As fast-food chains rose in popularity and became fast food giants, they gained the purchasing power to dictate global food production methods, including GMOs, pesticides, chemical additives, hormones, and more. The way we, as humans, raise the majority of chickens on Earth is dictated by their future end as chicken nuggets. The quality demanded by these fast-food giants becomes the quality that is mass produced, and thus affordable to consumers.
When you are at a restaurant and they are out of mashed potatoes, but have the twice-baked potato available, you can trust that neither are actually made from whole potatoes in their kitchen.
Is it really challenging to make french fries from potatoes?
Or is it actually cheaper to buy them frozen?
Does the processing of potatoes into a fry-product create a more quality final product?
What else is in those fries besides potatoes?
We feel too many restaurants have been sold on the convenience of “food-like” products. We understand the temptation, and the labor savings involved, but feel it is ultimately not worth the cost of not knowing if what you are preparing and feeding to your community is nourishing or harmful to their health. When we see Lincoln City locals rant on social media about how every restaurant has the same frozen, packaged mass-produced products on their menus, we want to vent with you – but instead we allow it to inspire us to tell our story, so that you know you DO have a different option!
We want to remind you all that we do have the power to choose, and to vote with our purchasing. This is evident in the changes we have seen in grocery stores, at least in Oregon, over the last 10 years. Remember a decade back, when there was one small section in one aisle that housed every organic, gluten-free and vegan product in the store? Today, browse any aisle and you will find options of all three and more in all products!
Plenty of options for all in every restaurant, including whole foods, vegan, gluten-free, low-sodium and more, is a change we are ready to see in everyday life as well as in restaurants, and believe many of you are as well. Zest Garden Cafe is proving it can be done and we hope, through sharing our journey, to inspire other restaurants to do the same.
Is it easy to run a restaurant that uses predominantly whole foods? Of course it isn’t, and it isn’t meant to be. Preparing food is meant to be a labor of love, and we believe, as do many of you, that love is a crucial ingredient in any meal that is capable of combining flavors in a way salt can only attempt. Love is added to a meal through the washing of produce with your bare hands and handling of a freshly sharpened knife, to the flick of your wrist as you toss fresh spices in hot oil and create the ideal environment to infuse flavors until they become alive and the attentiveness to combine complementary elements beautifully onto a single plate. Microwaves simply can’t infuse love and you’ll never find one in our restaurant.
Isn’t it cost prohibitive to avoid processed foods? We have found it is not, though it does require a significant shift in perspective, predominantly around waste. When you cook the way we do, food cost goes down and labor doubles. We offset this through making the most of every ingredient, and reducing waste in a way that generates additional income, as well as reducing costs. Our next Dig Deeper will focus on our philosophies and approach to waste.
We know we are not the only place in town cooking real food with love and are eager to connect with, support, and collaborate with other restaurant operators who hold similar values; prioritizing whole foods with an alert awareness of all ingredients and their qualities, cooking what is local and seasonal, and creating a menu all people, regardless of diet or allergies, can comfortably order from with all questions answered.
If you are involved in a restaurant that makes real food with love, please tell us about it in the comments!
We believe a restaurant should be a place to receive nourishment, a refuge for travelers, a place to gather and celebrate with friends and family, and a means for a chef to offer a story through a menu. We believe to be trusted with the preparation of another’s meal is a privilege that is to be honored with transparency and integrity.
What do you think?
Should food producers and restaurants have an social-ethical obligation to ensure the food they produce and serve is not harmful to peoples’ health?
Let us know in the comments!
Passionate about this topic? We are looking for 1-3 community members interested in joining us for a discussion on this topic for our first “Dig Deeper” podcast later this month.
Passionate about this topic? We are looking for 1-3 community members interested in joining us for a discussion on this topic for our first Dig Deeper podcast later this month.
Hi everyone! It has been a couple months since our last update so this is a big one! We are getting into a wonderful rhythm and will be making posts more regularly moving forward. If you haven’t joined our community by sending us your email via the form on our Community & Events page read on to discover why you won’t want to miss out on our Newsletters!
Let’s Dig into the Updates!
You may have noticed we adjusted our regular open hours earlier this week. Making this change is just one more step in streamlining in order to best serve you and continue to be able to do more than just serve amazing food. Breakfast has always been what we are known for, so we are opening a little earlier on the weekdays now, at 9AM seven days a week! Our Sunday night game nights have been a blast and we won’t be making any changes there, except that we will let you know we are working on a new trivia style game we plan to begin hosting on Sunday afternoons in the near future!
The hours we removed were based on not having the sales to be able to sustain them; our afternoons, like most restaurants, were quite slow between 2pm-4pm on the weekdays, and Saturday evenings have been lonely rather than active in the cafe. We are now closing at 2PM Monday – Saturday, which will allow us to expedite our creation and offering of unique events, along with making the space available for existing community groups seeking a space to meet, and individual parties or family gatherings.
We’re Officially Green!
As of last month, we are now a one star Certified Green Restaurant® and plenty more upgrades and changes are on the way – the more Green PointsTM we earn the more stars we gain! Reducing waste was one of our highest priorities in our reopening and we are excited to share with you that not only are we composting all food waste, diligently recycling all that is allowable, and have even been saving some items, like yogurt containers and produce plastic clam shells with the plan to find a useful or artistic future for them! We are carrying out a bag of trash to the dumpster less than once a week!
Reusable Container & Loyalty Programs
You probably know by now we encourage everyone to use reusable containers, but we have made some practical updates to our program, as we have had many reusable takeout containers go out the door but not very many coming back. We want to take the opportunity to let you know about how we have tied our reusable container program to our now Loyalty Program.
The Loyalty Program is directly tied via the Clover app to our online ordering, which is available all of our open hours. The app is free and available in the iOS and Android app stores. Simply download the Clover app, click on “Zest Garden Cafe” and “Check In” when you come in to see us. This allows us to attribute your purchase to your loyalty account where you receive 1 point for every dollar you spend. Online orders are automatically attributed to your loyalty account.
Points are currently redeemable as follows:
40 points – 12 oz French Press Coffee or Loose-leaf Tea on us!
75 points – Sweet Crepe on us!
150 points – Savory Crepe on us!
Redemption options may change at any time – and are always available to be viewed on the clover app under “Perks”!
How does this tie to our reusable container program? When you pay the $2 fee for the takeout containers you get the 2 loyalty points, and we will exchange 2 more loyalty points for clean reusable food and beverage containers brought in to us: for returning the ones we provided or others you may have around! More details to come soon on types of containers we use (like mason jars, coffee tumblers, and 8×8 tupperware or glass containers) but we will be offering 2 loyalty points per container you bring into us!
New Offerings: Raw Organic Juice & Online preorders!
We began offering raw organic juices this week, and after being inspired by one person calling to place a larger preorder, we are excited to announce we added a preorder form to the website Menu page today where you can order one of our four house flavors, or build your own juice blend!
We designed the form to work both for individuals to build their own cleanse OR for other restaurants or bars to create their own unique blend to offer in-house or mix into cocktails!
At the bottom of the form you will see you are also able to preorder our in-house Oat Milk, new Vegan Chocolate Milk, and more!
Join the Community!
Curious about details on the events we are creating?
Are you dying to know what the movies for our movie nights will be?
Would you enjoy first dibs on table reservations for movie nights?
How about VIP access to tickets to a Murder Mystery Dinner Party?
Want more details on our upcoming Traveling Tastes or Dig Deeper events?
You can expect a monthly newsletter with behind the scenes details on future offerings, special invites to “test-runs” of event ideas, menu tastings, and more. PLUS we are going to offer our mailing list at least 24 hour private access to tickets and table reservations for events before the general public. Please keep in mind, we are a small venue and all of our events will only have 20-40 tickets available depending on the type of event, so we expect the more popular ones may sell out before the general public even hears about it!
We will be sending out our first monthly newsletter next week; you won’t want to miss it!
Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to our soft opening Relaunch Party on Saturday! We had a great time, and it was a great test run of our new layout. We are excited to announce we will be reopening with new regular hours and some big changes this Friday!
New Hours 9am – 1pm & 10pm – 3am Friday through Tuesday Closed Wednesday & Thursday
We are making some big changes with our new beginning. All of these changes bring us more in alignment with our mission as a restaurant and community space.
We are taking a fresh approach to the menu. While taking a zero-waste approach to the kitchen we have come to realize a simple truth, if we offer a large menu available all the time it will be impossible to prevent waste. So, in the spirit of our mission, we will be offering a small, signature menu of our most popular sweet & savory crepes all hours, and the rest of our offerings will be a rotating menu made from what we have on hand with minimal purchasing. By cooking this way as opposed to offering a large menu we can share our unique creative approach to cooking while preventing food waste.
We are excited to share a new kind of restaurant with you, where the consistency lies in quality ingredients and flavors regardless of what is on the menu each day! We expect to be the place where all the same items may not be available every day, but everything offered every day is made from scratch with whole ingredients. We know how rare it is to find nutritious food in restaurants and believe those seeking food that make them feel good will enjoy the variety!
We are no longer purchasing single use disposables or processed food products. We will be using up what we still have on hand, and when it is gone, it is gone! We will be transitioning to BYOC – “Bring Your own Container” for takeout. This also means we will be infusing our own flavors for the beverages, so those will be seasonally rotating and changing along with the food menu!
Initially we will not be taking phone-in or online orders or reservations. We value our face-to-face time with you and will be asking all to come in and place their orders. We feel hospitality standards are slipping away for the sake of convenience and are making this change in order to build stronger relationships with you by offering our full attention.
Since we are already taking a new approach to take-out by asking you to BYOC, and a new approach to the menu by rotating our daily menu, we have decided to create a new offering as well: “All-You Can Eat Take-out” served out of our hot-holding by weight into any container you’d like as long as it fits on our scale! You could come by for coffee in the morning and have us fill one meal container for lunch, or bring your home food storage containers and stock up on some ready-made food for the week!
We are assessing our coffee offerings and plan to focus on more efficient and sustainable brewing methods. New offerings may include pour over, French press, cold brew, or Turkish, but will be taking out the espresso machine.
We will have more details to come and our new menu out when we open on Friday, December 23rd, so make sure to follow us here for further details!
We WILL be open Christmas Day – special hours to be announced soon – with our signature crepes, definitely some comfort food, baked goodies and dessert and we will be showing holiday themed movies all day as it is the first day our movie licensing begins!
We are excited to welcome you to the new Zest Garden Cafe!
We mentioned when we closed down back in October that we had come across a community of fairies that had moved into the back garden patio in the time it has been undergoing repairs. You may believe it is only a joke, but we were not surprised at all considering the magic we know flows through these walls. These nature spirits brought our attention to the simple truth that waste is a purely human creation and does not exist in nature. They knew of our Zero Waste goal and our aim to procure local, organic ingredients and pointed out how much better we could do. We spent the last month not only remodeling the space but clarifying our mission and core values and finding creative, engaging ways to implement them into our daily practices.
Here are some changes you can be expecting for sure…
We are radically implementing our existing “Zero Waste Goal” by making eliminating waste in every way imaginable one of our core values. Our first big steps are assessing our purchasing and making packaging a priority factor in our procurement, finding creative alternatives to food waste including composting, and we will no longer be purchasing disposable takeout containers of any kind! We are currently exploring reusable systems that prevent waste rather than creating more, but plan on bringing your reusable containers, or paying a deposit or fee. We are also playing with the idea of a program for locals for a monthly flat rate membership that comes with a discount on all purchases. Let us know what you think!
We believe community, and friendships, are built through common interests, and Building Community through Food is our mission! Our vision is to primarily use our cafe space to host new in-house clubs our team creates, other local small interest groups, and community-oriented events and be the go-to community hangout in Lincoln City. We plan to have an open calendar for any small groups in our community to reserve a space for 5-25 people at an affordable rate that will offset by any purchases made.
We will soon me announcing the new platform we will be using as an alternative to Facebook, as we will no longer maintain a presence on that platform. This new app will allow common interest groups to form naturally around topics we are passionate about and will not be filled with advertising or limit who sees which posts or events.
Our “Everybody Eats!” community day is being replaced by a new “Kindness Token” program created in partnership with Coastal Support Services, our compassionate next-door neighbors. This program will allow anyone to purchase meal tokens they can share with friends, coworkers, anyone in need, or add to the pool to be distributed by local non-profits.
We are seriously debating whether adding alcohol to our offerings in in alignment with our mission and are open-mindedly researching more healthy sipping, or social beverages (like Kava, Kratom, or CBD, fresh juices, smoothies, nutritional shots etc.).
We are open to the community’s feedback around what offerings you would like to see!