Tired of Upcharges on Gluten Free Options?

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. 

gluten free Oregonian crepe, covered in mushroom gravy
Our Oregonian with our gluten free & vegan crepe option – our mushroom gravy is always vegan & gluten free!

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?  

Dig Deeper: Our Modern Food Industry & Food-like Products

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. 

food = fresh whole produce, fake food = packaged food-like products

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. 

The problem is we are not eating food any more, we are eating food-like products. -Dr. Alejandro Junger

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!

mic with headphones podcast background

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. 

Tentative Reopening December 18th!

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!