Born Green: Backyard Bowls

  • AUTHOR: Christine Mason McCaull
  • DATE: 02/16/2009

Two beautiful surfers would like to have a word with you. About working and living in tune with the planet, that is.

When buddies Dan Goddard and Pete Heth returned from an inspirational extended stay in Hawaii, they brought with them a new concept for a healthy restaurant franchise: Backyard Bowls. It opened in Santa Barbara, CA last fall to much local fanfare.

Their attention to making their operation green from the very beginning is impressive. Learn about this new “born green” startup concept, in the following Q and A with the founders of Backyard Bowls, Dan and Pete:

What’s a Backyard Bowl?

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Instead of the traditional smoothie, the “bowls” provide a full meal that’s all natural. You choose a base of either blended acai berries, kind of like a smoothie, or Strauss creamery yogurt, or cottage cheese, with an assortment of seriously beautiful cut fresh fruit and nut toppings—no prefab blends, no sugars, no preservatives, no additives, and no stingy little yogurt cups with a dollop of granola. Beautiful abundant food, streamlined facilities, a super clean aesthetic.

Why did you think the world needed Backyard Bowls?

While living in Hawaii I ate acai bowls for lunch more days than not. They really are an amazing meal. They fill you up, give you tons of energy, never weigh you down, and are absolutely delicious! Not to mention the deeper nutritional benefits of consuming acai. I couldn’t get past the fact that Santa Barbara didn’t have these! Or that there was not a restaurant anywhere that focused on them. We provide a whole new option for a fast, healthy breakfast or lunch.

Why did you decide to build green principles into your business?

Simply because we feel it is the morally right thing to do. Both of us are passionate about the environment, and see that it is up to us if things are going to change. I believe both businesses and consumers are going to have to learn to look at not only price when making choices, but the procedures/ingredients that go into making a final product. People need to learn to recognize morally sound business practices and be willing to pay a premium for it. The more people that do it, the more affordable it will eventually become.

What green practices did you build into your business? What are you planning to add?

We went green in as many ways as we could. We use biodegradable/compostable to-go items, minimized construction and building waste, bought recycled local furniture, used eco friendly paints and cleaners, and use as many organic and local ingredients as we could. Ideally everything in here would be both local and organic, but the nature of our business doesn’t allow for it yet. We’re introducing an essentially brand new product to the market, and if our prices were in the $10-$15 range instead of the $5-$10 range we would have a much harder time convincing people to try us. The fact is that for everyday fresh and frozen fruits the organic price is about double that of its conventionally grown counterpart. For now we’ve had to pick and choose which areas of our menu to go organic. All of our dairy products are organic, all dairy substitutes are organic, and many random ingredients are organic. As time goes on and our business gets a more established local following, we will add more and more all organic/local options to our menu.

Do you think it is costing you more to operate green, and if so, how much? What would you say to others who are daunted by cost?

Each organic/local ingredient we use could be gotten for cheaper conventionally. We could have gone cheap on our construction and painting too. And our “to go” compostable/biodegradable items are significantly more expensive. But that said, I feel that there is a growing contingent of people that recognize our eco-friendly efforts and our quality products. They are more likely to eat with us because of this. We hope that eventually this will become enough of a force that it could actually earn your business money to go green. Education is the key though, as I see lots of "greenwashing" these days—terrible companies that make a small eco-friendly effort then advertise to the world that they are a green company. To a company considering going green, or making green efforts, do it for the moral reasons. This is where we’re going to have to start if there is really going to be significant change in our world, a total shift in thinking.

With so much food waste, how will you handle your compost? Is the town or city helping you with that?

As of now there is no commercial composting in Santa Barbara. We are however going to be among the first group of local restaurants to participate in a pilot program for commercial composting that should be happening at some point later this year.

How did you choose suppliers and vendor partners? What other items are you carrying? Any products to recommend?

Our suppliers/ vendors were chosen for the most part based on the integrity of their business and the quality of their products. We are only as good as the companies we use, and are proud and honored to be working closely with amazing companies such as Sambazon, Guayaki, Straus, Pro Bar, and many more. 

Are you considering franchising this concept?   

It’s a little early to tell, but sky’s the limit!

Want to give it a try when you’re in Southern California? Visit the company: Backyard Bowls, 331 Motor Way, Santa Barbara, CA. (805)845-5379

Are you a start-up that’s born green? Contact us. We’d like to hear your story.

Read Christine Mason McCaull’s recent article about moms in business greening the world.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christine Mason McCaull

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