How Gentle Harvest makes the farm-to-store retail model work
Sandy Lerner, founder of Cisco Systems and Urban Decay, a California-based cosmetics company, has now created Gentle Harvest, a farm-to-table restaurant and food store, according to The Shelby Report. The store sells products sourced from local farms — including Lerner's own 800-acre Ayrshire Farm — that range from certified organic and humane foods to grab-and-go meals and local wine.
Gentle Harvest also features a drive-thru window where customers can pick up restaurant meals or groceries, all of which are accessible through the store's mobile app.
The store-restuarant-combo is planning an "aggressive rollout" of locations. The first store is located in Marshall, VA with a second coming to Winchester, VA in spring of this year.
This farm-to-store restaurant concept is a growing one, but a tough one to pull off.
New concepts take herculean efforts to recover start-up costs, never mind succeed in the long term. Auburnlea Farms Corner Market, a farm-to-table market and restaurant in Lynchburg, VA failed last year after less than a year in business for several reasons. Too many of its take-home offerings were too seldom available, too few of its eat-in offerings were interesting enough, and way too little effort (or money) was devoted to getting out the store's message.
The community certainly could have afforded to give it a try — it was near a development geared toward young adults with healthy incomes — but poor signage and lack of digital promotion kept word from getting out.
The folks behind the Gentle Harvest store a hundred plus miles further north in Virginia have had a more successful approach so far. The store's website details the quality of the products they serve and the significance of their sourcing, and markets it as a premium experience similar to shopping at Wegmans.
Gentle Harvest is part of the new world of food retailing, and reflects consumer desire to return to old ways of shopping. Shopper distrust of Big Food and heavily processed products has in turn fueled trust in traditional food sources. More and more consumers yearn for natural, fresh products, and are growing more interested in where their ingredients are sourced and how the animals used for meat products are treated.
However, "old world" stores still need to embrace contemporary marketing, as Gentle Harvest has. Millennials and younger demographics may want their shopping experience to feel like step back in time, but still rely on their phones to find and rank different retailers. These types of stores should still embrace digital advertising, coupons and brand management on social media.