Classic American Diner Takes On the Next Generation
Sara Moline - Metro Business Media
Food: it’s one thing we cannot live without. Some have the time to prepare and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal with family, but when busy lifestyles get the best of us dining out can become a fast habit. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Top Ten Facts in 2011, 88 percent of adults say they enjoy going to restaurants. 71 percent claim to eat healthier when they go out now than they did two years ago, and 69 percent are more likely to eat somewhere that offers food grown or raised sustainably.
Would you consider yourself one of these adults? If so, where would you contemplate feasting in the DMV? A diner may not seem like the healthiest option, unless of course it’s the famed Silver Diner.
The spring of 2010 marked the beginning of a new era for the Maryland based chain. CEO Robert Giaimo and Executive Chef Ype Von Hengst, co-founders, decided it was time to take their “Next Generation Diner” to the next level of service by offering fresh, locally sourced food.
As both Giaimo and Von Hengst are very much involved with giving back to their communities, it only made sense for their diners to support nearby farms and dairies. By utilizing such resources, customers now receive meals comprised of fresher and healthier ingredients. For instance, eggs purchased from a nationwide supplier are likely to have been produced in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions, in addition to enduring long periods of travel. However, the eggs obtained from partner Martin’s Quality Eggs in Lancaster, PA are antibiotic and hormone free, with chickens having been raised naturally on a vegetarian diet.
Patrons of Silver Diner are always valued, but serving them quality food proves just how much the owners care. Though, they’re not only concerned with their adult clientele. Chef Von Hengst is dedicated to helping his younger customers form positive eating habits, which is why Silver Diner is one of the inaugural leaders of the Kids LiveWell program. Participating restaurants commit to offering healthy choices on all children’s menus, but the diner doesn’t stop there. The Eat Well, Do Well initiative also helps them raise money for local elementary schools. Customers can sign up for the Eat Well, Do Well Rewards card, which directs a portion of sales towards healthier lunch options and fitness equipment. If one wishes to support a specific school they may directly link their card to one enrolledin the program.
Families who want to make the most of their visit to one of the diner’s 15 locations may wish to attend a Family Fun Night, offered every Tuesday from 5-8pm. Children 12 and under can join the Kids Club and receive a free classic or yogurt shake if dining on these days. Each week has a different theme, with fun games, activities and prizes that are sure to please.
If you’re still not convinced this is the place to go, consider what Chef Von Hengst has to say about the customer feedback he’s received on the menu shift - “They love it! What has happened is just that younger families with kids have increased by 15%. They used to go to places like Panera or Chipotle, those were their options. We have gained them back with local, heart healthy items.” He maintains that the diner has one of the best kids’ menus around, and that mothers are very appreciative. The 600cal menu items are praised by older clients as well. These healthier options contain less calories, cholesterol, and fat. It seems people are pleased, as the diner has gained a 10% sales increase. When asked what customers can expect to see this year, Chef Von Hengst says he plans to put all natural jellies and marmalades - sans the high fructose corn syrup - on the tables, and provide sustainably farmed turkey and organic chicken for seasonal specials.
Despite closing two locations in Newport Mills and Virginia Beach, VA, the diner is still looking to expand on roadsides and airports. “When you travel you can't find anything healthy – it’s incredible and disgusting!” exclaimed the chef. Many folks would agree.
So for those on the go who are tired of typical diners, drive-ins, and dives, steer yourselves in the other direction - towards a silver dining experience.