Over the next few months, we’ll be following the opening of Public Greens, Indianapolis restaurateur Martha Hoover’s second location of her hit healthy café. We’ll follow Hoover as she navigates every part of the opening process of a restaurant, from picking a location to marketing. Today, she discusses why she chose to open a second outpost of Public Greens and how she settled on a location.
“When people talk about opening a restaurant, they think that restaurateurs sit around board rooms and talk about what they have seen elsewhere and how they are going to put their own twist on an existing idea — I am proud to say that my restaurants are all truly unique concepts. They reflect where I am in my life at that moment. The reason I opened the first outpost of Public Greens three years ago is because that is how I love to eat right now. I was vegetarian for years, I eat very little meat-based protein now, and I am extremely careful with the quality of food that I put in my body. I live in Indiana, which is an agricultural state, and we have access to some utterly remarkable land, and so we wanted to open a restaurant that was plant-based, and that supported that agriculture. And I saw that these type of restaurants that were transparent about their menus were lacking in Indianapolis. I thought a cafeteria-style restaurant would work because I love that the menu is right before you, and you can see everything. We designed the restaurant such that the cafeteria line is part of the kitchen, so the person serving you the food is the chef cooking the food, and you can ask any questions about what’s in something, and how it’s made.
When I opened the first Public Greens, I believed that the plant-forward, cafeteria-style menu was a type of eating and service that had a lot of growth potential. It is health conscious, our menu changes monthly depending on what’s available through our farmers, and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward The Patachou Foundation, my non-profit, to feed the children in our community who live with daily food insecurity. And it turned out I was right. People in Indianapolis are becoming more aware of food sourcing. There is a real market for people who want to eat high-end, high-quality ingredients that are fresh and locally sourced in a relatively relaxed environment. So I decided to open up another location.
But I couldn’t open up just anywhere. In looking for a second location, we found this retail hub called Keystone at the Crossing. It’s a large complex that is right at the cross-section of a major traffic hub. There are lots of residents, lots of visitors, lots of hotels, lots of offices — you get everything. It is high volume, it draws from people from a lot of different areas (especially outside of Indianapolis), and it is also the highest-end shopping center in the state. And there was nothing like Public Greens there. I know that our concept skews toward more educated people who are extremely aware and can afford to eat organic and local, so I knew it would be a fit.
The key to coming up with Public Greens was knowing who my customer is and understanding that just because a concept works in one place, it doesn’t mean it will work somewhere else. I know all about my customer — where they shop, where they live, where they work. I know the city incredibly well, which has tremendous advantages. I cannot stress the importance of moving slowly and strategically, especially if you have plans for expansion. That’s how you’ll succeed in the long game.”