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Farmer-Owned Restaurant Group Contemplates Boston Expansion

Founding Farmers is on the lookout for local real estate

Lobster mac and cheese at Founding Farmers
Lobster mac and cheese at Founding Farmers
Founding Farmers/Facebook

A farmer-owned group of restaurants based near Washington, D.C., could one day expand north to the Boston area. Founding Farmers, a company that is majority-owned by more than 47,000 farmers, is looking for real estate in Boston, confirms Meaghan O’Shea, the company’s vice president of marketing. The search, aided by Needham-based broker Bialow Real Estate, is in the early stages, so while the prospect of an expansion is likely, any restaurant is not likely to open for at least a couple years. (O’Shea and one of the co-owners are both from the North Shore area, so the team is particularly enthusiastic about Boston-area expansion.)

Farmers Restaurant Group consists of three restaurant brands — Founding Farmers, Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Farmers & Distillers — plus a distillery, Founding Spirits. The company’s origin story began in 2005 with the mobilization of the North Dakota Farmers Union to bring produce directly to consumers.

The union’s president (and a fourth-generation farmer), Mark Watne, partnered with restaurant industry veterans Mike Vucurevich and Dan Simons to launch Founding Farmers, keeping the ownership among the farmers and sourcing ingredients through the network. The aptly named restaurants operate in and around Washington, D.C., and outside of Philadelphia. The King of Prussia location also has an adjoining cafe and creamery.

Menus across Founding Farmers restaurants include soups and salads, house-made breads and spreads, pasta, burgers (including a version made with the meatless Impossible Burger), sandwiches, steak, seafood, chicken, and more.

The restaurants have quite a fanbase in the DC area. In 2013, Eater DC checked in with the five-year-old DC location, calling it “one of the toughest” reservations in town. Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema does not agree with the fans: He panned Founding Farmers with a half-star rating in 2012 and a zero-star follow-up in 2016, calling out the person who “penned the epic menu” for apparently not “want[ing] to leave a soul behind.” (He did provide “kudos” for the “homey” mashed potatoes.)

The review prompted a response from the restaurant thanking customers for their patronage (and strong OpenTable reviews) and promising to “continuously strive for improvement” while “work[ing] hard to deliver quality, affordable, delicious food and drink.” Indeed, Sietsema’s review is a bit of an outlier; the chain gets overwhelmingly positive reviews from customers across the various online reviewing platforms.

As the company works to land real estate in Boston, stay tuned for more details regarding a location and opening timeline — but as O’Shea says, it won’t be “in the immediate or near future.”

Founding Farmers in Reston, Virginia
Founding Farmers in Reston, Virginia
Founding Farmers/Facebook

Update, August 14, 2018: This piece has been updated to note the local firm that is aiding Founding Farmers in its Boston-area real estate search.

Founding Farmers [Official Site]

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