Innovation That Matters

Crowdsourced restaurant taps local community

Food & Drink

We’ve covered enough crowdsourced innovations now that it’s pretty clear the trend has taken hold. One thing we hadn’t seen until just recently, however, is a crowdsourced restaurant. Enter Elements, an eatery being planned to open next year in Washington. Crafted by a “beta community” of some 400 participants, Elements will serve raw and organic locally grown vegetarian food in an environmentally sustainable way. The Elements project was launched back in February 2007 by Linda Welch, a Washington businesswoman who partnered with local entrepreneur and crowdsourcing proponent Neil Takemoto. Beginning with just 14 members, the beta community involved in creating the restaurant now includes designers, potential chefs and a local nonprofit called Live Green, which works to help establish environmentally sound businesses, according to the Washington Post. The concept has expanded dramatically from the original idea for a small cafe to a full-fledged, green-certified restaurant. Members earn points for their participation efforts, such as attending meetings and referring new members; those with at least 1 percent of the total points are eligible to share in the 10 percent of profits allocated to members, the Post reported. Meanwhile Welch, who is funding the project, still has final say on any decisions. Local growers, vintners, brewers, artists, musicians and community groups ultimately will all play a key role in the restaurant, which will also offer classes and lectures and sponsor events. Elements’ crowdsourcing approach has not only provided a way to tap into a broad range of local expertise–one member, for example, is an expert in LEED, the green building certification system–it has also built a loyal base of customers interested in patronizing the 3,500-square-foot, community-focused restaurant once it’s open. Welch explains: “Most businesses are started because you have a great idea, and you take it out to the public to see if they like it. This is the opposite. We’re finding out what people want and doing it.” That’s the power of crowdsourcing, and we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. 😉 Spotted by: Brian Yang


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