The face of the food industry is changing. It is more than just what is on the menu that is taking a turn. Finding what is trendy and pushing for the next big taste on America’s palate always has driven budding restaurateurs. Rather, the people behind the food are shifting and taking focus. The stories of the cooks and the owners, who might be the same people at times, are being woven into the new American dining experience.
Helping to drive that new wave is co-owner of Virginia burger restaurant FarmBurguesa, Kat Pascal. Pascal is a Roanoke native who blends her family life as a mother of two boys with her role as a business owner of two newer babies: FarmBurguesa locations in Vinton and Roanoke. According to Pascal, FarmBurguesa opened for business in July 2018, and already experienced enough success to open the Roanoke location, triple the size of Vinton.
“We always had the blueprint in our back pocket,” Pascal said. Prior to opening the FarmBurguesa, Pascal and her business partner and fiancé, Jimmy Delgado owned a commercial cleaning business. However, both had experience in the food industry – Delgado in restaurant operations, while Pascal’s background was in managerial and corporate leadership.
The restaurant owning idea cooked in their minds until they found a space small enough to lease. They happened upon the first location during their cleaning days. The “Farm” in FarmBurguesa captures the central focus of the restaurant, which is farm to table sourced ingredients.
“As a family, we were already looking for farm-to-table restaurants. With young children, it is not something I would say is the most affordable. When I want to go out and eat with the kids we were thinking, ‘where do we eat and not feel guilty,’ ” Pascal said.
For Pascal and Delgado, burgers bridged the gap between conveniently sourced ingredients and family friendly aesthetics. Pascal wanted to create an experience for other mothers that she could see sharing with her kids. “The women and mothers are making the decision of where the family’s eating,” Pascal said.
The simplicity of a burger restaurant’s menu also was alluring to Pascal and Delgado. Pascal says that according to her research, a simpler menu makes for a more satisfying customer experience. “We were looking for something that we could streamline quickly and easily,” Pascal said.
In FarmBurguesa’s case, quick and easy does not equal a lack of passion. Pascal is the child of Colombian immigrants and engrains everything from her food to her business practices with pieces of her heritage. FarmBurguesa’s menu started with eight original burgers. The menu items have rotated and changed over time, based on customer taste. For one year, the menu boasted a “burger of the month” to determine what customers liked the best. Each burger is elevated beyond the typical patty, cheese and bun format with an infusion of Colombian seasonings and toppings. The simple, yet consistently rotating menu is a work of Pascal’s business savvy. The FarmBurguesa team prides itself on being informed about the consumer experience. “There’s a lot of testing involved within the restaurant,” Pascal said.
FarmBurguesa engages with customers to receive valuable feedback through several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and even Tik Tok. From constant market research to focus groups, Pascal always is tweaking the formula to engage with her community. One major component that is making its debut at the newer Roanoke location is a beer and wine menu. FarmBurguesa is even collaborating with a local brewery to pair their burgers with a signature beer that uses Colombian ingredients.
More than just breweries, the farm to table component of the restaurant’s design means that Pascal and Delgado are looking to Virginia farms for their ingredients. “We are seeking and sourcing our food as locally as we can get,” Pascal said.
She says that sourcing locally and ethically as possible can present its own “hurdles” as demand increases. However, aside from buns and certain seasonal items, all products are as local and ethically sourced as they can be. Pascal and Delgado make it their business to know as much information as possible when it comes to their food. According to Pascal, they know how the animals are fed, raised and shipped.
“We are very familiar with the entire process of our supply chain. Anytime we are sourcing our items from our vendors, we’re looking to see where they are located and how they are sourcing their food,” Pascal said. Pascal believes the support of different small business owners can create a stronger community and stimulate the local economy. No matter their growth, Pascal suggests that the intimacy and quality experience of FarmBurguesa will remain intact.
While the typical American burger may not check all the boxes of a healthy food choice, Pascal believes FarmBurguesa’s sourcing of cleaner and fresher ingredients can help to make a healthier gourmet burger.
“Yes, I do think you are able to eat a burger and have a nice, healthy diet,” Pascal said.
Aside from promoting fresh, ethical ingredients, FarmBurguesa also promotes a healthy lifestyle outside of the restaurant. Burgers and Boot camp is a program sponsored by FarmBurguesa that offers a free, hour-long fitness class. For every person who attends the boot camp in the month of February, one dollar will be donated to Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
“It’s about balance,” Pascal suggests. “It’s up to you to make those good decisions.”
Along with a healthy body, Pascal wants to promote a healthy and vibrant community. She believes her work as a small business and Hispanic business advocate aids in empowering the community at large. To encourage the growth of business owners in the Hispanic community, Pascal traveled with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to Washington to take part in the conversation about that growth.
According to a 2018 report by Stanford University concerning the State of Latino Entrepreneurship, “Latino-owned businesses make up a substantial and growing segment of the U.S. economy, contributing 2.8 million jobs in 2016 and over $510 billion in annual sales. Latino-owned businesses outpace the growth rate of all other groups.”
As a woman, Pascal makes up a unique segment among Latin business owners. Latina-owned businesses employ more than 600,000 people and generate nearly $66 billion in annual sales,” according to Stanford. According to the report, while the latter are more likely classified as “microbusinesses,” Latina owned organizations are actually growing rapidly.
Healthy ingredients and healthy communities are major factors to FarmBurguesa’s mission. However, Pascal’s passion in business is simple. “We just want to grow our business, for our family’s sake, but also for the community to have a nice place to eat with quality food. We want everybody to feel welcome. That is our ultimate goal, really.”
Imagine the farm, the burger and the dinner table. Probably not the most iconic American imagery, but they represent, perhaps, some of the most fundamental American values – hard work, simplicity and unity. It is these qualities that FarmBurguesa’s farm to table philosophy champions.