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Back to the Foodture (Naked Farmer)

Restaurant founder Jordan Johnson talks opening his latest Tampa location.

Originally published on Water Street Tampa

After nearly two years of success as a container restaurant at Sparkman Wharf, Naked Farmer is betting big on Water Street Tampa by opening another location in the neighborhood on the ground floor of commercial trophy office building, Thousand & One.  

From opening its first location during the uncertain times of the pandemic to today, Naked Farmer has become a staple restaurant on both sides of Tampa Bay. The restaurant is dedicated to serving the freshest, most seasonal and locally-sourced food from neighborhood farmers they know. It’s value proposition is to provide better food for our bodies, the economy and our planet.  

Just before the opening of the third Naked Farmer location, Founder Jordan Johnson reflected on the company’s journey, its growth within Water Street Tampa and its dedication to transform the future of food.   

These are a few highlighted exerpts from our conversation with Naked Farmer Founder Jordan Johnson.

Tell us about the inspiration behind Naked Farmer. 

Well, the inspiration is actually pretty simple. I realized it was difficult to get a high-quality, locally-sourced meal in a convenient and accessible way. We created Naked Farmer to bridge the gap between unhealthy fast food options and expensive, high-quality meals that took a long time to get to the table.  

How does Naked Farmer connect farmers to the community?

When we started the company, it was really important for us to find the intersection of community and economy. Every dollar spent at Naked Farmer is a dollar we turn around to pay our employees who live in the area, and to buy produce from farmers that are close to home. Then, those farmers turn around and make more local jobs. It’s a virtuous cycle of connecting farmers to the community, and we do it over and over again with every lunch and dinner. Local food equals local jobs. It’s food but its also local economy, less transportation and emissions since the food travels for a day, or days, instead of weeks. 

You opened during the peak of the pandemic. How did this impact the business?

Much of the food supply in America comes from California, Mexico or Guatemala, and we saw that break down in the pandemic and how it didn’t work when food was literally flying off of the grocery store shelves. We saw an opportunity to get back to the way we used to source and eat our food. We call it going “Back to the Foodture.” Naked Farmer is just going back in time, to build the future of food, serving locally-sourced food that’s better for your body and the planet. That’s true sustainability. And we’re just getting started in Tampa community who has supported us endlessly since we began.  

What drew you to open your first Tampa location in Sparkman Wharf and the second in Thousand & One on Water Street? 

Naked Farmer was drawn to Water Street because we knew it was going to be such a game-changer for Tampa Bay. We wanted to open a restaurant to serve the people of Water Street Tampa. People thought we were crazy for going into the project’s first office building when people weren’t going into the office, but we were early believers in the vision, and we are looking at this as a 10-15 year decision. Now, those same people are saying, “Wow, this is going to be everything they said it would be and more.” We’re here because there is no project like this on the entire west coast of Florida.  

What kind of support have you received from Water Street Tampa?

We’ve been really fortunate for the trust Water Street Tampa has given us from our initial leasing conversations through proving our concept. We’ve performed incredibly well, beyond expectations at Sparkman Wharf for two years before opening our brick-and-mortar location. This has been great validation for locally-sourced, seasonal food that’s served in a fast and convenient way. Our mission, to build a better food system for all, and to bring transparency to how our food is sourced is connecting and resonating with the community. So we said, “why not open a location across the street?” 

Water Street helped us by believing in us, supporting us and affirming that we were special. They really took a chance on a young brand that wasn’t proven and opened in the middle of the pandemic. It’s paid off for both of us.  

What is different at the new location in Thousand & One?

We are so pumped to finally show off our seasonal menu in the Tampa market. Every few months the menu is going to change based on what’s harvesting in our region. It’s so exciting to teach people about seasonality, the food system and to bring more transparency around how it gets to our plate. For example, brussels sprouts aren’t on the menu year-round because they only grow a few months of the year here. Most vegetables don’t grow 365 days a year, everything has its season under the sun. We’re excited to take on this role as an educator and storyteller for farmers that live in our backyard.