Growing Ideas: Raising a glass in a rooftop greenhouse

Scenic and sustainable dining

Want to enjoy a beer from a totally new perspective? Then head to the roof of a parking garage near Amsterdam, where the café DeDAKKAS serves up food and drinks with a unique city view.

Dennis de Waart first heard about the view from friends. “Everything came together,” he says of his fateful visit to the roof a Haarlem parking garage. “My interests in the transformation of buildings and in creative hospitality. Because of that view, I knew the building had to be made of glass. That's how it became a ‘greenhouse on the roof’ – DeDAKKAS.”

The realization of his dream took four and a half years. First De Waart had to convince the city council to sacrifice some parking spaces and adapt its zoning plan. Financing was another obstacle. “I knew beforehand that the chance of success wasn’t great,” De Waart recalls, “but I still believed in it. What’s more, I realized that if it didn’t work, it would still be a learning process, something that would help me grow as a person.”

“If it didn’t work, it would still be a learning process”

- Dennis de Waart, DeDAKKAS

What is DeDAKKAS?

“DeDAKKAS is a catering facility on the roof of a parking garage, where we want to do business responsibly. We try to be as sustainable and organic as possible. Not all our products are organic, because we don’t think it’s environmentally friendly when food travels a great distance. Also, we want to be accessible and affordable. Not everyone can shop at Ekoplaza [an upmarket organic chain]. The people who go there are already consciously engaged in nutrition – we want to reach the people who aren’t yet convinced.”

Convinced of what?

“We want to inspire people to make different food choices. Our menu is 80% vegetables and 20% meat and fish. You can eat meat, but it doesn’t have to be a given in every meal. Guests also have the option of ordering smaller portions, so less food ends up being wasted.

“We’ve only just opened, so we don’t have everything in order yet. We plan to use our composting machine to process our organic waste to use in the vegetable garden, where we’ll grow our salad ingredients. Any leftovers that aren’t eaten end up in the composting machine again.

“That way you create your own ecosystem. When people see this, I hope they will be inspired. It’s a shame to burn organic waste. You can process half your waste yourself, and that’s even more true for restaurants.”

“We want to inspire people to make different food choices”

- Dennis de Waart, DeDAKKAS

What else are you planning to do?

“Collect rainwater and install solar panels. Our bank has given us a bee colony so we can host classes for schoolchildren where they learn about the importance of bees from a beekeeper. When our kitchen garden is ready, the kids will also see tomatoes growing and learn that you have to be patient with food.

“In the meantime, I am trying to convince the city council to build a park on the rest of the roof. That won’t just look nice – it will also be good for collecting water and preventing heat stress. I expect the temperature in the area to drop a degree if there’s a park here.”

The view from the ‘greenhouse on the roof.’

How did you convince the city council and financiers?

“With patience and a lot of talking! And by persevering and showing that the plan was more than just a castle in the air. With my background in architecture, I knew I didn’t have the right knowledge. So I started talking to local hospitality entrepreneurs. Jeroen Spek shared my ambition. He committed completely to the project and we developed the catering concept together.

“We presented our business plan to banks and financiers, but due to the high risk we were only offered loans at high interest rates. So we started a crowdfunding campaign and raised 250,000 euros. Partly thanks to this success, we got better investment conditions. That was really the turning point, and we could get started.”