Spring is in the air and that means a bigger abundance and variety of locally grown and raised food is available. However, the home cook now has a little competition when getting the best of the best at the Farmer’s Market or the local butcher shop. Many restaurants are joining in on the farm-to-table movement as well. This one-time trend is becoming more and more common in the restaurant world, but can be quite a daunting move to make. This shift in food sourcing can present many distinct advantages to make your restaurant stand out while boosting your bottom line. It’s important to look at all of the facts and how they will work for your particular business model before making the leap into becoming a literal local hotspot. To help with this we’ve compiled five reasons why you’re restaurant could benefit from making the switch to locally sourced products.
1) Food is fresher and healthier
According to a list compiled by Julie Stehling for exploreasheville.com, “Small, local farms are less likely to use hormones and more likely to raise grass fed or free-range animals, and organically-grown vegetables.”
Produce and other items from nearby farms are also often sold within 24 hours of being harvested which means the items haven’t had to travel very far, be handled by many people or had time to sit in storage for any length of time. Alternatively, “Fruits and vegetables shipped from distant states and countries can spend as many as seven to fourteen days in transit before they arrive in the supermarket,” says foodroutes.org.
Lauren Carey, manager of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Georgia says, “If each household in Georgia spent $10 on locally grown produce, it would boost the state economy by $1.9 billion.” This boost is even bigger when many restaurants around a city/state are purchasing their daily food supply from a similar local source
3) Improve the environment
Because food from other states and countries has to be shipped to your restaurant there is a massive amount of gas and pollution associated with non-local items. With item sourced from nearby farms, the food is often driven from the farm to the market or even from the farm to your restaurant (depending on your relationship with the farmer).
4) It’s good for business
In the past few years, the farm-to-table movement has become increasingly popular and in order to keep up with the times as well as customer demand more and more restaurants are beginning to search out local sources to find items grown close to home. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program says, “Chefs and restaurant patrons pay premium prices for top-quality, distinctive, locally grown products.” They add that, “An increasing number of restaurants identify farms in their menu item descriptions and in other promotions.” This alone can boost your restaurants reputation as not only a trendy locavore spot, but also a supporter and promoter of other local businesses.
5) Seasonality forces menu rotation
By depending on the seasons to dictate what products are available, it can pose both a tricky and creative challenge for your restaurants kitchen. If your business loves to change things up from time to time, buying local can provide the perfect opportunity. While it may upset some customer that your famous dessert featuring strawberries won’t be available in January, many more will appreciate the new options and know that the ingredients that make it are as fresh as possible.
For more sources on finding local food visit the following sites:
- USDA’s farmer’s market database – A comprehensive guide to Farmer’s Markets in the US
- Local Harvest – A guide to organic restaurants, store, farms, co-ops, markets and more
- 100 Mile Diet – A Search for all things local within a 100-mile radius of where you live or work