Tag Archives: local

Farm to Table_Cows

Farm to Table: What is it?

The Farm to Table concept has taken the restaurant industry by storm the last few years. But what exactly does it mean? Farm to Table is the process of purchasing food that has been locally grown directly from the farmers who grew it. The purpose is for restaurants to use fresher ingredients that are more environmentally friendly and also help the local economy at the same time.

 

The GoodFarm to Table_Vegetables

The Farm to Table concept has many advantages including health and local economic benefits, being environmentally friendly, and helping the restaurant’s bottom line.

Over the last few decades, there has been a growing disconnect of knowledge about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Instead, foods are losing their quality at the expense of quantity after being dosed in chemicals to make “giant” foods. Farm to table eateries are aiming to fight against this new normal in the food industry to provide great dishes made of ingredients that customers know their origins. While not all farm to table partnerships are organically grown, buying directly from local farmers allows restaurants to grow relationships directly with the growers to ensure that their produce and meats are being grown in a way they approve.

When it comes to farm to table operations, animals to be used for meat are also grown for quality instead of quantity. The meats that yield from these animals have less fat and calories and at the same time have higher amounts of fatty acids, vitamin E and other important nutrients. Farm to table restaurants also often have a greater focus on vegetables, allowing restaurants to offer more well-rounded meals between the higher quality meats and the larger focus on vegetables.

As increasingly more restaurants utilize small farmers to support their operations, those farmers are in-turn able to create sustainable operations, lowering the cost of the food and eventually helping the restaurant’s bottom line. Creating a paradox to the reason foods began to be mass produced and genetically modified in the first place.

 

The Bad

Farm to Table_ VegetablesWhile farm to table operations boast many wonderful benefits, there will always be challenges. Some believe that the concept, as well as the foodies supporting the concept are taking it to extremes. In fact, ads have been created to show just how extreme it has been taken.

Being dedicated to purchasing meats locally can be very limiting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture limits the amount and type of meat that can processed by small farm operations. This fact and the geographical challenges of landlocked states not being able to offer sea foods, etc. may cause headaches for restaurant owners.

An additional challenge that restaurant owners will face is being able to source their produce in the off season. It is recommended to discuss with your partnered farmer about the use of a greenhouse to be able to offer this produce in the off-season. Otherwise, it may be difficult to find Indiana sweet corn under all of that snow in the middle of January!

However, all in all, we are loving the farm to table concept.

 

Indianapolis Farm to Table Restaurants

Traders Point Creamery

Grilled Cheese from Traders Point Creamery

Indiana has a rich agriculture landscape, which makes it the perfect location for the farm to table concept! Are you in the Indianapolis area? Try out these fantastic farm to table restaurants!

Supplies and Equipment

Searching for the farm to table “look” to go along with your processes? We have you covered! From glasses to chairs and tables, Central Restaurant is your one-stop shop for supplies and equipment!

5 Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Trends

The foodservice industry is constantly evolving.  One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up.  In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“).  Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.

So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months.  Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.

Pop-Up Restaurants

Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too.  A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.

However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time.  They are starting to show true staying power though.  Perhaps it’s because  it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.

Upscale Kids Menus

Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20.  Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children.  With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas.  For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Gen Y Changing the Game

A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s  “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food.  According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.

The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.”  Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.

Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus

This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously.  Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free.  Today?  Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu.  But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu.  In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe.  Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis.  To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards.  Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat.  For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat.  Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.

Local and Sustainability

Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc.  Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food.  This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food.  It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating.  There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow.  In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”

What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.?  Please share below!

Benefits for Foodservices to Go Local with Food

A few weeks ago, we provided an introduction to restaurants going local with food with Jeffrey Besecker, executive chef of Ozro & Ray’s and executive director of Greenville Community Gardens  in Greenville, Ohio.

While local food tops some trend lists, perhaps it’s not a trend at all, but something that’s here to stay.  Going local has benefits for both an establishment and a community.

Whether you would like to make drastic changes, or just would like to make a few minor tweaks, there are a variety of ways to go local at your foodservice establishment.

Besecker’s Benefits for Going Local

1. Know Products First-Hand: Buying local provides a more thorough understanding of the quality, care and contents of your ingredients.

2. Reduced Food Miles: The expenses to have food delivered to your establishment will be lower with local suppliers.  Also, your customers will be provided with a fresher meal.

3. Safer Food: Buying food locally allows for a more accurate ability to deter the inclusion of by-products and additives that can lead to detrimental health issues and side effects. (For instance… ever heard of a little thing called pink slime?)

4. Shorter Supply Lead Times: Shorter lead times reduce the cost associated with stocking food.  Why? By reducing storage needs, you will be able to keep fewer foods in reserve and can have more frequent deliveries.

5. Reduced Impact on the Environment: Buying local will decrease the amount of time the food coming to you will be on the road. This will reduce the amount of strain placed on the environment to supply that food.  Also, potentially harmful side effects will be eliminated as many of the processing procedures associated with long term food handling will be done away with.

6. Stimulate Your Local Economy: If you pump more money into your local economy, you are effectively ensuring those around you have the resources to patronize your business with a greater frequency.

Turn “I Can’t” into “I Can”

It’s easy to make assumptions or excuses for why it might be too difficult for a foodservice to go local. But there’s a challenge to everything and sometimes a certain challenge isn’t as challenging as one might think.

Besecker said the first excuse foodservices make as to why they can’t go local is time and effort.

“The foodservice industry is often already a very labor and time intensive endeavor,” he said. “The added burden of providing yet another link in that food supply chain is a distinct possibility but no more so then researching the lowest cost, best quality provider in a more traditional supply chain.”

He added that in the end, it all comes down to the amount of energy you feel comfortable utilizing and how that cost and out pour is managed within your business model.

“With a small investment, one can easily find the means to capitalize on a local food chain to great benefit.”

A second hurdle that turn many foodservices off to the idea of going local is foodservice regulations and restrictions of locally sourced food.

Besecker said one concern may be whether or not local, state or national health codes restrict the use of local foods.

“Nearly all the same rules apply in utilizing locally-sourced foods as well as those governing their safe handling,” he said. “In most cases, a greater sense of security in the quality and safety of the local foods exists merely because of a more thorough attention to their growing and handling.”

How Your Restaurant Can Go Local

According to Besecker, there are several levels of involvement in which a foodservice can go local.  So whether it be big or small, if you are interested in going local, there is a way.

1.Traditional Food Suppliers: After realizing the importance of local, Besecker said many of the traditional food wholesale suppliers have adopted locally sourced product lines to include with their other typical foodservice offerings.

2. Local Food Wholesalers: Cut out the number of miles and potential “middle men.”

3. Farmers Markets: These provide fresh, locally-grown foods that Besecker said can often be brought right near your delivery dock or even right to your location.

4. Local Farmers: For many instances, a solid farm operation is never too far away–even in larger cities. In fact, Besecker said New York City foodservice operations rely more per capita on local farms than any other food service market in the country!

Image: Greenville Community Gardens5. Community Gardens: Grow along with your neighbors and customers.  It can help benefit your bottom line and also the way your customers view food.  Working with community gardens can even help your customers set new standards for their own way of life.

6. Restaurant Gardens and Farms: Many restaurants have created their own garden or farm to help supplement their food supply.

(Image at left provided by Greenville Community Gardens).

Big thanks to Jeff Besecker with providing such great information on how foodservices can go local with food.  If you missed the first blog, read it here and also check out Greenville Community Gardens and Ozro’s & Rays.

 

 

An Introduction to Restaurants Going Local with Food

Image: Greenville Community Gardens

Local food was on the top of many food and restaurant trend lists for 2011 and 2012, but perhaps this isn’t a trend at all.  From buying locally to actually growing food, the emphasis for restaurants has been higher.

This week we worked with Jeffrey Besecker, executive chef of Ozro & Ray’s and executive director of Greenville Community Gardens (GCH) in Greenville, Ohio to learn more about going local and how restaurants can benefit from it.

Why Go Local?

“A return to a local food system may not just be the latest fad, or merely jumping on the band wagon,” Besecker said. “It may very well be the wave of the 21st century as well as a necessity for survival.”

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Cost (supply chain), quality control (increased freshness, improved taste), sustainability and marketability are Besecker’s reasons for restaurants going local.

“One of the chief reasons to “Go Local” may well be the increase in marketability in your product line or business,” he said. “An area that is often overlooked in general in the foodservice industry is building a brand name which will assure the sustainability and success of your business model.”

Looking deeper, Besecker gave three key reasons why locally sourced products impact marketability.

1. Local foods provide added market value.  They are fresher and taste better, which customers will come back to.  Also, working with food producers directly can enable restaurants to expand menu options.

2. Buying local food increases customer awareness.  Collaborating with other local businesses increases exposure because essentially client bases are combined.

3. There is a heightened client perception.  Besecker said by investing the caring, time and energy to increase the value of your business through locally frown foods, you relay a greater level of caring for your customer base.

Importance and Crucial Factors

“As a foodservice business, the two main concerns which stand out above all else are the relative freshness factor of food products sourced within a close radius to your business and the relative reduction in cost which can be associated with sourcing your food locally,” Besecker said.

Image: Earl53/MorgueFile

Supply chain pricing is affected by the distance food has to travel from the producer to the restaurant, also known as “food miles.”  The further the food, the more expensive it is because factors such as fuel, storage, handling costs, etc.

“Does it not make perfect sense then, to consider sourcing your supply chain as closely as possible to your business with fewer stops and hands in your pockets in between?” Besecker asked.

Looking into the food itself, frozen and preserved foods tend to lose their freshness and flavor as well as vital nutrients.  Fresh foods will taste better and have more flavor.

“As any good chef will know, if one wishes to achieve maximum freshness and flavor from product and other products, then minimal delay from harvest to table will yield the best results.”

Real Examples

For Ozro & Ray’s, an authentic home style bagel shop, Besecker said they are using a locally sourced food model.

Image: Ozro & Ray's Facebook

“We are utilizing a combination of small, local farms, local farmers markets within a 100 mile radius of our business, community gardens and a collaborative with another local restaurant operation with their own farm to source our food supply needs,” he said.

Also, they have local food wholesalers who have adopted their own versions of locally sourced food programs.

Besecker said their long term goal is to develop a business plan to tie a local goods restaurant concept which ties in with a general store concept that focuses on local Ohio product lines.

Local Food Resources

Next Month…

Stay tuned next month for more information from Besecker, including the benefits of going local, stereotypes/hurdles and what restaurants are doing.

Image: penywise/MorgueFile

Also, be sure to check out Greenville Community Gardens as well as these two other sites Besecker told us about, Small Town Growth Group and Local Provisions. In the future, we’ll also look into schools going local and other foodservices as well.

What local initiatives is your area or restaurant involved with? Is there anything you would like to learn more about for our next blog?

 

Foodservice Trends and Predictions for 2012

Last December we put together a list of 10 foodservice trends for 2011.  Some that topped the list and stayed strong were food trucks, social media, better nutrition and mobile ordering.

For 2012, there’s much being talked about.  Several blogs, lists and articles are surfacing with upcoming trends and there’s so much great information available.  So this year, not only will you get a list from us, but each one on the list will include a link for more information so you take a look at all of the trends yourself.  Enjoy!

Image: 3rdworldman/MorgueFile

Handing Over the Control

Today’s world is very particular, especially when it comes to food.  Fast Casual reports 2012 will be the year customers gain more control over their dining experience.  They mention custom ordering systems will aid with this—which is what we’ve seen all year.  From tablets to smartphone apps, restaurants are certainly headed in the customizable direction.  One concern earlier this year with the mobile devices was if they would take away from customer service.  When we attended the NRA show in May, we learned tablets won’t take away from customer service, but in fact enhance the experience as the wait staff will have more time to focus on customers. Read Fast Casual’s full trends list here.

The Best of Both Worlds

Some customers want healthier menu items while others just want something that tastes really good and aren’t too concerned with nutritional value.  For 2012, restaurants will start catering to both types of customers.  Many sites including QSR Magazine call this trend the “Double-Sided Menu.”  The double-sided menu will give customers the best of both worlds—healthy options and not-so-healthy options.  Read QSR’s top five trends here. 

Southern Foods

Image: Jdurham/MorgueFile

During tougher times, people turn to what makes them feel good, comfortable and safe–which in many cases, is food.  According to Monkey Dish’s trend list, southern comfort foods will become more popular.  Chefs will be making favorites such as grits, chicken and dumplings or smokehouse barbeque.  They may even put their own spin on the recipes too.  Read Monkey Dish’s full article here, and check out all of their 2012 predictions here.

 

 

 Healthier Kid’s Meals

Restaurants and QSRs all over the country have been upgrading their kid’s menus to be healthier; so this is definitely not something that’s brand new.  But according to another QSR article, healthier meals for children will be on the agenda.  This will tie in extremely well with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” to help curb childhood obesity.  Read more trends from QSR here.

Plate Shapes

At Central, one of the trends we’ve seen in restaurants is an interest in unique or customizable shapes for dinnerware.  It looks like these unique shapes will continue in 2012, but in a different way.  In an article by SmartBlog on Restaurants, they reveal chefs will be changing their food presentations to be more spread out as opposed to high.  This would make a change for a higher demand of square plates instead of round.  And as a side note on ordering plates, if you do a custom order—make sure to order extras to avoid any trouble in the future if the vendor is no longer able to provide you with your custom dinnerware. Read SmartBlog on Restaurant’s full blog here.

Social Media for Small Businesses

This trend seems familiar from last year, doesn’t it? It was on the list, but it’s different for 2012.  According to Duct Tape Marketing, they predict social media will impact smaller businesses.  This stems from their statement that social networks will move in the direction of being their own marketplaces.  So far, sites like Facebook and Twitter have made restaurants successful with spreading the word about themselves and connecting with fans—so now is the time for the smaller places to get on board and take advantage of this free advertising.  (If you need help, check out our tutorials for Facebook and Twitter).  Read all of Duct Tape Marketing’s small business predictions here.

24/7 Breakfast

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Looking to bakery trends, Modern Baking says several bakery cafes keep breakfast on the menu all day.  With this in demand, many other bakeries and restaurants may follow suit and also provide breakfast items throughout the day.  Read all of Modern Baking’s bakery trends here.

 

 

Local

According to the National Restaurant Association’s list of food trends, one that tops the list is going local.  This could be anything from meat to alcoholic beverages. Going local is a great way to support your community and to also know where food is coming from.  Luke Patterson, owner of Luke’s Joint and a few other establishments in Arcata, Calif. is one of Central’s customers who buys local—and it’s been very successful.  Read about his experience here and read more from the NRA’s trends list here.

The Signature Item

Image: Maxstraeten/MorgueFile

Whopper. Big Mac. Soup and Salad. Bloomin’ Onion.  We didn’t mention restaurant names yet you most likely know where each of these items comes from.  In a recent Nation’s Restaurant News article, they interviewed Galletta Oliver of Ink Foundry who said the importance of the “signature item” will increase.  That being said, restaurants will create or promote menu items that will make customers choose their restaurant over another.  Read all of NRN’s predictions here.

With these predictions just being a handful of many, it looks as though 2012 will be a busy year for the foodservice industry.  We look forward to seeing how these predictions go and we’ll be sure to follow them throughout the year and keep you posted on how they are doing.

Central wishes you and yours a very happy New Year.  We look forward to a great 2012 for everyone!

Customer Spotlight: Luke Patterson

Central Product Consultant Michael Sandlin sits down and laughs as he recalls the last half hour he spent on the phone with his customer, Luke Patterson. Nothing in particular, it’s just always an intriguing conversation. Patterson, 33, has an adventurous personality and is well on his way to a very successful future in the foodservice industry.

“He’s an eclectic, fusion kind of guy,” Sandlin said, who has been working with Patterson since 2009.

There’s always something going on and he always has an interesting story to tell. But what is the most interesting is how this young restaurant owner got his start—and how successful he is.

Luke Patterson in Luke's Joint

Prior to opening the restaurant Luke’s Joint in Arcata, Calif., Patterson, who had been working in the restaurant industry for years (with a start in New York City), started running his own business by renting a food cart from a local church. He had the food cart in a popular Arcata plaza for nine months, then saw an opportunity for a restaurant.

“I’m sitting there watching Grandma B’s Chocolate Shop pack up and leave and it wasn’t much of a leap of imagination,” he recalled. “It was already taken by the time I made the call, but coincidentally their insurance didn’t come through and I was offered the opportunity to move in and haven’t looked back.”

Patterson opened Luke’s Joint last year, which is located at 887 H Street.  They serve coffee and pastries from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to their Facebook page. They are open seven days a week, which is uncommon for that area.

“I’m from NYC, so I have a metropolitan point of view,” he said.

So as they are open during times many places aren’t, it creates more opportunities for both them and their customers and in general is just a great place to visit.  Luke’s Joint is reasonably priced too with a variety of interesting and unique menu items.

Elena Agostinis wrote a review on Urbanspoon that provides a great description of this out of the box restaurant:

“Chef Luke at Luke’s Joint puts together flavors like no-one else, with sublime results. His food is delicious, flavored with unusual combinations to startle and delight your taste buds – all for very affordable prices. Watch this guy – he’s going to be really, really famous!”

Lavendar Waffles with Whipped Cream, White Raspberry and Raspberry Beat Sauce from Luke's Joint

Funny, Sandlin said something similar.

“Mark my words, he’ll be famous someday.”

Luke’s Joint is also a proud server of Kinetic Koffee, a gourmet micro roaster in Arcata who specializes in “super-premium, certified organic coffees from around the world.” They also mention “each of our roasts is custom designed with distinctive profiles.”

When making purchases for equipment, Patterson stays with Central, which was something Sandlin hadn’t expected right away. After all, when Patterson first came to us, it was only for squeeze bottles for his barbeque sauce.

For some reason, Sandlin said he just stuck with Patterson. Perhaps it was Patterson’s vibrant personality or the fact that he is just so interesting to talk to. Now, tables have turned and Patterson does smaller orders like squeeze bottles locally but chooses Central for his larger orders.

Speaking of local, local is the center of everything Patterson does. All purchases and decisions are made from a local standpoint from the food to the landscaping.

“Even ordering through you guys, if I can’t install it, I’ll have someone local install.”

And while many restaurants are still trying to find their way through the economic downturn, Patterson’s business has been successful enough that he is not only opening up another restaurant, but just recently opened another food cart as well.

Los Bagels Chocolate Croissant and Espresso Kinetic Koffee from Luke's Joint

On September 11, he will be opening “The Other Place,” which he described as a high end fine dining restaurant, located at 660 K Street in Arcata, just blocks away from the plaza.

“With The Other Place, I’m shooting for the stars,” he said with excitement in his voice. “I’m a pretty humble guy but we’re shooting for the stars with that place. Trying things no one has tried. It’s adventurous and daring.”

Then Patterson has brought everything full circle by opening a food cart, called “The Other Cart, Reincartnated MMXI” (2011), which debuted on Saturday July 23.  It will mostly cater to vegans and vegetarians at an excellent price point and will both use and feature products from local farmers.  They will sell salads and other items such as quinoa, kus kus, etc., and will charge by the ounce— $2 per ounce.

“I’m really thrilled of the potential of having this complete offering, price wise,” Patterson says.

Jada Brotman of Arcata, who recently opened her own food cart called “Queen Doubles” is inspired by Patterson’s passion and determination to provide great local food.

“He’s committed to the community and local foods.  He’s a real asset to our community, but he’s helped change the local food scene for the better,” she said.  “We take everything for granted; local grains, meat, etc.”

Brotman reflected on the point many restaurants use other companies states away to obtain their food. She said for Patterson, he uses farmers that aren’t too far away which have better food and don’t charge as much.

“In other places, after the green revolution in the 70’s when foods were mass produced and cheaper, people got used to the idea to buy from foreign counties, but there are a lot of amazing farmers in our own states,” she added.

Patterson (middle) with John Severn, and son Jasper, of Little River Farm, photo from the Luke's Joint Facebook Page

Brotman also said Patterson has been a mentor and inspiration to her.

“I’ve always been into local, but his absolute commitment has helped me make personal sacrifices and changes in both business and personal.”

For more information about Luke’s Joint, visit their Facebook page.