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.”
“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!
5. 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.