Why Local? A New Study Reveals How Restaurant Owners Buy Local Food
- 3 Min Read
Was your artichoke grown in Argentina? For a growing number of us, the answer can make or break a dining experience. 54% of adults say they look for restaurants that serve locally-sourced food. 46% say it’s important that their food be organic or environmentally friendly. Even the White House has been a big proponent of locally-grown food.
So how are restaurant owners reacting to the trend?
Researchers at Penn State University have released a new study exploring what restaurant owners look for from local farmers. Nutritional value, product uniqueness, cleanliness, and—as a result—a boost to the bottom line were all motivating factors.
According to the study, owners who buy local food at all buy a larger proportion of it. Restaurateurs are willing to deal with uncertain delivery times if it means they’ll receive a cleaner, one-of-a-kind product. And it helps if that product has a great story. The study found that restaurant owners who purchase local foods considered the training of foodservice staff to be important. When the staff knows more about why locally-sourced food is being used, that may lead them to waste less or sell more.
“The number of farmers’ markets and young people taking up farming will multiply geometrically.”
Chef & Author Alice Waters
Chef and author Alice Waters has a prediction: “The number of farmers’ markets and young people taking up farming will multiply geometrically.” This trend will develop in concert with a resurgence of “small mom-and-pop restaurants,” writes Waters. “These restaurants will build relationships directly with farms and will want to increase the quality and variety of their produce.”
If Waters is right, how are restaurateurs planning to keep pace with the trend?
A lot of restaurants are already sourcing a good chunk of their food locally (we’re happy to work with many of them). We also know many folks who are curious about local food but don’t know where to start. Here are some tips for restaurant owners who are thinking about going local:
- Go to farmers markets. “If the vendors don’t have the ingredients you want, they will tell you who does,” says Chef Zak Dolezal. The number of farmers markets nationwide has more than doubled over the past 10 years. No matter where you are, you should be able to find one nearby. The USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory is a great resource.
- Start small. Experiment with swapping out a few ingredients before you attempt a major overhaul of the menu. That’ll help you to get used to dealing with new suppliers.
- Promote it. A USDA study found that 9% of consumers try to purchase local foods whenever possible and that, in many cases, they’re willing to pay more for them. If you’re investing in local foods, you should make sure your customers know about it.
How do you use locally grown food in your restaurant? Let us know in the comments below.