Using locally produced ingredients has been a hot trend in the restaurant industry for the past few years. But many operators are still not convinced that the benefits of “local” outweigh the perceived extra costs and logistical challenges.
Of course, no one model fits all. Different restaurants have different needs to meet their customers’ desires, so a focus on local ingredients might not fit your operation.
But here are a few myths that need clearing up should you consider local sourcing:
- Diners won’t pay extra for locally-sourced foods. Well, local sourcing wouldn’t be a “trend” if this were generally true. A recent study found 43% of restaurant customers nationwide will pay up to 10 percent more for locally sourced food, according to the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
- Locally produced food costs more. Half of consumers surveyed by Mintel believe this is a true fact when, in reality, many locally produced goods are price competitive. Case in point: dairy and bakery products tend to be produced locally. And, of course, Foster Farms regularly offers its locally produced poultry products at competitive prices throughout the Western U.S.
- Local sourcing is hard for multi-unit operators. Only two words are needed to dismiss this myth: “Chipotle” and “Subway.” Local sourcing is Chipotle’s mantra. And while Subway doesn’t live-and-breathe local, the company’s supply chain efforts around sustainable sourcing has reportedly reduced greenhouse emissions by the equivalent of removing nearly 58,000 cars from the road for a year. Finally, most major food distributors have comprehensive programs to meet the demand for many locally sourced products at costs that are competitive with non-local products.
Best of all, promoting “local” is relatively inexpensive. Subtle mentions on your signs and menu along with wait staff recommendations about local products cost virtually nothing —but build goodwill with customers.