Locally sourced ingredients and farm-fresh food seem to be featured in every second restaurant these days.
Is the Local Food Movement More Than Just a Fleeting Trend?
It seems that more farm-to-table restaurants pop up each year. In fact, there are so many restaurants now boasting locally farmed ingredients and seasonal dishes that Vanity Fair declared it time to retire the term “farm-to-table.”
And it isn’t just high-end restaurants jumping on the local bandwagon: fast-food and fast-casual restaurants have followed suit. Even McDonald’s ran a farm-to-fork campaign, though the ingredients highlighted only had to originate on a farm somewhere, as opposed to necessarily being sourced locally.
But despite its ubiquity, the locavore or farm-to-table movement isn’t just another hot buzzword being thrown around the restaurant world. Using local ingredients is not only hugely beneficial to restaurants, it also benefits farms, local food vendors, and the local economy.
"By nature, local food is fresher, healthier and more seasonal than food that’s traveled to reach your restaurant."
Furthermore, it helps create and sustain a local food community by connecting restaurants, vendors, farms and diners.
Here are three ways locavore or farm-to-table cooking can transcend the hype and actually benefit restaurants:
1. Your food will be fresher, healthier and in season.
By nature, local food is fresher, healthier and more seasonal than food that’s traveled to reach your restaurant. Since there’s less travel time from farm to vendor to the kitchen, there’s also less of a need for preservatives to keep produce artificially fresh.
Your food will also be healthier: a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society showed that the longer you wait between harvest and consumption, the less nutritious produce is.
Instead, the shorter supply chain means that ingredients will arrive fresher, healthier, better tasting and more in season.
“My food tastes better,” Douglas Katz, chef and owner of Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, says about food he sources locally. “My customers can tell.”
2. You'll build relationships with local vendors, farms and other members of your local culinary community.
Cooking does not exist in a vacuum — well, unless you include sous vide. Members of the culinary community should embrace their interconnectedness: local restaurants, farms, and food suppliers are all part of the same local economy, and they’re all working to bring people the best food possible.
Supporting local vendors and farms — especially niche vendors and small farms — means that the local economy is more likely to benefit from the food sales, and it helps foster a sense of community between farmers, vendors, chefs and customers.
3. Your guests will take notice - and actually care.
As we’ve mentioned before, locally sourced food is one of the top sustainability concerns for restaurant goers. In fact, local food topped both the National Restaurant Association’s “Top Food Trends” survey and Zagat Toronto’s survey on diners’ most important factors when choosing a restaurant.
Restaurant customers are more knowledgeable and more discerning than ever. They want to know where their food comes from, and they care about it being sourced locally.
So go ahead and list the farms you source from on your menu, or proudly brag your locavore angle in your restaurant’s branding. Customers will notice, and they’ll love you more for it.