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10 Ways to Use Local Foods at Your Restaurant

Incorporate local foods into your restaurant menu


10 Ways to Use Local Foods at Your Restaurant

Local foods can be incorporated into your regular restaurant menu or as a stand alone promotion.

One of the biggest trends among restaurants is local foods. From fruits and vegetables to sustainable seafood, local foods will change depending on where you’re located. Featuring local foods at your restaurant is a great way to change up your regular menu. Visit local farmers markets and speak with farmers about supplying food on a regular basis during the growing season. Many commendations are for prix fixe or limited menus that rotate. However, consider freezing items like blueberries. Or freeze fresh foods to use as specials throughout the year. Even frozen, local foods still offer superior taste and appearance.

1. Prix fixe menus. Feature a local foods night with a prix fixe menu offering fresh, local produce, meats and even desserts.

2. Fundraisers. Everybody loves a good cause. Partner with a local charity or other non-profit and offer a dinner featuring local foods as a part of the menu. You’ll be giving back to the community twice- to the charity and local farms.

3. New Menu Items. If you are looking for some new menu ideas, you don’t have to look far. Local foods have great marketing potential. Why not offer a new entrée, salad or sides featuring local ingredients? Ask customers for feedback and decide which items make it onto your regular restaurant menu.

4. Desserts. Local isn’t just for fruits and vegetables. Instead of buying pre-made factory produced desserts, why not purchase them from local bakeries or farm stands? There is no better way to upsell dessert than an account of where the dessert was made.

5. Marketing. Marketing. Marketing. Add terms like farm-fresh or locally grown to a menu description and watch the items fly out of the kitchen. I’ve never heard a customer complain about eating food from local farms or gardens. Using local foods can be a major selling point for restaurants.

6. At the Bar. Local goes beyond food. Local spirits, wine and beer are always popular with patrons. Make your restaurant stand out from the competition by offering locally crafted beers, wines from local vineyards and even locally made hard liquor.

7. Catering Menu. Integrate local foods into your catering menu and impress prospective guests. For example, local farm-raised pork tenderloin, accompanied by fresh heirloom potatoes roasted with rosemary from your very own restaurant garden, sounds slightly more elegant to a bride and groom looking for a meal for their reception than plain old pork with mashed potatoes and gravy.

8. Food Trucks. Food trucks are an ever evolving restaurant trend, bringing food to the customers instead of the other way around. Many food truck menus feature a good selection of local foods. For example, Not So Fast! Food truck in San Diego offers local, fresh produce including farm fresh meats, eggs, wild caught seafood and fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits. Harvest Mobile Cuisine, near Dayton, Ohio, focuses on comfort foods made from local foods. Read more about starting a food truck business.

9. As Classic Menu Items. Classics menu items can be spruced up with the addition of local ingredients. Like the classic hamburger, made with local beef and farm cheese, served with fries made from local potatoes.

10. The Unexpected. Again, local foods don’t mean just fruits and vegetables. Ice cream from a local dairy farm, artisan bacon, farm stand cheese, a maple syrup demi-glaze – these are just a few ways to include local foods on your menu in unexpected ways. A bonus? Adding just one local ingredient can increase the perceived value of a meal and make your restaurant stand out from the local competition.

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