1. Local foods are fresh. According to LocalHarvest.org, the average commute for fruit and vegetables in the United States is 1500 miles. Yikes! For that reason commercially grown fruit and veggies are engineered to withstand travel over long distances. Local foods travel a fraction of that distance and still maintain their appearance, taste and nutrients, without any bioengineering. And good looking food is a good thing, since customers eat with their eyes first.
2. Local foods taste better. Anyone with a garden can attest to this fact. Just like homemade bread beats the store bought variety, wholesale vegetables and fruits just don’t compare to local garden goods.
3. Local foods support local economies. As a restaurant owner, it never hurts to support your local economy. You not only keep your money local, you also foster relationships with other business people in your neighborhood. Never a bad a idea.
4. Local foods are great for restaurant 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.
5. Local foods let you be creative with your menu. Because local foods are based on the seasons, restaurants need to rotate their menu items, based on availability. And that can be a good thing. What better way to come up with daily specials, than looking at the ingredients at the local farmers market?
6. Local foods aren’t as expensive as you think. While few small farms can compete with wholesale food distributors for steep discounts, their prices aren’t always that much higher. And when you take in consideration the higher quality of produce, you are really getting more bang for your restaurant food cost buck. Some areas offer Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSAs) which are similar to a CSA (community supported agriculture) offering buying discounts and other tangible benefits for restaurants.
7. Local foods don’t stop with fruits and vegetables. Long after the growing season is finished you can still find plenty of local foods to add to your restaurant menu. Poultry, beef and pork are available year round, as is honey and dairy products. Even baked goods, like breads and desserts, can be showcased as local foods.
8. Local foods protect the environment. Tree hugging aside, local foods are generally easier on the environment than large-scale farms. They use less energy for harvesting and transportation and many small farms are organic (but not all) and don’t use pesticides, hormones or other chemicals. Buying local foods is just one way that restaurants can go green.
9. Local foods preserve the countryside. Small farms, once a trademark of the United States, are a dying breed. Too many farmers are forced out of farming and their fields are chopped up into housing subdivisions or strip malls. Supporting local farmers helps keep them in business, which in turns keeps the countryside intact, preventing your town from becoming Anytown, USA.
10. Local foods offer more variety. Small farms offer unique produce that are often unsuited for commercial food growing. Restaurants can choose from hundreds of heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, adding more flavors and colors to their restaurant menu.
Take the Restaurant Local Foods Poll