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We’re Going Local! (And So Can You!)

The restaurant industry is one of the most exciting places to work. Why? Because everything is constantly changing. It’s fast-paced and demanding and we who spend our days in kitchens and dining rooms thrive on this sort of maniacal impetus toward excellence.

At the same time, we tend to be skeptical of new trends. I happen to be a fairly conservative, old-fashioned sort of gal. I like to have doors opened for me by dashing young men with manners, and I would never refuse fresh flowers, so I understand your hesitation. But there is one current trend that I can gladly get behind: Local Foods. Choosing to buy from local farmers as opposed to large purveyors might be one of the smartest decisions you make this year, and I’m going to tell you why:

  1. Local foods taste better: Bollocks, you say! Not so fast, skeptic. Chefs and guests alike can attest to the unmistakable difference in flavor and freshness that local produce has over items that have traveled hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles before arriving at your kitchen door. If you’ve ever tasted a tomato from your neighbor’s garden, you too can confirm the difference in taste and quality.
  2. Buying local supports the regional economy: When we buy from local farmers, we are essentially putting money back into our communities and supporting our neighbors.  Buying local also allows us to cultivate relationships with said neighbors and business-people.  Anyone in the restaurant world will tell you that relationships matter. Get out there and make friends with your local farmers: you might wind up with some great contacts and a crowded dining room to boot.
  3. Local foods make excellent marketing tools: The concept of buying and eating local has gained such a degree of popularity in the past year or so, that guests are thrilled to see “sustainable,” “farm fresh,” or “locally grown” on your menu. Not only are these items attractive to your environmentally and socially conscious guests, they appeal to those of us who simply enjoy good, fresh food.
  4. Cost: Buying local is not as expensive as you might think. Sure, most local growers stand little chance in the price competition against large wholesalers. However, when you consider the heightened quality and unique nature of a local product, you may find that you are actually saving money. You can also take comfort in the fact that each dollar you spend on a local product is essentially being put back into your local economy.
  5. Buying local is environmentally responsible: Before calling me a dirty hippie, consider the thousands of miles that produce purchased from large purveyors has to travel before it reaches you: (An average of 1500 miles, according to LocalHarvest.org). Buying local is one way to cut down on pollution and harmful emissions caused by such widespread shipping methods.

As a traditionalist, maybe like yourself, I am skeptical of fads and trends, especially when the economic stability of your restaurant is in question.  I will also be among the first to point out that the “Local Foods Movement” is indeed a trend. However, buying local is smart: both for your restaurant and your community. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic, and I hope you’ll feel free to write them in the comments section below.