GOING LOCAL | How to Source Local Ingredients and Win Diners’ Hearts
Supporting local farmers and producers in your community goes a long way in this day and age, especially given the current climate. Sourcing locally isn’t just a trend, but the key for many restaurateurs to deliver fresh and tasty ingredients, promote sustainability, and support other local businesses in the process. Plus, more and more, customers are looking to wear that do-gooder badge of honour and they want to buy from restaurants that follow suit. So how can you get your restaurant to start livin’ la vida local? Read on.
- Take a field trip to your local farmer’s markets.
Hands down, farmer’s markets are the single best place to source—and be inspired by—local ingredients. Not only can they be found in virtually any city, they’re the easiest way to confirm that the local ingredients you’re buying are truly local.
And now, for some tips in a tip!
Work it: Bring your business card and introduce yourself to the local farmers. When visiting the markets, the goal isn’t to buy, but rather to establish relationships with the farmers so you can learn more about their local ingredients.
Make friends: After your recon mission, follow up with the farmers who are interested in selling their local ingredients at wholesale prices. And think about the possibilities: if you build a relationship with the farmer, they might do you a solid and custom-grow crops for you next season.
Hit them up at closing time: Typically farmers aren’t prepared to sell bulk ingredients at the market. But things change come closing, as they may want to offload unsold products at a discount. Head over at the end of the day to try and score.
- Go HYPER local
Imagine harvesting your own arugula and strawberries right before tossing them into a salad. You can’t get more local than your own backyard, and you don’t need an acre of space to do it. Start small (with maybe some herbs & lettuces) and grow from there.
- Tap into a local brewery
Why limit yourself to just food? There’s a good chance that plenty of local breweries would be happy to brew up a partnership. Maybe they’d even be interested in doing a private label brew just for your restaurant? Maybe your chef can create a happy hour menu that pairs local brews with some of your menu items? The sky’s the limit.
- Get schooled in the art of going local
Many schools and colleges have created on-site gardens where students can nurture their green thumb. There are also a ton of gardening classes you can take to get the horticultural ins and outs so you can maximize the space you’re working with.
- Keep it simple
Want to go all in on the local angle? We suggest keeping your menu minimal so you have no problem delivering on your local promises. Better yet start small, only offering a menu item or two featuring local fare and build from there.
How to promote local (and edge out the competition):
- As we mentioned earlier, there’s no need to go all local, all the time. Instead try incorporating just one or two local ingredients into a few dishes. Maybe feature a fresh fish native to your area or a seasonal favourite, like pumpkin-flavoured (anything, really!) using picks from the local patch.
- Speaking of “featuring”, make sure your guests know full well that you’ve gone local. Even go so far as to name a menu item after the farm the ingredients came from.
- Go live. Facebook itself has said that live videos have a 6X greater chance of being seen than regular pics and vids. So work it. Take your camera and go live on the farm you’re sourcing your ingredients from. Interview the farmers and show off the crops.
Locally sourced food is nothing but beneficial for your restaurant—it supports local agriculture, it can help improve your rep and it’s downright tasty. So what are you waiting for? Jump on the local-motive!
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