According to the 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 57 percent of adults say they look for limited-service restaurants that serve locally sourced food, while 45 percent say an important factor is the availability of organic or environmentally friendly food. Start small when incorporating local or seasonal ingredients on menus. Here are six tips to help:
Go to farmers markets, recommends chef Zak Dolezal, owner of Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen, a 120-seat restaurant in Crystal Lake, Illinois. If the vendors don’t have the ingredients you want, they will tell you who does, he says.
That’s how Ryan Stone began adding local flavor. When he came from Vancouver, British Columbia to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, he began calling California companies that had supplied his restaurant in Canada.
Do your homework. Stone also read grocery store labels to find the names of local producers. Research what’s in season and when your growers expect to have certain items. “If Brussels sprouts come in, they are on the menu in eight different ways the next day,” says Greg Christian, CEO of Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners. Learn what is coming up next and start planning ahead, he says.
Develop a sustainable food supply by working with growers associations and cheese-maker guilds.
Check out the competition. Explore other restaurants’ menus that list food sources.
Edit your menu. The smaller the menu, the easier it is to cook seasonally, Christian says.
Manage customer expectations. Know what to say when customers complain if a favorite dish is out of season and no longer on the menu. It's not always easy to explain that the parsnips they had one day might not be available the following week, says Karen Malody, a consultant for Culinary Options in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Visit the NRA’s Conserve website for more ideas.