Two chefs chopping fresh ingredients on a bar.

Farm to Table Restaurants: Using Locally-Sourced Ingredients

The farm to table trend is rapidly growing in popularity throughout the food service industry.

Restaurants who serve meals using local ingredients attract more customers and cut food costs. As the needs and wants of patrons change, restaurants must adapt and grow. Customers have an appetite for local flavor and want to connect with their food. The farm to fork movement was born from the idea that local is best. The movement benefits entire communities, bringing together local farms and restaurants to forge meaningful relationships. Not only does this mean your farm to table restaurant will be serving only the cleanest and healthiest foods, but your customers will be happy and satisfied.

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Farm to table restaurants are in high demand! More and more people are starting to pay attention to the types of food they’re eating and more importantly, where the food is coming from. Whether you’re ready to take the full commitment to going farm to fork, or if you’re simply ready to add some local specials to your menu, sourcing from your neck of the woods is a big draw for customers.

People seek out farm to table restaurants because meals made using locally-sourced ingredients feel more personal and honest. Farm to table restaurants evoke a sense of transparency that patrons are attracted to. Customers don’t need to spend time worrying about where their food came from, how it’s grown, or if it contains chemicals or preservatives. Simply put, it’s real food grown by real farmers right in your own region.

In addition to enjoying a higher quality of food served, patrons also gain the feeling of doing something good. They know that choosing a farm to table restaurant when dining out benefits their community as well as all the people in it. Transitioning your restaurant to a farm to table business (or simply adding some local dishes to the menu) allows every customer to feel the joy of supporting local farms while also eating and enjoying the best ingredients to nourish their bodies.

Farm to table restaurants see the benefit in their bottom line as well. While local ingredients may limit your selection, there’s no longer the need to deal with large companies and commercial factories. Food doesn’t need to travel by mass distribution. There’s no more transporting what’s in season for someone else at a distant location, there’s only contacting your local farmer to see what looks good for this week’s menu. These restaurants rely on their own on-site gardens or farmers close by so quality is never sacrificed and fresh ingredients are always a guarantee.

The Benefits of Going Local

1. Local Food Sourcing Improves Communities

Farm to table restaurants receive their delicious ingredients from farmers in the area. This mutually beneficial relationship largely helps the community because it’s local businesses supporting other local businesses. The ripple effect is awesome for boosting community morale and for improving the local economy. The farmers are happy because restaurants purchased their crops, restaurants are happy because they’re able to cook with better ingredients and customers are happy because the food is fresh and authentic.

Implementing the farm to table trend into your restaurant is also great for the environment. Farmers are not forced to compete with mass distributors leaving them with extra farm supply and produce that will go to waste. Instead, all the fresh crops will go to local restaurants for people in the community to enjoy; and the closer the product is grown means less resources are wasted in the transportation process. Getting the fresh ingredients from the farm to your business is easy. Purchasing local ingredients is the more sustainable option to benefit both you and your customers.

2. Local Food Means Unique Tastes and Fresher Ingredients

Restaurants who work with local farms in the area have the opportunity to feature unique flavors on the menu and seasonal specials patrons couldn’t find anywhere else. What items are specific to your area? Locally grown means one-of-a-kind treats. Offering regional favorites on your menu made with ingredients that originated where you live is another way to embrace the farm to table trend.

Fruits, vegetables, and herbs picked and delivered to you the same day means you have first pick and access to top-notch ingredients.  Every chef knows that meals taste better when they include the freshest, quality ingredients. Farm to table restaurants pride themselves on their ability to produce the best possible clean eating experience for customers and amazing local ingredients are the key.

3. Local Food Saves You Money

Farm to table restaurants can cut a lot of costs on the transportation of their produce. Depending on how far the farm is, restaurants may even go themselves to select and pick up their locally grown crops. Restaurants who form meaningful connections with local farmers may also be able to negotiate discounts and prices that are more affordable than a mass distributer’s price would be. This relationship could work both ways; the farmer gives the restaurant owner a discount on all herbs and berries for the month and in return, the restaurant will advertise the apple picking and corn maze events the farm is hosting.

The farm to table process also saves restaurants money on the purchase of organic ingredients. When restaurants purchase produce from mass production farms, they’re usually charged a much higher price for ingredients labeled as organic.  Many locally grown ingredients are already classified as organic as they don’t need to be fortified to withstand the shipping process. Restaurants can benefit from great deals on organic, whole ingredients.

Where to Start the Farm to Table Transition?

There are different ways to take part in the farm to table movement. If your restaurant is located in an area with few local farms nearby, you can still find ways to add local flavor. Some restauranteurs enjoy including items on their menu made with ingredients grown right on site. If this sounds like you, check out these easy options:

Rooftop Garden

This is ideal for any restaurant located in the middle of a busy city with no local farms available to them. A rooftop garden is a great way to grow the vegetables and herbs you need to accent your dishes. Many farm to table restaurants give their head chef control over running the garden (and choosing what to plant). A rooftop garden might be extra work, but if you stick to simple, easy-to-grow herbs and veggies, maintenance is quite low. The garden will o allow your cooking staff a chance to go outside and enjoy the fresh air before work begins.

Aeroponic Gardens

This is another option for city restaurants. This type of vertical farming is especially beneficial for growing herbs and doesn’t require any soil. Several restaurants will feature only herbs from the garden in their specials for any given day. Fresh herbs grown on-site is a smart way to leverage charging your customers a bit more for that particular meal.

Hydroponic Gardens

These gardens also do not use soil and work mainly by using only nutrient-rich water to grow vegetables and herbs. Restaurants with this type of garden allow their customers the chance to get up and actually pick their own lettuce and ingredients to go into their salads. This hands-on farm to table activity is one all your patrons will love.

Farm to table restaurants take pride in cooking with only the freshest ingredients. Locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs are a must. Locavores, people who only consume foods grown and produced locally, are always in search of new and innovative restaurants to try and yours could be next! This movement is cost-effective, sustainable and benefits entire communities by boosting local economies and building strong relationships. A large majority of your customers care about these qualities when they dine out and so should you.

If you’re seriously thinking about opening a restaurant or are looking to redesign the structure of your food business, farm to table could be the perfect option for you. Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge to becoming fully farm-to-table, adding local flair will draw in patrons. Consider growing a small herb garden to start.

Include local dishes in your weekly specials. Partner with one or two local sources for a stand-out feature item: a dessert using local berries, a main dish that includes heirloom tomatoes from a farm nearby. The options for including local ingredients on your menu are endless. Once you start accenting with local specials, chances are you’ll see the benefit to both your dishes and your bottom line.

The local food trend is spreading across the United States, will only continue to expand more and increase in popularity. Setting up a time to meet with your local farms and purveyors is a great first step towards joining the farm to table movement.

Featured Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash. All post images licensed for use by Unsplash.