While my position sometimes requires global knowledge and sourcing, my passion continues to focus on local procurement.
A number of the trends for 2018 continue to mention “Local," “Locally-Sourced," and “Hyper-Local”. All of the trend lists mention the focus on sourcing local meats, produce, spirits, wine, beer, and locally roasted coffees.
Consumers have the desire to weave through the supply chain / logistics “maze” we have spent years creating. They desire to have more of a direct knowledge of where their food comes from, what is in their food, and the desire to connect with the people that create their food.
As both a procurement agent and a champion of the local foods movement (www.localecopia.org), I understand that buying local is not always as simple as it sounds. While it does take more work, it is very achievable.
Buying local requires balance, transparency, flexibility, and knowing the story:
** Balance (In most cases local producers do not have the economies of scale that large producers have. Economies of scale from large producers usually lead to much better pricing. Having a menu balanced with both locally sourced and conventionally sourced items will prevent you from taking too great of a financial hit.)
** Transparency (Both the producer and consumer need to be open and upfront for a successful relationship to occur. Each should have a complete understanding of how the other operates. In the end, it benefits everyone. )
** Flexibility (Unlike working with a distributor who sources from multiple suppliers, your local producer is your only supplier. There will be plenty of times where products will not be available. There may be times when products with a very limited growing season are available. Your menus should be flexible to allow for these scenarios.)
** The Story (Understanding the story of your local supplier supports your efforts in a few ways. First, you understand the obstacles local producers face related to getting their products to your back door. Second, having your staff tell the “story” of your local producer(s) is probably one of the best upselling techniques you have in your sales arsenal. When your guests hear specifics about the producer, the product on their plate has just increased in value tenfold. At The Breakers, our wait staff does yearly visits to the local farms. The things they learn from these site visits directly translate into meaningful guest interactions in our restaurants.)