Consumer Preference for Locally Sourced Ingredients Shows No Signs of Abating

A bag of organic carrots - Photo by Thomas Gamstaetter on Unsplash
Consumer Preference for Locally Sourced Ingredients Shows No Signs of Abating

Fourth Shares Best Practices for Successful Farm-to-Table Operations

Fourth has shared its best practices for achieving successful farm-to-table operations at restaurants of all sizes.

The trend of sourcing foods locally shows no signs of slowing. The National Restaurant Association reports that 66 percent of American consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally sourced foods. Additionally, 84 percent of fine dining establishments have locally sourced produce on the menu and another 77 percent have locally sourced meat or seafood.

“Today, Americans crave localized experiences. They want to eat foods grown nearer to them for health, political, economic, environmental or epicurean reasons,” said Angela Hart, solutions architect, Fourth. “At Fourth, we understand that running a farm-to-table establishment, or even offering an assortment of locally-sourced ingredients, is not as easy as it sounds. Buying and sourcing locally creates back-office challenges and complicates food-cost management. From our work with top restaurants and hotels, we have collected some best practices for making farm-to-table operations as seamless as possible.”  

Fourth’s farm-to-table operations best practices include:

Prepare for Changing Weather Conditions
Farm-to-table operators are at the mercy of fluctuating weather conditions, both local and national (e.g. La Niña). If a site’s area has a drought, the cost to buy local produce rises as availability decreases, and menu options are unexpectedly limited.

Tracking the impact of local weather fluctuations on food costs and availability is a must, as is arranging fixed pricing agreements. Additionally, having easy-to-use technology in place to manage purchasing and flag inconsistencies reduces overall cost, enabling the business to better cope with unavoidable cost fluctuations. The right system and constantly updated vendor market lists enable swift decisions on alternative ingredients should a local item be unavailable.

Keep Vendor Market Lists Updated
It’s critical that each restaurant location have a current vendor market list, which includes product and cost, to ensure brand consistency and costing accuracy. This level of organization also reduces unnecessary and costlier cash purchases,

Consistently Track Waste
From our experience, companies without effective waste management systems usually lose between 1 and 6 percent of sales potential due to increased costs. Wastage must be captured at all levels of the product life cycle, from sourcing to the guest experience. The right technology can simplify and automate this complex process at every stage, clearly showing where adjustments can be made to reduce waste in the future.

Price Appropriately 
The cost of running a farm-to-table establishment is typically higher than that of a restaurant using large distributors because locally sourced ingredients require more labor. Recipe and menu engineering software with a “sandbox” function can show whether the costs of all the ingredients in a single dish meet minimum profit targets. This provides target selling price calculators and shows potential opportunities for savings.

Train and Communicate with Staff
Actively engaged staff, whether communicating internally to learn more or externally with customers, are happier and more productive. They offer better service, drive customer loyalty and deliver greater sales. There are great apps to enable management to communicate easily and well with staff, making them connected, engaged and productive.

One aspect of communication is training teams on what items are locally sourced and where they come from. To build customer loyalty, staff members should make an effort to educate guests about the farms that the restaurant works with and the true cost/value of locally grown food. Accurate information sources are crucial to build customer trust and being able to check provenance on-the-go front of house helps here, especially when menus change quickly.