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Adding "Local" to Local Restaurants

You’ve set up shop in the neighborhood. So you’re a “local” restaurant, yes?


But in 2012 we predicted a heavy increase in the importance consumers place on local concepts and foods. Would-be patrons are connected, informed, and concerned, many with a particular knowledge and interest in what is happening within their community. It’s no longer about high-quality ingredients and food choices (though those still remain important values); but this trendy, influential audience is seeking out businesses and restaurants who are equally invested in the local community.

It’s a bit of a nod to the old way of doing things–produce from small farms; knowing the butcher’s name; purchasing goods from craftsmen; looking for quality over quantity. Where before these were the ingredients for losses on your budget, now your diners are willing to pay a higher price for these things. They welcome it. They want to know where their meat has come from, that vegetables are in-season and organically grown, and that, as a business, you’ve looked even beyond the menu for ways to establish yourself among the locals.

•    The food you serve is obviously the number one way you can effect and influence the local community. Seek out local farms for fresh seasonal produce and consciously-raised meat, keeping in mind what might be a regional specialty. Find ways to make the dishes not just “yours” but the community’s. Ask how a dish can describe your town. (Consider how the chef at Noma does this.)

•    If you don’t have a direct contact for local livestock, at least make a strong choice for your butcher. In fact, this could remove some of the research for you, and you could support a local business while also using locally-raised meats. Relationships with these distributors and middle-men are key.

•    Know your local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Microbrewing and urban wineries are not trends. Your patrons are refining their pallets, developing tastes–they will want their favorites on the menu and will appreciate that you are in-touch with their local haunts.

When you consider those options, it’s not difficult to use local foods and drinks at your establishment. Really, in some ways, it makes life easier and makes the consumer happier. But don’t discount going the extra mile too. Here are some ideas for engaging the local community beyond your menu.

•    Use local designers. This could be a local interior designer, a woodworker for the table, an architect looking to transform an old building. This will help you make connections, establish relationships, and guarantee an aesthetic that resonates with your patrons.

•    Consider artwork! Artists are in the know about much more than art. They know people, they know places, and they know food. Open up your walls to local artists. Not only will it beautify your space, it will improve your relationship with an important crowd.

•    Don’t be afraid to move into the neighborhood. A busy, downtown location may not necessarily be your best bet. People are willing to travel for good food. Look for the areas that match your genre or aesthetic, the places that people are only beginning to visit, and get in on the ground floor with your real target audience.

•    Host and sponsor local events. Making your space available is a great relationship builder–not just with consumers but with other local businesses. It’s a grassroots form of advertising, and diners will begin to make connections between businesses.

To learn more about important trends and predictions, contact us.