From major metropolitan areas to small towns, farm-to-table restaurants can be found almost anywhere today. And they’re not always the upscale locations that began the trend—take quick-serve chains such as Sweetgreen and Pacific Northwest chain Burgerville, for instance. Additionally, more operators are simply dabbling, featuring one or two farm-to-table items on their menus versus adopting a full menu of them. This supports the view of the National Restaurant Association that, “while farm-to-table concepts and locally sourced food still rank as top trends, they are moving toward perennial favorite territory, indicating that they may be on their way to becoming the new normal.”*
Born out of the desire to get back to simple, honest ingredients, menuing farm-to-table dishes offers benefits to restaurants of every kind.
Fresh flavors and natural ingredients
When restaurants use the highest quality ingredients, the end result is a dish that speaks for itself. Celebrating the farm-to-table trend means the ability to highlight fresh, natural flavors and sometimes experiment with unique local fare. Farms and gardens provide an endless supply of inspiration and flavors that help keep your menu exciting, too. Daily specials might be as easy to dream up as walking down the aisles of your local farmer’s market, and the constant change on your menu entices customers to look forward to what’s next.
Playing to consumer eating habits
Consumers are more health-aware, but it’s not just “low cal” or “fat free” that they’re looking for nowadays.. It’s also a desire to know what’s in the foods they eat and where those foods came from. It’s the desire for greater quality with a focus on whole foods and short ingredient lists—no artificial preservatives, no artificial colors, no allergens. Statista finds that more than 80%of U.S. consumers say the availability of healthy options on the menu played some role in their decision when choosing a restaurant in 2016. However, it was not just the nutritional value of the meal which was considered important – the consumer also wanted socially responsible restaurants that offered free-range meat, without antibiotics or steroids, and natural, organic ingredients.* Many consumers are practicing the farm-to-table concept in their own kitchens and expect to see the same considerations when dining out.
Being a farm-to-table restaurant can pose some challenges. Sourcing foods from multiple farmer suppliers can become a juggling act that requires a lot of added effort. In a talk about sustainability and farm-to-table practices, well-known chef, restaurateur and Frontera Farmer Foundation founder Rick Bayless shared that it took him 20 years to get his restaurants to the sustainable farm-to-table standard they practice today. Determine what’s possible for your restaurant in the moment and take it one step at a time – even highlighting a feature dish seasonally, based on one or two items from a local farm, will attract attention from customers and offer new inspiration every season.
While it may not be feasible to source everything locally, restaurant operators can still keep the integrity of their foods by using ingredients that are honest — made with fewer ingredients and no concerning additives.Ultimately, efforts around natural, quality ingredients offer a source of endless inspiration with results both operators and customers can feel good about.
This post is sponsored by Minor’s®