Put locally sourced food at the heart of the business

Eating local produce is a way of life for a growing number of Brits

These are the ‘locavores’, who avoid supermarkets in favour of small producers and choose locally-grown beetroots rather than imported avocados.

They’re not the only ones concerned by the provenance of what they eat. A 2015 YouGov survey showed that 79% of adults in Britain think it’s important to buy locally-sourced produce.

This presents a huge opportunity for businesses in the hospitality industry. According to NFU Mutual’s 2018 Hotel Confidence Report, 72% of consumers would be impressed if a hotel promoted that it uses and supports local suppliers. The report also found that 59% of hotels plan to increase the extent to which they work with local businesses.

Be inventive

Savvy business owners are devising new ways to benefit from the trend, says Tracy Nash, commercial manager at Hampshire Fare, which promotes food and drink produced in the county. She says: “In Hampshire we have a butcher’s which recently opened a bistro in the shop serving locally-sourced dishes. A country pub has opened a farm shop in the front room, so diners can buy their favourite local products featured on the menu and cook with them at home.”

Ten tips for attracting locavores

  • If you’re looking to make better use of locally-produced food, NFU Mutual hospitality and food and drink sector specialist Darren Seward suggests these simple tips:
  • Check useful websites such as localfoods.org.uk to search for farmers’ markets and farm shops near your business, or soilassociation.org, which provides information on organic food and food miles. Small local suppliers are highly likely to showcase their wares on social media, so use these channels to find out what’s out there.
  • Talk to your local food and drink association and find out whether membership would benefit you. For example, Hampshire Fare arranges regular networking and meet the buyer events. Similarly, try reaching out to locavore consumer networks to make them aware that you support local sourcing, so they can get the word out to their members – your potential customers.
  • Speak with suppliers to help source seasonal ingredients to create new dishes, particularly in winter when options are more limited. This is what the chefs do at the Gallivant restaurant in East Sussex, which serves a 15-mile menu and won the 2017 Celebrate Local award from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
  • Don’t just aim to source traditional products such as cider or pies – many small British firms are diversifying into producing food that originally hails from further afield, such as charcuterie.
  • Name your local producers and products on menus or up on the wall, explaining why you have chosen them. As well as informing customers, this provides more than just a vague assurance you are sourcing food locally.
  • As well as using local ingredients in your kitchen, offer products from the local area for sale to your visitors. As well as food, try hanging your walls with works by local artists, which customers can buy.
  • Provide directories of local producers and markets and offer guests trips to visit them, as well as guided tours of sites such as breweries or vineyards, tasting evenings, courses and learning experiences.
  • Challenge your current suppliers to provide more locally-sourced food.
  • It can be harder to ensure food safety standards are met by smaller, local suppliers. Try salsafood.co.uk’s directory of small and micro producers that meet the standards of its food safety certification scheme. Be prepared for a local supply chain to be more costly. The trade-off is that customers expect to pay more for locally-sourced food from small suppliers.