Pannelists:

Martin Morales, Founder, Ceviche

Martin Jordan, Senior Buyer, Sodexo

Joanna Blythman, Writer

Dr Morgaine Gaye, Food Futurologist

Leigh Farmer, New Business and Marketing Manager, The SRA

Why local?

Local – a word with huge emotional attachment for many, while for others one that’s been misused and consequently discredited. What does it mean and how relevant and important is it for restaurants and diners? A meaty selection of questions for the panellists to chew on at the first of our daily sessions at this week’s Restaurant Show.

Leigh Farmer said that while the imperative for restaurants to source locally had moved on significantly from being just about food miles, there remained powerful arguments for looking close to home for your food. Among them, Leigh said, was protecting and promoting breeds and varieties, danger of losing breeds and supporting local business networks.

And sticking to a local sourcing policy, while not always possible, or indeed always the most environmentally positive option, need not be restrictive. With growing demand for global flavours, restaurants are now able to source items in the UK that historically would only have been available via import. Global food in a local way, Leigh said.

Diners’ appetite for information

Martin Morales said that while sustainability is part of his restaurants’ core DNA he is equally wedded to providing authentic Peruvian food and to do that Ceviche has to source some ingredients from Peru. However, these are brought to the UK via boat and train.

But he said, with the help of the SRA they have been able to increase the amount of produce they source locally. And he’s passionate about promoting their provenance.

While Joanna Blythman said some chefs agonised over how much information to include on the menu, Martin said he had no problem with including provenance on his menus because people are more in tune with what they put in their tummies. “Our success is down to delicious food but also communication – talking about our products,” said Martin.

Joanna said that by saying nothing restaurants are relying on their customers trust in them – particularly those customers who go out of their way to buy organic chicken at home but don’t want to play detective every time they go out to eat.

The future is local

Tellingly, she added: “Times have changed and with consumers increasing appetite for knowledge about the provenance of their food, in future only those restaurants that operate sustainably will succeed.”

Dr Morgaine Gay predicted that restaurants, including large group, would only increase the amount of food they source locally. She said this would satisfy diners’ growing appetite for more information about their food which in turn would see people value food more and consequently waste less.

Top Tips

  1. Remember that local is about much more than food miles
  2. Communicate with your customers – Tell them where your food is from
  3. Look local to find global – talk to suppliers about produce being grown in UK that historically was only available from overseas