Interested in the Farm to Table Movement? Here’s what you need to know.Posted July 6, 2016 by CPS
There are a growing number of consumers who prefer to buy local for almost everything, including their food. Farmer’s Markets are increasing in popularity as consumers look for ways to purchase local, organic produce and meat to cook at home; but the trend doesn’t stop there. These same consumers are becoming pickier with where they eat out, too.
The trend of showcasing the origin of food is nothing new to some restaurants, particularly those who serve seafood or use rare ingredients. Up until recently, most consumers didn’t care or ask where their food came from, they simply enjoyed what they were served. While there are still some people who are not as interested in the origin of their food, there are a growing number of people who are. Restaurants and commercial kitchens have picked up on this trend and many have converted their kitchens to Farm to Table concepts, or F2T.
So, what is Farm to Table? The concept simply refers to restaurants and commercial kitchens that choose to purchase locally grown produce, meat, and other ingredients directly from the source as opposed to sourcing their food product from large chains. While the concept is beginning to spread like wildfire among certain population subgroups and cities, restaurant and commercial kitchen owners should do their homework on the subject before jumping on the bandwagon.
F2T has its benefits, as well as a few challenges. Here’s what you need to know regarding the Farm to Table trend.
• Ingredients Vary Throughout the Year
Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture limits small farm operations on their meat processing abilities, it can be challenging to find locally grown and processed meat. Even if the animals were raised local, there is a good chance that the processing was outsourced. In addition to meat, produce will also be limited depending on what is in season in your area. These factors can make for an inconsistent menu if you are solely dependent on local operations for your ingredients.
• Food Safety Risks are Increased
The Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires that farm operations of a certain size be monitored and inspected regularly for food safety practices. In many instances, small suppliers do not meet the size requirement and therefore are not scrutinized as closely. In addition, smaller operations sometimes lack the means to prewash and conventionally package their food, which means more work for you once it arrives. All of these factors increase the risk of foodborne illness and contamination if precautions are not put in place beforehand.
• Requires Additional Space and Storage
As mentioned above, when switching to Farm to Table, a lot of considerations need to be made regarding the systems involved in receiving, processing, cleaning, and storing fresh ingredients. You will need to plan the processes ahead of time, ensuring you have sufficient staff and space in order to get the ingredients cleaned and stored properly. You may need to purchase additional items to keep on hand, such as capacity sinks, spin dryers, cutting boards, or knives.
• Supports the Local Economy
One of the biggest arguments for making the transition to Farm to Table is that it helps support the local economy. By purchasing from local farms and food operations, the money you normally would have spent outside of your area is able to stay within your own community, helping support local businesses.
• Increases the Value of Your Menu
In most cases, buying local comes with a price. Local farmers do not enjoy the economies of scale that large agriculture operations do, and so their prices must reflect the costs that they had to endure to produce whatever it is you are purchasing from them. While you may end up spending a little more on local ingredients, as a restaurant owner you can increase your menu prices, too. Advertising that you purchase locally not only attracts conscious-minded consumers, it adds value to your product and typically overrides the fact that your prices are a little higher than the average.
• Creates Local Partnerships & Comradery
Choosing to buy from other local businesses and individuals helps foster a sense of comradery and can create lifelong partnerships. When you support small, independent operations, it is likely that those individuals will turn around and help support you as well. Whether that is through referrals or some other show of support, you’re sure to make some friends along the way.
Deciding to transition your commercial kitchen or restaurant to Farm to Table is a large undertaking and one that should not be taken lightly. Weigh the challenges and benefits for yourself, your staff, and ultimately your business’ bottom line before making the switch.
CPS helps restaurants and commercial kitchen owners keep their business running by providing prompt service and OEM parts. No matter where you buy your food, you can’t serve customers if your kitchen is down. Contact us today to schedule service or shop for parts in our extensive online inventory!