OperationsSupply Chainsustainability

Meeting Menu Transparency with Sustainability

Consumers introduced a new trend to the restaurant industry by demanding cleaner meats and vegetables from trust-worthy sources. On top of that, consumers also want restaurant menus to answer questions like which farm raised the cows; how were they raised; and what town did the tomatoes come from?

But, how can small-to-medium sized restaurants keep up with this demand for menu transparency and sustainably sourced products without sacrificing their razor-thin margins? What are some of the trade-offs business may have to consider in order to meet this growing demand? These are questions this article will touch on.

Don’t be Afraid to Change Suppliers

Running a successful restaurant, or any business more broadly, is all about creating relationships with customers, suppliers, and employees. Without these relationships, businesses tend to stagnate or decline.

For some business owners, these relationships tend to become set in stone, leading to a dependency that makes it hard to find other product sources. However, for restaurant owners who want to create sustainable menu options, having more than one product source is the best way to go because of the volatile nature of sustainable supply chains.

Don’t be afraid to have more than one supplier for each of your products. Maybe one farmer has a great deal on chicken one week and another has a better offer for the next week. It is okay to utilize both suppliers since the end goal of your sustainable mission is to deliver fresh, high-quality food to your customers. Your suppliers probably won’t mind either since they’re both benefitting from your business.

Carefully Watch Minor Market Trends

Food supplies in a particular region are susceptible to economic, environmental, and political factors—sometimes a combination of the three. These factors will greatly impact your business’ ability to offer sustainable products if they are not monitored carefully.

For example, last year farmers in the UK met to discuss how the heatwave plaguing the European continent could affect the country’s food supply. Coupled with the ever-present Brexit decision, both factors could drastically reduce the country’s ability to produce enough food for its residents.

UK restaurants who offer sustainable menus will be dramatically affected by these conditions if owners do not prudently monitor these developments. The same holds true for restaurateurs on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. According to Agriculture.com corn and grain futures have spiked due to heatwaves across the US. These heatwaves have primarily impacted the Midwestern part of the country, making grains and corn more expensive for consumers over growing fears of product shortages.

Utilize Food Hubs Whenever Possible

Food Hubs are businesses that offer marketing, distribution, and production services to farmers who want to sell their products to a wider audience than those who attend seasonal farmers markets. This makes food hubs a crucial instrument in the sustainable food system. 

For restaurateurs, food hubs offer access to more farmers and better products than a traditional farmers market does. This gives you ample opportunities to find seasonal treats and incorporate them into your menu without relying on a single source for your products.

To find information about food hubs in your market, check out the USDA’s Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. It’s full of information about local food hubs and how they affect local food economies. This will help you find the right food hub for your business, leading you one step closer to creating the sustainable menu of your dreams.


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