Farm raised vs Big Distributor

Joined May 3, 2018
So I'm having a slight conundrum. I take pride in the food we make at the restaurant.

We just did a local chef's challenge this past Sunday, 55$, the farm brought us most of the ingredients in a basket(we solely cooked from the basket too!) Chopped style, and we had 2 hours to cook a meal for 40 people.

It was great! The guests loved it! We did 7 courses and knocked it out the park!

The produce, and protein was amazing. My guys have a new fire in their eyes too!

I signed up for this farm's website, and now looking at the prices, I'm daunted.

My seeking advice is literally about how can we make it possible price wise to incorporate some farm fresh. Mind you, I run a golf course restaurant that isn't part of the golf course itself, open 7 days a week, lunch and dinner, starting in April'ish til around October when we drop to 6 days sans lunch. Open to the public all times.

When revamping the menu I finally got the owners to realize we weren't a fine dining, coursed out restaurant(their previous restaurant was, and we here started as an Italian bistro that served half of a traditional "Italian" menu while the other half was golf course).

It's farmers market time here in the 'Cuse finally, so I do plan to go out and buy ingredients, but at our rate I'll be shopping every day for produce and proteins to keep up. Mainly it's for specials at this point.

Sorry for the long wall there. The point is, I love the aspect of buying local for everything possible but as we only charge at most 22$ for a dinner (most of the menu is 12$-18$) I may as well burn money trying to do this.

How do you peeps incorporate local, while still maintaining food cost and not sitting there pricing out the best "beef blend" from your distributors?

Thanks for any responses , we are finally coming into our own, and my guys are more motivated than ever, just trying to ride the high!
Joined Sep 26, 2017
You're supposed to pass the cost onto the customers.

If your customers cannot afford it, then you should just put your dream on hold for now.

Wait until the day comes that you're at some other place and are able to charge a profitable amount for such food.

I waited years to do a lot of things I wanted to but couldn't, for it wasn't the right time or the right place back then.
Joined May 30, 2015
I would try to find a way to do regular private, pre-paid, set-course meals (to avoid food waste) during one of the off-times when the restaurant is closed and get a bunch of people to sign up (think corporate catering or something along those lines). Since you're open lunch-dinner right now, use a banquet room if you have it and bring in one extra cook and one extra server to help with the private party. You're at a country club, so the clientele is probably there, you just need to market to them (meet & greet, network, etc). A good starting place might be to contact some of the local political parties/city councilmen and see if they might want to have their caucus meetings/young republican/young democrat or whatever at the country club. You could also try some real estate associates, unions, etc in the area. The key is pre-paid, set-course meals otherwise it just turns into a free for all and you have food waste/pricing issues.

As for incorporating local while reducing costs/waste in a more general sense, stick to produce. Honestly, some of the best steaks & burgers I've had were using big distributor meats (it's all technique). It's a lot harder to mask low quality produce than it is meat, and fresh, local produce is cheap.
Joined Aug 26, 2016
Are the prices posted on the farm's web site wholesale or retail? If retail, see if they have a program for local restaurants. If it's already a reduced price (in their minds), then you may be SOL unless you're willing to cough it up for the quality.

Best of luck to you.
Joined May 5, 2010
Perhaps you have other options available to you. Where I live there are family owned farms that sell to the public. Is there a way to approach a local farm and ask them to plant for you? You could save money that way, and still get the farm-to-table thing going. You do not say where you are located. How would this approach work out in the colder months?
Joined Oct 15, 2012
My restaurant uses 99% local products - the last 1% is sea salt and lemons.

I cooperate directly with producers and have a close relationship with a small vegetable farmer who plants everything from potatoes and onions to zucchini and lettuce, as well as a butcher willing to provide somewhat unusual (and therefore cheaper) cuts, e.g. hangar steak. While the meat tends to be more expensive than the stuff the big distros supply, I find veg and salad items straight from the farmer quite a bit cheaper. I also buy game directly from hunters (half or whole animals).

I run a tiny, ever-changing menu, i.e. three starters and five mains, and therefore have almost zero waste. A bigger place can get away with a slightly bigger menu, but I don't need a lot of kitchen staff, and my place has a 'bistro' appeal, i.e. bare wooden tables etc., so there's no money spent on tablecloths/laundry or other fine dining aspects. In other words, I try to spend my money in the right places. Our price range is pretty middle of the road.

It is possible if you think outside the box and perhaps depart from a conventional pricing approach. It takes a bit of courage and stamina to win your customer over, but it pays off in the end.
Joined Jun 27, 2012
Most everyone at CT knows how much I love “blackboard specials”.
Half of the fun using local products is making the rounds every morning.
Call around the day before to see who has what so you can start planning your menu.
Don’t set it in stone tho... sometimes you will come across a herb or whatever that will send your thoughts in a completely different direction.
As for selling the menu capricciosa capricciosa has several solid suggestions.

Joined Apr 25, 2011
You know your client base best. Farm to table is a great way to do things and very popular, but as you said expensive. Like others said, try a few farm to table specials and see how they go over. If it does well, slowly incorporate some into your menu and continue until everything is locally sourced. Otherwise, business as usual.
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