Every trend list for the last 10 years has featured “local” food. Consumers are hungry for it. For many, local means reduced food miles, more flavour, and higher transparency in production. But it’s not just consumers who are looking for local food.

In a 2017 report released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), they wrote that “88.2% of destinations consider food a strategic element in defining its image and brand.”

This means that restaurants and the experiences they offer are an invaluable asset to a destination when attracting visitors. And more visitors mean more dollars spent in dining rooms.

Understanding why your customers are demanding local food will help guide your marketing decisions, allowing you to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and to maximize your profitability.

Here are five reasons why capitalizing on the link between local sourcing and tourist sp­ending is good for your business (and a few tips on how to do it well).

1. Food tourists are looking for authentic, local-focused experiences.


Going off the beaten path and ‘going where the locals go’ is nothing new. The truer to your destination you and your food offering is, the more of these kinds of taste seekers you will attract. Consider joining a network to amplify your message and collectively attract a new crowd.

2. Using local ingredients contributes to a vibrant food culture for your area.

5 reasons why embracing local sourcing attracts food tourists and grows profits
Chef Brad Long – Cafe Belong

Since our suppliers are farmers, artisans, and hard-working small operators, we have a direct connection to the community within which we live and work. Being certified means what we do is measured, proven, leveraged, and expanded upon. Feast On™ proves and improves my hometown advantage!

-Chef Brad Long, Cafe Belong Certified since 2014.

When eating in a new place, the first thing most travellers look for is a taste of that area. Think about drinking Italian wine and eating pasta in the piazza or seeking out noodles, piled high with fresh herbs on the streets of Hanoi. It’s these kinds of experiences that contribute to the overall vibrancy of an area. Replicating these experiences through dishes and ingredients is essential for building a national (and regional) food identity, which benefits all restaurants in the area. In Canada, consider the uniqueness of our seasons and how they affect our food offering month to month.

3. Studies show that food tourists spend more money than regular tourists.

5 reasons why embracing local sourcing attracts food tourists and grows profits
Over and above the fact that over a third of global tourist spending is devoted to food, research shows that confirmed food lovers spend about 25% more when travelling than any other traveler. This is even more important when you consider that a tourist can be closer to home than you would imagine. Folks travelling from the neighbouring town or region exhibit the same behaviours as those who flew across the globe.

4. Sourcing local food and drink puts more dollars back into the local economy.

Studies show that purchasing locally grown food and artisan products has a bigger overall impact than convential products. A strong local economy means more potential diners in restaurants. That’s a win-win.

5. Local sourcing is still a differentiator.

5 reasons why embracing local sourcing attracts food tourists and grows profits
There are thousands of restaurants in Ontario, and exponentially, more in Canada. Finding reasons why someone should choose to dine with you is a constant struggle. A strong focus on local products is a good way of distinguishing yourself from your competitors.

The bottom line is that supporting the local economy and small farms is important, especially for the food service industry. Besides being good business, it enriches local food identity; it puts dollars back into communities; and limits your business’s negative environmental impact.

 

The Feast On® program is one of many ways the Culinary Tourism Alliance is building Ontario’s food identity. Feast On® bridges the gap between the grower and the food experiences by directly connecting chefs with producers. The objective is to increase awareness about local products, sourcing systems, and sustainable practices, while building local food culture.

Numbers worth mentioning:

  • As of September 30, 2018, there are 137 Feast On® Certified Restaurants.
  • Certified restaurants reported over $25,140,000 in Ontario purchases last year.
  • 52% is the average percentage of Ontario food on a Feast On® This exceeds the minimum requirement for certification by a whopping 27%.

Download the 2018 Feast On Impact Report for more on how Feast On® is building Ontario’s food identity and supporting the people and businesses invested in helping it grow.

Want to be part of the movement in Ontario?
Get Feast On® Certified. Find out how at OntarioCulinary.com/Feast-On/APPLY

Author

Agatha believes in local food, responsible purchasing practices and the health benefits of a glass of good pinot. She once considered law school, but after completing a degree at the University of Toronto, she realized she would much rather eat than be eaten. She’s since gotten a diploma in Culinary Management from George Brown College after which she spent time in Toronto kitchens. In 2010, she traded in her spoons to spread the word about Ontario’s amazing food experiences and help develop our province’s rich and varied food culture. In 2011, she was recognized by the OHI as one of Ontario’s Top 30 Under 30 in the hospitality industry. As the Director of Community Engagement, Agatha works to build lasting relationships between destinations, chefs and farmers through education, storytelling and knowledge sharing. She can be found rubbing elbows with members, managing communications and creating delicious events across Ontario. She acts as brand manager, social media maven and content curator. She was instrumental in developing the Experience Assessment Tool (EAT) and Ontario’s foodservice designation program, Feast On. She manages media relations for the Terroir Hospitality Symposium. She has contributed to numerous food and drink publications including The Huffington Post, The Globe & Mail, Westjet Magazine and The Toronto Star. She was the managing editor of The Ontario Culinary Adventure Guide. In her spare time, she can be found playing with her giant Bernese mountain dog, tending her tomatoes or investigating the newest local food haunt. She is an avid ‘grammer and traveller. She has studied in Brno, slurped snails in Morocco, cycled the Irish coast and eaten puffin in Iceland. She’s also been known to drive all the way to Ottawa for a well poured pint.