Locally sourced food a great way to increase profits through differentiation

Help your bottom line by setting yourself apart from your competition.

Having locally sourced menu options may be an additional and fairly simple strategy to differentiate your menu from your local competitors. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the country. This locally grown diversity can serve as a true benefit to help increase your profits and customer base.

During peak seasons, branding such as “Offering Locally Sourced Items” can easily draw additional customers who are seeking restaurant choices in your area. Many restaurants already have active promotional campaigns of varying sizes, and by simply modifying existing advertising to include support for local food, business may increase with minimal additional cost.

To help fulfill the customer need for variety, the strategy to offer locally sourced menu items may change with the availability of local ingredients. This will lend itself to additional variety while still enabling a restaurant to maintain its current core menu. Not only will this serve well as differentiation, but will also foster more partnerships with local producers who will patronize your facility and recommend it to their existing customer base.

By partnering with local producers to offer one or more locally sourced menu items, your business can claim support for the sustainability of the local community food system, creating more loyalty from customers who value this approach. This will also foster a stronger bond with local producers with whom you partner. The National Restaurant Association conducted a survey showing the top 20 trends in 2013 and locally sourced foods topped the list.

Ultimately, the bottom line rules the day. If there is little or no profit in this approach, it can be difficult to embrace this strategy. Remember, a premium price point can be placed on these items because of how much the loyal customer will value them. This will often cover any additional cost associated to sourcing your items locally.

You can find locally grown options at your local farmers markets, food hubs or directly from growers in your community. For more information on finding these opportunities, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for assistance, your local chamber of commerce, downtown development authority, or local city or village hall.

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