Beyond Farm-to-Table: How to Make Your Menu Hyperlocal

An interesting menu draws in new and return customers — but now diners want their menus personalized and localized.

The hyperlocal menu is the newest booming trend in the restaurant industry, according to the  National Restaurant Association.

A hyperlocal menu features everything from produce from the restaurant garden to beer brewed onsite. This means the restaurant grows things offered on its menu onsite, either in a garden or on the roof. This doesn’t mean all ingredients are grown onsite, but most are.

Restaurant goers are looking for restaurants with ties to the local community, and adding a hyperlocal menu can help you drive sales.

To give customers what they want, restaurants are creating — and chefs are tending — their own gardens to supply ingredients for their menus, adding local flavor and flare.

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Hyperlocal gains popularity

Restaurant goers are seeking fresher and more sustainable foods, and they admire sustainable restaurants. Diners want to know where their food comes from and what exactly they’re eating. These values have fueled the growth of hyperlocal menus.

While buying local can support sustainability and environmentalism, it’s not all that simple. In order to be legally considered local food, the food must be sourced from within 400 miles. Customers also care about the fish or animal’s living conditions and what it was fed, since this affects the flavor, taste, and health benefits.

Local liquor

Another growing trend in restaurants is offering spirits or beer made onsite or brewed locally. There are now thousands of small vineyards and micro-breweries throughout the country that offer unique flavors, often using local ingredients. This sets them apart from larger distributors and will set your menu apart if you feature them. These beverages offer a good marketing tool for restaurant menus.

Some restaurants are even taking it one step further and offering beer brewed onsite.

How you can capitalize on the trend

Most chefs have supported the hyperlocal trend for years. If you want your restaurant to become more localized, there are a few steps you can take.

If your restaurant has room for a garden or space on the roof, you can start trying to grow tomatoes and other vegetables to add to your menu.

If your restaurant doesn’t have a garden, there are plenty of ways to buy local:

  • Choose local farms as your vendors. Be sure to stay within 400 miles to qualify as local. Then advertise your partnerships!
  • Shop at farmers markets. While normally farmers markets are for individual shoppers, chefs can get some good deals on overstocked items.
  • Participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA). Restaurants can agree to purchase shares from a farm before the growing season in return for fresh, local produce, or sometimes you can tend the offsite garden yourself.
  • If local produce isn’t feasible, consider offering local beer on your menu or featuring local craft distilleries’ products. Local breweries or small family wineries will likely jump on the chance to have exposure on a popular restaurant’s menu.