Across the country, during late spring and early fall, local purveyors are slinging dirt-dusted produce, home-cured salumi and artisanal cheeses at their neighborhood farmers markets. Their regular patrons advocate eating food produced closer to home, as it tends to be fresher, healthier, tastier and easier on the environment than food that’s shipped nationally or globally.
Today, the number of farmers markets rose from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,144 last year, or more than 350 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most recently, this trend seems to have gone from fad to force, and consumers are putting their dollars into all things local. This concerted effort to get back to our roots is having a profound influence on the nation’s food systems. The country’s unmistakable enthusiasm for local products has led suppliers, grocers and restaurants to change and adapt by adding homegrown goods to their year-round offerings.
In late 2015, the National Restaurant Association unveiled their 2016 culinary forecasts. Nearly 44 percent of the chefs surveyed picked hyper-local sourcing as the food trend that’s grown the most over the past decade. If your local burger joint doesn’t already tout the provenance of their beef, they surely will soon—and expect more restaurants to offer produce from nearby gardens and farms, too. Locally-grown produce is the number three trend of 2016, with “hyper-local” sourcing clocking in at number four. And as this trend goes viral, from fast-casual franchise to quick-service delivery, more and more restaurants are meeting customers’ demand to go local.
Chains like Saladworks have already distinguished themselves from other brands by offering locally-sourced ingredients to their customers as often as possible. From apples, grapes and avocados, to spinach kale and carrots, the nation’s first and largest fresh-tossed salad franchise concept offers nearly 60 fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza tops their pies with only the state’s finest, regionally-made cheese. And Famous Toastery, the North Carolina-based brand that has long been ahead of the brunch curve by being the antithesis of the greasy spoon, has garnered a cult-like following thanks to its commitment to locally-sourced ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables and farm-fresh eggs.
“Everything we serve is created that day. We come in early to prep and make everything from scratch daily—from salad dressings to roasting turkeys and baking chicken. No detail is too inconsequential—everything is fresh, there are no freezers here. And we use organic ingredients and local produce,” said Robert Maynard, the co-founder and CEO of Famous Toastery.
In 2005, Brewer Stouffer launched The Roman Candle Pizza with one vision in mind—to create a place where Madison, Wisconsin residents could come to eat, drink and be merry. But beyond a good time, The Roman Candle stood for something more—farm-fresh ingredients, quality sourcing, Wisconsin cheese and community involvement, all stitched together with a craft, handmade approach that is wholly local.
Currently, the restaurant has four locations throughout Wisconsin, and each restaurant upholds the brand’s commitment to the community by sourcing from local farmers, brewers, cheese makers and industry purveyors. As such, the menu at each location reflects the tastes of the neighborhood.
But after Stouffer recently made the decision to franchise Roman Candle, a big concern of his was maintaining the brand’s soul and their unwavering commitment to their wholesome, local roots. He believes that no matter how big your brand gets, it’s still possible to offer guests farm-fresh flavors “We’re proud of our home-grown Wisconsin flavors. I’m a passionate guy, and particularly so when it comes to The Roman Candle. The best way to ensure that your brand never wavers from its core beliefs is to bring on franchisees who feel the exact same way. By franchising, we’re allowing passionate operators to become business owners, and to inject our brand with that quintessential local flavor that defines The Roman Candle into many more communities.”