Local Produce

Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. He believes a restaurant that neglects using locally sourced produce is missing an opportunity. He explains why.

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With the huge interest in cookery books, TV programmes and the shift from the pub to the restaurant over the past generation, today’s diner is more knowledgeable about their food than in the history of the restaurant business. People care about what they are eating – how it affects their wellness and the wellness of the world around them.

Small and local producers have also hugely upped their game in the last decade with a plethora of innovative and marketing-savvy producers revisiting or importing production methods and recipes. The quality of locally produced food by smaller businesses is now very high.

Any restaurateurs not already convinced of the benefits of a local food philosophy should read on.

Savvy diners
In my 20+ years as a restaurateur, never before have patrons so routinely asked front of house staff for information on where an ingredient comes from and how it is caught or farmed. Today’s diner is smart – they read, they ask questions, and they watch what’s happening in a restaurant.

Many of the regulars at my restaurants are reluctant to eat meat if it is unethically farmed or brought in unnecessarily from the other side of the world. Others will always check before ordering fish to see if it is sustainably sourced.

The venison on our menu at The Swan Bar & Brasserie in West Malling, UK, comes from Chart Farm, which leaves the deer free to wander in a semi-wild environment, while our pork comes from Romshed Farm. The pigs roam free and the whole farm is managed to maximise the historic, conservation and wildlife value of the land. Our customers appreciate both the quality of product and the higher welfare of the animals.

Your values define your attitude
The story behind you dishes, and how your staff talk about the provenance of the ingredients – are key parts of the customer experience and helping to build your customer’s understanding of your brand. If customers feel that you can offer a bigger experience than simply a nice dinner, they’re going to come back for more.

Giving back and minimising impact
It’s always been important to me to support local farmers and producers. Our menus feature as much local produce as possible. This is a way of giving back to our own community.

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At Swan at the Globe we use a range of London-based and smaller UK producers, including the London Honey Company, Gosnell’s Mead based in Peckham and Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie. We also work with a number of suppliers based at the wonderful Borough Market, which is situated around the corner from the restaurant including Ted’s Veg and Bread Ahead.

You’re in control of what you serve
It’s obviously much easier to get build relationships with local suppliers than those on another continent. With local producers, you can visit the farms, take a look in their processing units. We often take our kitchen and waiting staff with us so they know exactly what we’re bringing into the kitchen, and what we’ll be serving to our customers.

Teston Bakery is one of our suppliers for The Swan, West Malling. Per Nevrin from Sweden started this small artisanal bakery so that he could make additive-free, real bread that is made using wild yeast and long, cold fermentation times. We’ve visited his bakery and understand his methods so we can speak authentically to diners about what they are eating.

Local produce is often better quality
No one feels great after a long haul flight or endless car journey and it is just the same for fresh produce. Sourcing local produce means the time from field to plate is much shorter. This can have a big impact on the quality and taste of the final dish.

Think beyond the restaurant
Many diners today are interested in taking part in food-related activities outside the restaurant. Having close relationships with suppliers is an opportunity for creating interesting activities that give your patrons an authentic sense of place.

One of our local suppliers, the privately run Kentfield Country Estate, supplies us seasonally with pheasant, wild mallard, boar, rabbit and trout. We arrange clay pigeon shooting on the estate, and offer fly fishing or game shooting for families, friends or company events before lunch or dinner at The Swan. Our clay pigeon shooting is especially popular. Everyone benefits – the guests have an enjoyable experience, we attract customers or give our regulars something exceptional to do, and the estate gains more exposure and customers.

In today’s highly competitive world of hospitality, I advise all restaurateurs to think and act local.

About Diccon Wright

Christopher Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist who has established and grown successful operations in the UK and Mediterranean. He has also worked on a consultancy and advisory basis for a wide range of food and property clients.