Q: We’ve always been proud advocates of local, British produce in our restaurants, but
given the local political landscape and the divisive nature of Brexit, I am not sure whether to shout about our menu change and new local suppliers or if it’s best to keep schtum. What do you think?
A: I think yours will be a case of making a personal decision because you have to be comfortable with whatever decision you make for your business, and of course you have to remember that you can’t please everyone. That said, both my gut and my research are telling me that you should be out and proud about sourcing local and I think the statistics back it.
Looking at the extreme; Tim Martin, the Founder and Chairman of Wetherspoons, is an out and proud supporter of Brexit and believes we should leave the EU post-haste. He’s so passionate about the cause that he’s effectively staked his business on it, drafting a multi-page article extolling the views of being independent again and publishing it in the Wetherspoons Magazine, distributing pro-Brexit ‘beer mats’ in his pubs and spending the best part of £95k on his referendum campaigning through the pubs.
Naturally, little has been published about whether this has increased or decreased punter numbers, but there’s been no major shareholder outcries and anecdotally we can all name a few Remainers who have still frequented a Wetherspoons pub because it is their local, or it’s convenient or whatever.
My point is this; if one of the major retailers can afford to potentially alienate half its clientele with a strong stance on Brexit, then your restaurant should be able to weather the decision to source locally, because it doesn’t have any political motive. I think there are some other arguments and statistics which back up what I am saying too:
- The World Economic Forum is advocating local foods over diet trends in order to save the planet. In articles published in August 2019, they highlight that not only is eating locally-sourced, in-season ingredients better for your body but it is better for the planet too and is a key tenet of sustainable agriculture. They’re one of many advocating a local, slow food scene, putting your money right on trend. You owe it to yourself and your chef to proudly celebrate your story; now you just need to decide how you do that.
- A recent independent poll highlighted that 80% of shoppers are prepared to spend more on goods that are made in Britain, and are prepared to up their spend by 7% if they think it is local. Now obviously this is a straw poll and has to be taken with a pinch of salt as it doesn’t necessarily equate to consumer spending figures, but generally speaking people feel a sense of pride at supporting local and understand the concept of keeping money in the local economy, even if they aren’t always that good at it.
- Food Tourism is a growing trend and there is focus on delivering culinary authenticity within destinations a large part of this will be delivered by local restaurants and hotels alongside local food producers. The World Food Travel Association, who presented a Food Tourism seminar at the World Travel Market, highlighted that 80% of leisure travellers have been motivated to visit a particular place because of culinary experiences.
I think it is also essential that you remind yourself that the issues are two steps removed from each other. You didn’t make a decision to source locally specifically in relation to Brexit, so this is something you have always done and this is part of your culture and something that is supporting your local heritage. Simply put, I think you should definitely be proud about it. Why wouldn’t you be?
Angie Petkovic is Managing Director of a specialist tourism, hospitality and leisure agency that supports hotels to gain direct bookings. She is an ex-hotelier, running an independent hotel for over 16 years.