Chefs throughout the nation love local food, but are they leveraging it enough? For both 2012 and 2013, the 18,000 chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association (“NRA”) ranked locally sourced meats and seafood the #1 menu trend and locally grown produce the #2 menu trend. Last year, ninety percent of fine-dining establishments, 63 percent of casual-dining establishments, 45 percent of fast-casual chains, and 28 percent of QSRs offered some kind of local food. However, all of this local food is rarely being highlighted on menus. Restaurants are using local food, but they are not describing the food as “local” on menus. The “local” menu descriptor shows up on only five percent of restaurant menus.This seems like a missed opportunity. Consumer research and menu pricing data both show the business value of using “local” as a menu descriptor. According to the NRA’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 7 out of ten surveyed consumers said they were more likely to visit a restaurant that offered local food items, and 6 out of ten named local food menu items as a key attribute for selecting a restaurant.
Consumer interest among younger generations is particularly strong. Recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture, based on a survey of approximately 13,000 public schools, revealed that younger generations are eating healthier, locally-grown foods at higher rates than ever before. The study also showed that many are learning how to grow and harvest their own produce through school gardening initiatives, which further builds their growing consciousness of local and sustainable food development.
Menu items that are described as “local” garner a premium as compared to conventional food items. As shown above, the premium paid for local items is even higher than the premium paid for organic items. Therefore, restaurants should highlight the local food on their menus. Adding “local” as a menu descriptor likely would be a win with customers (especially younger customers) and a win for restaurants’ bottom lines.
 http://nrn.com/what039s-hot/chefs-predict-top-culinary-trends-2013; http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/Research/What-s-Hot
 “Restaurants take a fresh look at local produce,” Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2012.