The role of local food in restaurants: a comparison between restaurants and chefs in Vancouver, Canada and Christchurch, New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Restaurants and chefs have been recognised as potentially influential actors in efforts to promote local food systems. Yet their role is not well documented in academic literature. Using a pragmatic paradigm and comparative study approaches, this research examines foodservice establishments (hereby restaurants and chefs) perceptions, motivations, barriers and constraints in buying and promoting local food ingredients on their menus from local suppliers (hereby farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors and wholesale distributors) in Vancouver (Canada) and Christchurch (New Zealand). This research also examines farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors and wholesale distributors perceived barriers and constraints to working with restaurants and chefs. To date studies that examine farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors and wholesale distributors’ perspectives on the benefits and barriers to marketing local products and supply relationships directly to local restaurants are lacking. This study investigated these aspects using a mail survey of foodservice establishments (restaurants and chefs) complemented by in-depth semi-structured interviews with restaurants and chefs, farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors, and wholesale distributors. A mail survey was administered with 759 establishments in Vancouver and 455 establishments in Christchurch. Interviews were conducted with 31 restaurants and chefs, 12 farmers and/farmers’ market vendors, and six wholesale distributors in Vancouver. In Christchurch interviews were conducted with 28 restaurants and chefs, eight farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors, and ten wholesale distributors. The research found differences in local food perceptions, buying and/or selling experiences and perceived benefits and/or motivations and obstacles with local food sourcing activities. The results indicated Vancouver and Christchurch restaurants and chefs have a favourable attitude towards the purchase of local food products through farmers, farmers’ market vendors, and wholesale distributors, though there is no consensus on what local means. The results also indicated that restaurants and chefs most preferred method of purchasing local food was through wholesale distributors in both samples because of the convenience with respect to time, price, quality, customer services, and logistics issues, while price fluctuations and the on-time delivery of products were mentioned as obstacles for sourcing from wholesale distributors by restaurants and chefs. Common barriers for purchasing local foods from farmers for restaurants and chefs and wholesale distributors included inconsistent quality, inadequate availability, and transportation and delivery logistics. Whereas, larger time commitment to source locally was revealed as the major barrier to restaurants and chefs not purchasing locally in both samples. However, the higher price of products was reported as an obstacle by restaurants and chefs. Barriers in selling to local restaurants and chefs by farmers and farmers’ market vendors included small volume and placing the orders on-time, delivery costs, and cost of production; while, restaurants and chefs satisfaction with local wholesale distributors have created new opportunities for farmers to work collaboratively with them in including more local food products in their distribution channel. Stakeholders described economic factors, social interactions, and social-emotional goals for participating in local food systems. The findings demonstrated that relationship building with local farmers that allowed trust building over time appeared to be the key factor that affects local food purchasing decisions for restaurants and chefs and wholesale distributors in both study areas. Establishing personal relationships emerged as the primary reason reported by farmers for selling in the region. Several important distinctions of benefits and/or motivations also emerged between stakeholder groups. Restaurants and chefs and wholesale distributors were motivated by a desire to obtain fresher products and higher quality products in their purchasing decisions of local foods. The other reasons wholesale distributors favoured purchasing in region were customer demand, supplier loyalty, and faster availability of the products associated with shorter transport distances. From the perspective of farmers and/or farmers’ market vendors strategies for selling regionally were personal satisfaction, products appreciation, and being paid fairly for products. Results reveal that chefs are opinion leaders; chefs utilise wait staff, menu descriptions, and other form of communication tools (e.g. social media) to promote local foods to their customers in both samples. The study further indicated that local foods have an important role in the culinary tourism experience. Research results also revealed the most significant differences between Vancouver and Christchurch respondents in relation to their suppliers’ performance in terms of: guaranteed consistent of product quality, food safety assurances, ability to deliver quantity needed or ordered, and convenience in order process. The major implication of the findings is that farmers need to give greater attention to volume requirements, delivery schedules, food safety assurance, information about product availability, and develop trust-based relationships with their buyers to create better market access for local foods. Policy makers can also help in facilitating food localisation. Furthermore, restaurants and chefs should be engaged in educating their staff about local food if they want to increase their sales and awareness of local foods. Finally, the findings highlighted the relationships between hospitality businesses and wholesale distributors in the local food system which is yet to be significantly captured in the hospitality and local food literature.