Topic: Promoting local food products in an urban environment: Exploring farm-to-restaurant relations and supportive urban government roles in the city-region of Groningen
Keywords: local food systems; farm-to-restaurant relations; urban governments; motivations; perceived barriers
This paper asserts that urban restaurant chefs and managers are relevant stakeholders for urban governments to involve in their local food system advancement efforts, for they can have an important role in bridging between urban and rural, act as opinion leaders and introduce and promote regional products and food traditions to their urban clientele. In this paper, I aim to explore the motivations of urban restaurants to promote local food products, the barriers urban restaurants and their local suppliers experience in their local food procurement efforts and their views on potential roles for urban governments in supporting farm-to-restaurant relations. To achieve this, I have conducted semi-structured interviews with eight restaurant chefs, owners and managers based in the city of Groningen (the Netherlands) and nine urban and rural farmers, producers and distributors these restaurants regularly source local food products from. Additional data collection methods include a content analysis of the menus, websites and social media pages of twenty-two urban restaurants and a focus group with four officials of the Municipality of Groningen involved in food policies and programmes. The results show that participants are generally satisfied about and experience trust and reciprocity in the farm-to-restaurant relations that they are involved in. However, the case-study also demonstrates that restaurants, suppliers and urban government officials can have very different needs in, conceptions of and motivations for promoting local food products. Moreover, a severe gap can be identified between urban restaurants and the urban municipality. While both sectors actively propagate the local food discourse, they seem to approach it from different angles. Additionally, restaurants are largely unaware of the food policies and programmes their municipality is involved in and the municipality is experiencing difficulties to get in touch with and engage urban restaurants. The insights presented in this paper can help to cultivate understanding amongst the various stakeholders and encourage urban restaurants, local suppliers and urban governments to join forces in developing profitable and sustainable arrangements and infrastructures for everyone, for instance in the form of a local food hub network.