Buy Fresh Buy Local: Building Marketing Opportunities for Local Foods in Restaurants and Institutional Food Services

2008 Annual Report for LNC06-269

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $108,750.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Rachel Armstrong
REAP Food Group

Buy Fresh Buy Local: Building Marketing Opportunities for Local Foods in Restaurants and Institutional Food Services


This project is intended to strengthen the agricultural economy of the seven county “Capital Region” of Wisconsin through development of the institutional market for fresh, fresh-processed, and locally produced products. A “Buy Fresh Buy Local” outreach campaign will allow the value-added of “fresh” and “local” foodstuffs to be captured by both farmers and institutional food services. This outreach and education effort will result in enhanced patronization of those businesses that are part of the Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) program, which in turn will result in enhanced demand for local products. Visible “branding” is the vehicle through which both producers and businesses are able to capture the value-added dimension of consumers’ preferences for fresh, local, and sustainably produced foods. In order to facilitate the extension and enlargement of this market, we will work to facilitate the emergence of brokering mechanisms capable of efficiently connecting local producers to the institutional market.

The primary objectives of year two have been to further develop business-to-business consulting and networking resources, develop an online guide to restaurant-ready suppliers, expand consumer awareness and deepen the Buy Fresh Buy Local brand.

In our second year of implimentation the BFBL program has
  • Established an effective consulting program for farmers and chefs.

    Hosted events and created resources for farmers and chefs to learn about marketing and purchasing opportunities.

    Hosted consumer events and created marketing resources to broaden awareness of the benefits and availability of local foods, and of our program partners.

    Assisted in the development of distribution opportunities that serve the needs of our buyer and producer community.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Research and Relationship Building: Short Term Objectives
  • Project staff will attain comprehensive understanding of the constraints and opportunities for increasing purchases of local farm products by restaurants and institutional food services.

    Farmers and farm groups in the region will become aware of restaurants and institutional food services that are interested in purchasing locally.

    Restaurateurs and institutional food service buyers will become aware of the farmers, farm groups and brokering mechanisms available to them.

Research and Relationship Building: Intermediate Term Objectives
  • Effective purchasing relationships among farmers and farmer groups and institutional buyers (grocers, restaurants, institutional food services) will be established.
Education and Outreach Campaign: Short Term Objectives
  • Restaurants, institutions, farmers and farm groups will find the outreach materials appealing and persuasive and will see the value of becoming part of a campaign.

    Capital Region consumers will gain awareness about the campaign and about the benefits of supporting “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” establishments.

Education and Outreach Campaign: Intermediate Term Objectives
  • Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one university food service will commit to purchasing local foods and branding themselves as part of the campaign.

    Consumer demand for local foods at participating food service establishments will increase.

Brokering Mechanism Facilitation: Short Term Outcome
  • Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one university food service will have the resources, knowledge and skills to implement order/procurement processes, buying from 10 individual farmers and/or 1 farmer cooperative and/or 1 brokering enterprise.
Brokering Mechanism Facilitation: Intermediate Term Outcome
  • Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one University food service will increase orders of local foods from ten individual farmers and/or one farmer cooperative and/or one brokering enterprise.


Research and Relationship Building

In addition to ongoing consultation with restaurant and food service partners, the coordinator met with 12 additional buyers regarding local food purchasing. An initial consultation regarding opportunities to expand local purchasing is provided free of charge. Although not all establishments were eligible for partnership, 5 chose to become BFBL Partners.

We solidified a replicable consulting program designed to efficiently determine the best opportunities for a chef to begin or expand local purchasing. The consulting process exposes opportunities to capture value and capitalize on an operation’s assets. The process also defines an establishment’s commitment to developing relationships with local producers.

Our first farm tour geared to chefs and their families brought 8 food buyers to Willow Creek Farm. We began at the hog farm, then went to the processing facility the farm uses, and finished at a nearby restaurant that serves the farm’s pork products.

We hosted a farmer networking event highlighting artisan sausage production in the Midwest. Fourteen farmers and food producers together with 4 chefs participated in a facilitated discussion regarding pork production and curing techniques and focusing on the creation of a regional cuisine.

Education and Outreach Campaign

Seventeen partner restaurants participated in our 4th annual “Local Night Out” event on September 9-11, 2008. Participating restaurants offered locally sourced specials. Most participating restaurants featured an exclusive Local Night Out menu. Local Night Out continues to be successful in introducing regular dining customers to local foods and in generating community enthusiasm for local foods.

In May of 2008 we hosted a large event to promote our partner restaurants, the farmers they work with, and the accessibility of local foods. “Burgers and Brew: The Taste is Local,” attracted at least 600 attendees and was deemed a success by participants and guests alike. The event also deepened community connections between BFBL restaurants, farmers and community advocates.

Along with one of our partner establishments, The Madison Club, we hosted a second spring event to highlight local artisan producers and restaurants. “Madison Locals” featured food samples prepared for the public by chefs with local ingredients. Two hundred guests learned more about the quality and diversity of local product, as did the chefs utilizing them.

We received ample media coverage with 22 media hits, 11 of which were newspaper articles, TV or radio appearances featuring the BFBL program or events exclusively. The remaining articles focused on our program partners and their local purchasing, with mention of the BFBL program.
Our website hosted around 3700 unique visitors with our “spotlight” page describing each of our partners and their local foods receiving the greatest number of visits.

Our marketing and branding efforts continued to expand. Moving beyond identification as a program partner through a window cling, several partner restaurants utilized the BFBL logo on the menu, in print advertising, and on their web page. Efforts to create a cohesive, recognized brand continue to develop with a large media campaign planned for the summer of 2009.

Brokering Mechanism Facilitation

We created a new website for program partners containing a searchable online guide to buyers and sellers, informational and marketing resources, as well as a buy/sell board and message resource. BFBL Partners are listed as buyers with a profile including information relevant to local producers. Sellers are a self-selected group of regional farmers capable of serving the restaurant market. Informational and marketing resources posted to the website are designed to enhance the ability of buyers and sellers to meet each other’s needs.

BFBL has developed a relationship with UW Provision (UWP), a regional distributor who is developing a local foods specialty sector to their operation. UWP delivers to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other food service institutions. BFBL serves as a consultant in the development of the UWP program and strengthen producer community connections. We have brokered several introductions to meat, egg, and dairy producers. Coordinating with representatives from the Dairy Business Innovation Center, we held an introductory tour of UW Provision’s operation. Seven dairy producers in Southern Wisconsin attended the tour and meeting on October 23rd. One producer has begun distribution through UWP and several others are in negotiations.

The BFBL coordinator consulted with two other entrepreneurs planning aggregation and distribution businesses in the near future. Consulting involves assistance in generating purchasing data and contacts, restaurant market assessment, and development of a supply base.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  • We created a replicable farmer/chef consulting program that enhances long-term relationships between buyers and sellers.

    We build a partnership program with clear expectations and deliverables for restaurant, retail, distributor, farmers’ market, and farmer/producer categories.

    We explored the use of SharePoint software to create an interactive, searchable website for business-to-business networking that’s easy to use and easy to maintain.

    We established 2 new community events with the potential to significantly expand outreach of the BFBL program to new constituencies, while serving overall program goals of fostering farmer-chef relationships. These new events will also contribute to long-term financial sustainability of the BFBL program.

    We successfully fostered new distribution opportunities for local foods. These businesses will expand in the future, providing positive opportunities for farmers and chefs to expand production and purchasing.

    The BFBL program is established as a media and consumer resource for information on local foods and businesses utilizing them. This foundation will continue to grow into a broader marketing campaign.

    We hosted farm tours, networking events and social events to strengthen farmer chef connections. Through these events we learned the needs and preferences of our base and will expand successful events.

    The primary goal of the BFBL program- to expand the purchase of locally grown foods in Southern Wisconsin- has been met. Consistent, stable farmer/chef relationships have been established and more local food is being purchased as a result of the BFBL program.