Restaurants, chefs and local foods: insights drawn from application of a diffusion of innovation framework
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Chefs have been recognized as potentially important partners in efforts to promote local food systems. Drawing on the diffusion of innovation framework we (a) examine the characteristics of chefs and restaurants that have adopted local foods; (b) identified local food attributes valued by restaurants; (c) examine how restaurants function as opinion leaders promoting local foods; (d) explored network linkages between culinary and production organizations; and (e) finally, we consider some of the barriers to more widespread adoption of local foods in the culinary community. Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data collected from interviews with individuals from 71 restaurants, we compare and contrast restaurants that utilize relatively large amounts of locally-produced ingredients with restaurants using few, if any, local products. Results reveal that chefs are most interested in intrinsic food qualities, such as taste and freshness, and less interested in production standards. As opinion leaders, chefs utilize signage, wait staff, and cooking classes to promote local foods; however, the diffusion process across restaurants, and between restaurants and producers, is limited by network associations. Structural barriers such as distribution problems and lack of convenience were identified as limiting more widespread use of locally-grown foods. We offer several implications of this research for further work that seeks to engage chefs as opinion leaders who are important to building greater support for local food systems.
KeywordsChefs Culinary Diffusion of innovation Local food systems Restaurants
Appalachian Center for Economic Networks
Non governmental organizations
U.S. National Organic Program
The authors would like to acknowledge Jason Parker and Greta Wyrick for their support, editorial and proof reading assistance. Many thanks are due to Laura Ann Bergman and Innovative Farmers of Ohio for conceptualizing and laying the ground work for this study. The Ohio Department of Agriculture-Ohio Proud Program Specialty Crop Block Grant funded this study.
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