Contemporary academic research generally discusses positive spillovers that consumption and purchase of local foods/produce may have for consumers, farmers and local economies from which these products come. In a hospitality industry context, local produce can enhance culinary experiences as well as benefit regions and businesses that promote it. However, to what extent are hospitality businesses aware and receptive to the range of local products available? Furthermore, are small hospitality enterprises (SHEs), particularly those near rural areas, actively involved in utilising local products on their menus? And if so, to what extent is this demand driven or an attempt to seek out a unique selling proposition on the part of SHEs? The present paper seeks to answer these questions from the hospitality operators' perspective.
A total of 21 SHEs located in the southern United States were interviewed via telephone and face‐to‐face.
Despite their close geographical proximity to farms that grow fresh produce and a near‐by farmers' market open in the summer, SHEs' involvement with local foods in this study is very fragmented. In fact, more respondents are not involved in purchasing local products than those who are, while others are only marginally involved. Furthermore, convenience of direct deliveries by out‐of‐state food distributors and unawareness of existing fresh local produce availability are reasons expressed for not engaging in efforts to buy locally.
The narrow geographical area chosen and low number of participating businesses in this study may not allow for making generalizations with regards to the findings.
The dysfunctional nature of the current relationship identified between SHEs and local food producers may be conducive to very unfavourable long‐term impacts for both parties, including lost sales opportunities by not providing fresher, higher quality produce that appeals to increasingly discerning customers.
The present study offers new insights into the relationship between SHEs and local food producers, an area that has been largely neglected in contemporary research.
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