The purpose of this paper is to answer the following research questions: which are the main drivers in the choice of a restaurant for Italian consumers? Are local, organic and GMO-free foods important attributes in the choice of a restaurant?
In order to answer the research questions, a discrete choice experiment was applied. In particular, the authors opted for the application of a latent class model to identify any differences in the behavioural structures of the various consumers. This approach is, in fact, based on the assumption that the choices of the subjects depend on observable and unobservable heterogeneity that vary with factors not directly detectable.
People show different preferences when they choose a restaurant. Regarding the choice experiment, the analysis of the importance of the attributes for the final choice highlights how price and service quality are always considered as the most important ones. The presence of menu with local foods, organic foods and OGM-free products is never decisive for the final choice but it is a very appreciated attribute for almost 30 per cent of consumers. This group of consumers (named local oriented) show a willingness to pay (WTP) of 11 euro for local foods, eight euro for organic products and 3.5 euro for OGM-free ingredients. For the locavores, the likelihood of choosing a restaurant offering local products is three times higher than that of a restaurant not possessing this type of certification, all other conditions being equal.
Restaurant owners can differentiate their offerings also considering the local foods and organic products. On the other hand, the restaurants can become powerful marketing channels for local producers. The consumption of organic foods can be increased given the wide WTP displayed. This could positively impact in the promotion of healthier and sustainable diet.
The conditions therefore exist for developing a restaurant offer consisting of a basic menu with local foods, capable of integrating in a virtuous manner with the organic farm productions, which keep an eye on sustainable development and the wholesomeness of foods. If this virtuous process takes root in the restaurant sector, it could certainly represent an important opportunity for the agricultural producers as well, especially in the tourist areas. In order for this opportunity to materially be implemented in a development process, it is, however, necessary to develop certifications and brands capable of constituting credible guarantees for the consumer, as well as strengthening the information and communication campaigns among the younger consumers.
The development of a segment of restaurants that support local foods and organic products would have positive impacts both from the social and territorial point of view.
This is the first paper that considers and evaluate the impact of local foods, organic foods and GMO-free foods in the choice of a restaurant. Findings demonstrate how the probability of choosing restaurants that offer local products, compared to the other conditions, is always higher than those focussing on organic or GMO-free products. The choice probability of the restaurant with local products is three times greater than that of a restaurant without local products, all other variables being equal.
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