Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Local is Not Better

Yesterday, one of my long-time local suppliers and I parted company.

From his perspective, the economy has hurt his sales to the point where my restaurant was the only one in this small town still to buy his product and the economy has severely reduced the amount of his product that I can sell before it goes bad. Moreover, it was a long drive for him to deliver to me. From my perspective, the quality of his product has been slipping to the point where I had refused to accept or pay for an increasing number of deliveries.

So really it came as no surprise yesterday to get a phone call from him saying that he couldn't afford to deliver to me any longer. I was at the point of making the call myself. I'm also sure that he didn't want to deliver any longer because it had to sting when I had to reject his product, even though I was very nice about it.

When we had discussed the quality of the product, he would say over and over, "But none of my other chefs have a problem with it." Unfortunately, because his other customers are not nearly so quality focused as I am, my entreaties to him to improve the quality of his product fell on deaf ears. It happens.

Fortunately, I have another supplier who is 100% attuned to delivering the highest quality product possible. And I can get this extraordinary quality product for the same price that I have been paying to my now former supplier. The downside: my backup supplier is not local.

I really do want to buy locally. It's been a hallmark of my restaurant for the better part of a decade, long before it became fashionable to fly the local flag, and so it pains me to have to part company with a longstanding local supplier. But when local is not better, I don't have a choice.


  1. .. or at least as good...

    But indeed, per se "local" does not mean "better" - no more than "heirloom tomatoes" are necessarily intrinsically tastier. It depends a lot of what heirloom, grown where, under which conditions, and harvested how...

    I hope you can find another local supplier at the standards you need.