Good quality local food and independent eateries are part of the distinctive ‘flavour’ that can help set a town centre apart and create loyal customers.
The role of local food in is key to town centre regeneration in a way that not only benefits High Street shops and eating places but has a long supply chain of positive impact from where produce has been grown, processed and marketed with local job opportunities across a broad range of sectors through such initiatives.
Understanding your range of produce within your town or rural area is important to how you market and communicate to your visitors and build your destination. Larger urban centres may be more about hospitality and eating out with smaller market towns about “locally grown” and supporting rural businesses. Access to local food is important to the whole community with the need for town centre groups to understand who their suppliers are and the best routes to the market.
The role of a town centre of place in showcasing local produce can be through buy local campaigns, establishing a regular market, setting up a food festival, dining out initiatives, tasters and food trails, amongst other ideas. How local food is a part of your town centre brand and identity is important with the need to ensure integration and joint communication.
Local Food & Drink
It is important to have a diversity of local food and drink within a town centre offer, as visitors will have differing needs from a lunchtime bite to dining out through to a social drink with friends. To ensure visitors get a taste of local food in a way that actively boosts town centre regeneation, national and local foodie businesses need to be aware of what is available with initiatives such as producer directories, meet the supplier/taster events, local food campaigns – all being key to understanding the range and quality of local produce on your doorstep.
Creating the right experience is also important so that customers get to fully appreciate that menus are rooted in a place and have provenance, from the moment they sit at the table or stand at the bar they should instantly get a sense of this month’s guest beer or the fresh fish of the day. Atmosphere of a place is key to whetting your taste buds with local photos on the walls, weekly bands, poetry nights and producer talks helping to underpin the sense of place and being part of something.
Looking at how individual food and drink places can come together through food and drink guides, food safaris, food event guides such as Foozie in Bristol (http://www.foozie.co.uk/ ) and being part of local food festivals as well as wider social media campaign is key to creating a community of food and drink that is diverse and for all tastes.
Markets have played a key role in the evolution of trade in our city and town centres with them being a central place where suppliers met buyers set within magnificent Victorian halls. Today, markets are on-street or located within Market Halls with the larger urban markets of Bury, Leeds and Borough in London being key draws to visitors for years.
In contrast markets such as Altrincham (http://www.altrinchammarket.co.uk ) and St Nicholas Market in Bristol ( http://www.stnicholasmarketbristol.co.uk ) are on a smaller scale. St Nicholas is centred around a series of key note buildings with a series of arcades and market units. The market was established in 1743 and is the oldest and best loved market in Bristol. Its charm and appeal is based on its historical architecture, over 50 fantastic stalls bursting with a wide variety of goods and food items, its quirky ambience combine to make the perfect place to shop, eat and enjoy. The market is home to Pieminister which opened its first eaterie at this Market and has since expanded across Wales and the South West.
St Nicholas Market was named as one of the ten best markets in the UK, and it is a good example of what a market should be, and is home to the largest collection of independent retailers in Bristol. The Friday Food Market offers shoppers and visitors the opportunity to purchase some of the best local produce and street food available in the City. The market is also a part of the city wide food festival.
Markets today are evolving with them being cultural and social places alongside places to buy your Sunday roast and pick up a bunch of flowers. Tasters, local chef demonstrations, pop-up tables for starter businesses, food crèches, supper club venues and other initiatives help to broaden the appeal of markets and meet modern day consumer needs. As well as good old friendly banter, those markets that making a success of it will have taken a look at the following good practice.
- Co-ordinated marketing and campaigns that promote the market through traditional and on-line media; creation of a local following and direct engagement with the customer through a strong identity and sense of customer care
- Attainment of quality standards and awards such as Q-Guild Butchers and Great Taste Awards, and their use to promote the quality experience
- Ensuring a critical mass and diversity of market traders that are of the right quality and understand their role within a Market setting so that there is a coherent identity
- Location of destination retailers and food and drink that are a draw to foodies and visitors seeking a specific experience e.g. street food, celebrate a well-known or award winning product
- Use of markets as event and festival space – be innovative in terms of venue hire, evening use, film set, wedding venue, etc
During May 2016 you can take the Market Basket Challenge organised as part of the Love Your Local Market Campaign. The idea is to buy local produce and share recipes and pictures of what you create at home.
Learn how easy it is to Share the Love for Your Market by listing it or other attractions on Tripadvisor.
Food Festivals have formed part of Food Tourism in towns and places, with Wales alone having over 50 food festivals, ranging from rural fetes to larger international food festivals such as Conwy and Abergavenny. In English towns such as Dartmouth, Ludlow, Malton and Thame (http://www.thamefoodfestival.co.uk/ ) have all placed food festivals on their annual calendar and have helped re-inforce their food offering across the year.
Food Festivals therefore present a number of benefits for towns and communities. They represent a vital means of support for small to medium size producers selling directly to the consumer, maintaining a greater share of the profit, improving efficiencies and reducing costs, particularly relevant for small-scale producers who may lack the capacity to compete for large supermarket contracts. They also allow foodie businesses to test new products and to get first hand consumer feedback and helps build relationships.
However, the benefits of Food Festivals extend far wider than just those producers who trade on the given day of a particular festival. In the context of town centres they present an opportunity to showcase the best of local producers and the wider hospitality sector. They therefore play an important role in raising the profile of local food and of the locations in which the festivals are held. This leads to local economic growth in food sector and within town centre economies with Food Festivals attracting local residents and as an attractor for visitors from further afield. This in turn, builds reputation, repeat visits and a growing confidence in a place as a Food and Drink destination.
Chris Jones Regeneration helped develop Newport Food Festival (www.newportfoodfestival.co.uk) which was fairly unique as urban food festivals were not that well developed in Wales. Advice and support included how such as festival could support community and economic development with the 2014 event involving pop up brewery talks, book shops coffee and cake demonstrations, “teenchef” cookery competition for young people, hands-on family cooking tips in addition to streets of producer stalls, chef demonstrations and other fringe events (click here for case study http://www.chrisjonesregeneration.co.uk/places/newport_food_festival/). If you are thinking about starting or growing a food festival, some simple things to consider include:
- What is your local food and drink offer? Are you about growing local produce or are you about a strong restaurant scene?
- Who is your audience? What are your messages? Are these educational as well as enjoying local food and drink?
- How do you want to support and grow local food and drink businesses? Is this about marketing our about clustering like-minded businesses?
- Are there existing groups that could help you start a food festival?
- Where would you locate your food festival? Is this in your known food and drink area of your town centre or is it near to your market hall or another large town centre venue? Is it easy to find and does it feel a natural home for your festival? Is it ready-made or will it need infrastructure and planning?
- Are you are about an annual year event or do you want to develop a food culture and destination across the year? A key question and one that is important in developing local food economies.
“Food tourism” is seen as part of the DNA of a place, specifically an activity that promotes a high quality, distinctive, local and sustainable food experience linked to a particular place. This definition allows us to dig deeper than the obvious award winning restaurants and popular food festivals, to think about how culture and experience are enhanced by food, and how a town, place or a region makes itself distinctive through this. Food is a fundamental component of visiting an area, whether seeking out a fine dining experience, or simply calling into a coffee shop for a lunchtime snack.
Wales has already been recognised as a gastro-tourism destination, and more recently rated by Rough Guides as the number 8 destination to visit in the world, particularly as it embarks on its ‘year of adventure’ (http://www.visitwales.com/latest-news/2015/september/embrace-adventure-in-2016 ) . In wandering through some places and foodie businesses, food tourism is diverse and very much of a place.
While areas such as Monmouthshire have utilised food as their principle Unique Selling Point in marketing, claiming itself as the ‘Food Capital of Wales’, for other areas food will make up a part of the jigsaw of a wider tourism offer. Penderyn Welsh Whisky visitor centre has drawn tourists to the Rhondda Cynon Taff area, the Rhondda Valleys have an established cafe culture that has grown out of the Italian immigration into the area, with the cafes known as ‘bracchi’ after an early cafe owner. In Merthyr, well-known producers such as the Cig Mynydd Cymru Cooperative, attract people from all over to buy their quality local meat from their shop in the small town of Treharris, while further up the valley at Bike Park Wales, visitors are coming for a whole different experience on the mountain bike trail, but are then rewarded in the site cafe with a menu that boasts local produce and ales. With the short break market important for the region, particularly with a number of large urban conurbations, the hospitality sector has an important role to play in delivering a positive food experience. Food products and dishes are an expression of local culture and attract visitors seeking a new experience. A distinctive local menu may be the deciding factor for a couple booking a short break in Cowbridge or the Cotswolds!
Developing Ideas Through Food – The Soup Movement
The Soup Movement was founded in Mexican town neighbourhood of Detroit in February 2010, after the collapse of motor car manufacturing in the City with the need to refocus the community through the use of the arts that leads to funding of projects and employment http://www.detroitsoup.com/about/ ).
Detroit SOUP developed into a microgranting dinner to celebrate and support creative projects in Detroit. For a donation of $5 attendees receive soup, salad, bread and a vote and hear from four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more. Each presenter has four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the audience. At the event, attendees eat, talk, share resources, enjoy art and vote on the project they think benefits the city the most. At the end of the night, votes are counted and the winner goes home with all of the money raised to carry out their project. Winners come back to a future SOUP dinner to report their project’s progress. In the United Kingdom there a number of SOUP groups that have followed and been inspired by Detroit with Sheffield (http://www.archerproject.org.uk/event32-Sheffield-Soup.php ) and Walker in Gateshead, Newcastle (http://www.lovene.co.uk/walker-soup/ ) being two active groups. In Wales, Llandrindod Wells has set up a SOUP group which was launched in June 2015. (http://www.cynefinwales.org.uk/places/llandrindod-wells/news/archive/article/llandrindod-soup.html). Organisations in Llandrindod Wells that are pitching for funds include Radnor Fringe for help with marketing their festival on 19th-21st June, the Green Man Fruit Garden which is to help maintain the garden in Co-op Alley in the town centre and Llandrindod Round Table to add to their pot of funds for community giving and the Thumbs Up Club to pay for a trip to the seaside for the young children.
Such an initiative can help town centre groups come together to share and fund community born ideas with local produce providing the subsistence for “food for thought”.
Do you have a seed of an idea or brewing over something on how to get more local produce into your town centre or community? Then give us a ring us on 01873 880666 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org