Provenance - What Your FOH Staff Need To Know

TODAY’S CUSTOMERS are better educated about food than ever before. TV shows like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules have not only expanded their knowledge, but encouraged them to ask questions about where food comes from, how it is sourced, and how it is prepared.

You can capitalise on this curiosity — but in order to do so, you need to ensure that your FOH staff are aware of the provenance of the food you serve and the quality and nutrition claims made around it.

The ability to provide your customers with this information not only shows that you know your business and give careful consideration to the ingredients and products you serve — it also provides a great opportunity to differentiate your menu offering from that of the competition.

‘Food provenance’ refers to where your food comes from and how it was produced, transported and delivered. A related concept is that of ‘food miles’ which refers to how far the food has travelled from its point of origin to end up on the customer’s plate.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with both these terms, and they’re also important to chefs,” points out Perfect Italiano Channel Marketing Manager Kym Gill. “More than ever, they’re looking for natural products which have low food miles and are derived from sustainable resources. Dairy products like cheese fit in both these categories and they offer positive nutrition benefits as well.”

In asking about provenance and food miles, customers are likely looking for an indication that your menu includes or features locally sourced produce. Ingredients which have travelled fewer food miles are seen as contributing to environmental sustainability, and the ‘feel good factor’ of knowing they’re supporting local producers and farmers is something many consumers seek when dining or ordering out.

So by encouraging staff to talk up the provenance of locally sourced ingredients and foods, you’re giving yourself a competitive edge. Using Perfect Italiano Ultra or Traditional Mozzarella provides a great starting point — as these cheeses are produced at a state of the art facility in Stanhope, Victoria using milk sourced from Victorian farmers.

Coming from one of Australia’s pristine dairy producing regions, your choice of cheese is supporting Australian workers, reducing the food miles between farm, factory and delivery, and ensuring consistency of both quality and supply. The latter, of course, is integral to ensuring your dishes meet customer expectations.

Sharing these ‘stories behind the scenes’ with customers can add a further dimension to their impression of the food, enhancing their dining experience. In the case of meats such as beef and lamb, customers are increasingly interested not only in the breed of animal, but which farm it’s sourced from and even the feeding methods employed. Which is why terms like grain fed and milk fed (and specifying how many days fed!) are now appearing on menus — providing consumers not only with more insight, but the story behind how their food has reached their plate.

“The real opportunity for foodservice businesses is to use the interest in provenance and food miles as a way for staff to interact more with customers,” Kym Gill points out. “It’s no longer just about plating and serving food, it’s about building interest by creating conversation pieces, which not only promote your food but also trigger greater engagement and hence repeat business and the chance to build your customer base through word of mouth.”