When starting a new business, immersing yourself in the local community is the hero ingredient for building trust with the residents, decision-makers and fellow local business owners.
A small food business, or independents of any nature, are the heartbeat of towns and cities across the country. Small businesses add character and culture to localities, they create a sense of togetherness and inject more back into the local economy than huge conglomerates.
But what is a small business without its loyal customers? The community and its residents are the backbone of thriving independents, and it’s down to the business owner to give back to the local economy when it can – think of it as a way to show appreciation.
There are many benefits of engaging with the local community and countless ways to do so. If you’re looking for some inspiration for the year ahead, here’s how you can help your local area:
Benefits of engaging with the local community
Before we get into HOW to immerse yourself into the community, here’s the why…
Become part of a community
The support of a community is a pretty unbeatable feeling as a small business owner. When you take the time to get to know the neighbourhood, customers become more than a face at the till; they become friends and a support system. Your neighbours will be there for the ride.
It boosts the local economy
Working with local businesses and forming a local supply chain to source your produce will strengthen the local economy in your area. You can also become a member of a local chamber of commerce, which allows you to become a forceful player in shaping the local economy to benefit everybody – not just businesses.
Not forgetting that almost 40% of money spent locally stays local!
How your restaurant or food business can help its local community
There are many ways for business owners to support their local community. Regardless of your business size, the food industry is awash with opportunities to give back to those who matter, here are a few of our favourites:
Source local ingredients
Creating a menu centred around locally sourced ingredients means fresher foods for your customers, but it also has many other meaningful benefits.
Buying produce from local suppliers has a smaller carbon footprint than long-haul importing and reduces import costs, but most importantly, supporting local growers shows your community that you care.
Seasonal local ingredients keeps your menu fresh and exciting, while also helping fellow small business owners.
Supporting local charities
There are plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to donating to a charity, all of which will convey your willingness to give back to the local community.
Choose a charity where your restaurant – or small business – can fully commit to helping, perhaps this is a charity that resonates with your target audience or relates to the product or services you offer.
For example, if you run a food business in London, reach out to local charities such as ‘Feed London.’ Feed London strives to ensure every child in the city is fed, especially during the school holidays when the child depends on school dinners for a hot meal.
It is with charities like these where restaurants can make an impact. You could supply the charity with the meals they need, or team up with the charity and give children the option to dine at your restaurant for free during the school holidays.
Supporting any local charity proves your restaurant’s brand and values.
Donating to local food banks and shelters
On a similar note to the above, you could consider donating to a local food bank, which helps adults and children in your community. It’s no secret that tonnes of food are wasted annually in the hospitality industry. A way to reduce this waste while helping those in need, is to donate food you won’t be able to use in time to food banks.
If you are notoriously great at using your ingredients before they perish, create a food donation box that your customers can also contribute to, and donate this to your local food bank on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Hosting events for local businesses
One of the best ways to get involved with your local community is by getting to know the people who make it. Hosting events for business owners or residents helps build relationships and grow your audience.
Hosting mutually valuable business events forms professional connections and bolsters your reputation as a pillar of the community. Offer up your space, provide catering, and get local independent businesses together for an evening of discussions, networking and providing special deals for business owners, or find ways to work together to team up and offer package deals for customers.
Participate in local community events
If your local community hosts any events such as food, music or arts, get involved!
You can trade food at the event or set up a stall selling homemade condiments and the likes, which will help to spread the word about your restaurant among local residents.
Or, if you want to go a step further, you can even host your own events for local schools, book clubs and sports clubs, or even to highlight the local arts community, for example.