This Foodie Friday let’s take a good look in the mirror. What follows is a sad look at some of the deceptive business practices discovered by investigative reporters in two cities. It might be easy to write them off as some aberrant behavior on the part of a badly-run business except that the investigations found that the practices were widespread. One can only wonder if rather than being deviant behavior these practices are the norm, and if they’re occurring in your town. There is a broader business point as well.
Like any good movement, farm-to-table has now been severely co-opted. The stories of restaurants deceiving their customers—or flat-out lying to them—have increased. Multiple San Diego restaurants claim to serve Respected Local, Organic, Sustainable Farm X when in fact they’re serving nameless commodity produce that could be from Chile, for all they know.
Call it farm-to-fable.
So the chefs claim to be using locally-sourced, organic ingredients but are using the same jetted-in, pesticide-laden stuff as your local diner. One can only wonder how their customers, who pay a premium for these ingredients and to protect their health, felt when they read this. It is happening in Tampa too, as this piece from the Tampa Bay Times found. They also explained the rationale behind the deception:
People want “local,” and they’re willing to pay. Local promises food that is fresher and tastes better; it means better food safety; it yields a smaller carbon footprint while preserving genetic diversity; it builds community.
Scummy? You bet. I’d call it fraud, and one can only hope that each and every place named in these two pieces is out of business shortly. But as I started today’s screed: we should each look in the mirror. What are we doing that is at best a bit of hyperbole in our marketing, a little white lie that attracts customers or at worst outright fraud as committed by these restaurants? What do we tell our customers and is it really what we’re giving them? Do we use words like “unique” or “hand-made” when our product is neither?
It might be farm-to-fable in the food business but just maybe there is a similar tale being told in yours?