Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chain restaurants sourcing locally

The Washington Post yesterday ran an article featuring chain restaurants which are experimenting with sourcing locally, including Chipotle Mexican Grill. But for Chipotle, supplying a single franchise with a single ingredient has required nearly a year and a half of planning and a complete revisioning of distribution channels.

This month, Chipotle hopes to serve 100 percent Polyface pork in Charlottesville [VA]. But that success comes after 17 months of complex negotiations and logistics, including buying extra cooking equipment, developing new recipes, adjusting work schedules and investing in temperature-monitoring technology for Polyface's delivery van. In recent months, [Chipotle's operations director for the northeast region Phil] Petrilli has visited the Charlottesville outlet about every two weeks, four times as often as he visits other restaurants in the region.

Even if Chipotle's experiment is just a marketing ploy to provide that trendy aura of corporate green awareness and responsibility -- greenwashing -- the message is a powerful one: Going Local is Possible. So big applause for their efforts. I do have to wonder if it's really possible to translate this to the rest of their ingredients and their other 699 outlets. It seems as if doing so would inevitably destroy the economies of scale that make fast food so cheap. Can fast food survive with slow food prices?

1 comment:

liberal foodie said...

I believe it'll be hard to implement this in all the other stores, however if they can do it, more power to Chipotle.

That's my only guilty pleasure from the entire chain restaurant list. And even then, I eat it once every 4-6 months or less.