The Beginning of Local on the Menu
About the time the “farm to table” movement started to gain momentum throughout the country, Southern Delaware’s ample selection of eateries began to gain kudos and exposure throughout the mid-Atlantic.
At that time, Southern Delaware was already known for its miles of beaches and its casual atmosphere and was a mecca for world-weary travelers who wanted to escape the stress of everyday living. Now, though, as those of us who live here know, our five star beaches are just the beginning. Southern Delaware has evolved into a foodie haven.
In 2008, Southern Delaware Tourism began to promote the region as a culinary destination, and trademarked the area as “The Culinary Coast™.” In order to reach potential visitors who enjoy culinary travel, Southern Delaware Tourism started to promote the adventure of discovering Southern Delaware’s restaurant scene. Here, travelers could find an array of exceptional restaurants with world-class chefs and an international selection of gourmet food experiences. In addition to discovering the beers, wines and spirits being created in this region, visitors could attend cooking classes and visit our many farmers’ markets displaying locally grown produce, dairy, and baked goods, many of which were — and are — being used by local chefs.
To better connect Sussex County restaurants and producers, and to reinforce the farm to table movement already prevalent along the Culinary Coast™, Southern Delaware Tourism created the “Local on the Menu” initiative in 2012.
For the past 6 years, restaurants and producers (farmers, distillers, brewers etc.) have partnered through the program to foster direct marketing of the initiative. The first step was to create a recognizable logo for restaurants to use, a logo that identified and highlighted participating restaurants as serving locally grown foods and as supporters of the local economy.
The next step was to market the “eat local” message to attract culinary travelers from the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Culinary travelers and local residents have benefited from the knowledge that they are not having to travel “farther than their food” when dining at many Sussex County restaurants.
Local on the Menu is promoted on Southern Delaware Tourism’s website and also has its own website. On LOTM’s Facebook page, we share members’ Facebook posts including daily specials, information about seasonal produce, locally produced spirits, wines, and beers, and numerous “foodie” events throughout the year.
To become a program member, a restaurant must purchase food on a regular basis from at least one Sussex County farm or producer and must purchase a minimum of four food items produced locally in Southern Delaware. For producers to gain membership, they must be willing and able to sell their products to restaurants.
The Local on the Menu program fosters communication and partnerships between producers and restaurants, resulting in long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships and boosting local economic development. For information or to join the Local on the Menu program, email Lana O’Hollaren, Southern Delaware Tourism’s Marketing Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.