The objective of this study is to examine purchasing practices of locally produced fresh vegetables among restaurants and food service institutions. The sample for the study included managers of 75 restaurants and dining centers out of a total of nearly 600 food service outlets in a mid-size metropolitan city in Midwest with a population of about 400,000. The study findings show differential preferences between national/regional chains and the local independently owned restaurants. Although managers across the board expressed willingness to buy local, actual purchasing decisions were largely driven by freshness, quality and availability. Price was not as critical a factor as others including variety and selection. The results suggest that local vegetable producers should use regularity, quality, and freshness to differentiate themselves. As a producer of small volume of fresh vegetables local farmers have much higher probability of success if they supply to locally and independently owned restaurants. These restaurants use small volume of vegetables in broader variety. Additionally, small variety growers may need to recast their business models as the industry seem to be moving towards fewer vegetables delivered round the year. These producers should consider investments in greenhouse to gain a competitive edge.


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