Locally certified restaurant program slow to start
Since it was launched this summer, the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection's Certified Local program — which gives bragging rights to restaurants in the state that serve local food on their menus — has only received a few applications.
"It's kind of slow going, for some reason," said Charlie Burke, NHFRC's executive director.
Still, said Burke, he's not too discouraged, since he's heard from several restaurants that said they plan to apply in the new year.
The program — which is open to all eateries in the Granite State — was designed to promote those that support regional agriculture by using locally sourced food and farm products.
Burke said it's a way to reward the restaurants that have really made a commitment to buying local, and not just those "giving it lip service."
There are many ways restaurants can earn points toward their certification: by serving local produce, wine, beer, cheese, and other food products; by selling N.H. Made goods; by composting food waste; and by being certified through the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association's sustainability program, to name just some.
By having so many ways to win points, Burke hopes that it will encourage participating restaurants to continually strive to better their scores.
So far, the program has only certified two establishments, which fall on totally opposite sides of the size spectrum. At one end is Republic Café, a small restaurant in downtown Manchester, and on the other is the Grappone Conference Center, a large function center in Concord. One other restaurant applied, but didn't qualify for certification.
Burke said he wasn't surprised at all when Republic was the first to apply for the certification, since the small bistro is known for its dedicated farm-to-table philosophy.
But he was especially pleased when Grappone applied, since conference centers don't tend to be known as trailblazing leaders in the local food movement. Trish Taylor, its executive chef "is a very quiet local champion," he said.
To apply, restaurants need to send a completed application and a $35 application fee to the NHFRC. Once it has been reviewed, an NHFRC staff member visits the restaurant for an evaluation and consultation with owners and chefs.
Certified restaurants receive window stickers, a logo to use in promotional materials, education and inclusion on the NHFRC website and those of partnering organizations. — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW