Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant and being able to purchase food items for your home made by local creators that you had never heard of before, or could only get at your seasonal farmer’s market. How would you feel about a restaurant offering chef-inspired dishes designed to support local food innovators, all while inspiring your palette so that you can recreate them in your home kitchen? It was an idea gaining traction in some of the marketing-savviest of restaurants before Covid hit in 2020 and one that may have saved several others who were able to pivot quickly over the last year. It may now become one of the best local food trends, and it may be here to stay.
Right before Covid stomped on the momentum, farm-to-table and eat-local inspired chef tasting menus using unique and sometimes locally sourced ingredients had been picking up speed across Long Island restaurants like Paw Paw Pop Up in Greenport and Trattoria in St James. As soon as total shutdowns began to ease and Long Island restaurants had to get creative, the competitive, innovative outdoor dining niche was born. Any experience-based loving foodie could feel the excitement ahead and hoped that this trend would evolve across the island, long past a full reopening. But the idea that really caught our attention and got us pumped for the future was the concept of restaurant markets like Tullulah’s Tiny Market in Bay Shore and Pentimento Restaurant and Market in Stony Brook Village. Some were savvy (and lucky) enough to have had this vision long before Covid hit and did not need to do much to pivot.
As digital marketers, we always admired spots like Noamar on Deer Park Ave in Babylon. We would sit there, grab a bite, and marvel over how much they “really got it.” Their eye-catching website and beautiful images on Instagram have been seamlessly blending with their recipes, in-store classes, table service, great food, and their market items for a few years now. However, like others in the industry, their market mostly focused on bringing hard-to-find or inaccessible foreign products in their niche directly to the consumer. As a small business ourselves and marketers of small businesses on Long Island, we couldn’t help but see the opportunity for local independent restaurants and small start-up food brands to partner up. We thought it would be a great way for restaurants to brand themselves as supporters of other local small businesses while giving struggling small food start-ups a new creative avenue to connect directly with the community. With our minds typically on the survival of new small food brands, this concept becoming a means of survival for restaurants was more than we could have imagined.
Innovative Food Brands
Some Long Islanders might be surprised to learn just how many innovative small food brands are born nearby. Up until Covid hit, many were spawned out of grants from local food incubators such as Long Island Food Council member Sprout Box with help from a LIFC partnership with MTRC (Manufacturing and Technology Resource Consortium). Moving on from home kitchens and the like, these Long Island food makers would spend their days working tirelessly while hoping for their big-break deal in grocery stores. Some were accessible to the public only at seasonal farmer’s markets, many remaining unknown, too often closing before ever making it into consumer hands beyond their own friends and family network. As a member of the Long Island Food Council wanting to help other members grow their online presence, we saw all too often how real the struggle was for new and small food brands to get ahead. Many could not afford, neither time nor money-wise, to create or manage their own online stores, let alone the logistics and marketing efforts required to offer their products directly to consumers.
Responding To COVID-19
Before the pandemic, we were brainstorming with LIFC for ways to help Long Island brands reach the local community more easily. As Covid thrust everyone outside of the box and into eCommerce, we really saw the value of an online marketplace hub for LIFC members. Our goal was to help facilitate many of the concepts above and give member brands a way to reach far beyond the Long Island region. As our marketplace presence grows, enabling more brands to jump on board, and as restaurants and local markets partner up, food lovers near or far will be able to find, taste, buy, and receive from an exciting menu of items by innovative Long Island region food makers whom they can support with the click of a button.
Check out the great items on the LIFC Online Marketplace, sign up for the newsletter, and plan to revisit often throughout the year as exciting updates and brand add-ons are made.
Long Island Food Council
The Long Island Food Council was created to bring people together and to create collaboration amongst food, beverage, and service professionals in the region. As advocates for the Long Island Food and Beverage industry, the LIFC is an information hub and a catalyst for networking and is committed to offering meaningful benefits and resources to grow and run a profitable business. If you are a maker of any kind in the food and beverage space and would like to learn more about how the LIFC can help you succeed, view LIFC membership options and reach out anytime for support.
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Jane Rudes is the CoFounder of TunedUp Media and brings a 20+year background in communication strategy and content development to the agency. She is often called upon both professionally and personally for her ability to analyze and optimize situations that require advanced interpersonal understanding, intuitive strategic planning, and precision of expression.
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