As The Birmingham Post continues in its campaign urging more restaurants to serve local produce, Sarah Probert looks at a Birmingham theatre which is enjoying an enhanced reputation for its fine food...
It is easy to see how customer numbers at the restaurant at Birmingham's Hippodrome theatre have risen by 30 per cent since it launched a new food initiative a year ago.
Diners can experience the juiciest olives grown in Shropshire, delicious desserts from Herefordshire, and sausages from Hall Green, Birmingham.
It was 12 months ago that the theatre decided to take its catering in-house and focus on buying food which had been produced in the West Midlands.
The results it achieved were beyond all expectations, with the theatre not only finding local sourcing significantly cheaper but also seeing an increase in customers.
"We saw a 30 per cent rise in diners and we found a lot of people coming back for more. Also we were able to offer a slightly lower price than previously. It has proved to be extremely successful," Judith Cartwright, hospitality and events manager, said.
"Before we had a large catering company so it was more expensive because we were going through a third party. Now we don't pay so much so we can pass that on to the customer, so they are getting a good range of food of good quality at a better price."
The theatre linked up with Heart of England Fine Foods, an organisation set up to promote local produce, to build up a list of suppliers and producers who have since built up a relationship with chef Donald Deans.
From three-course bistrostyle menus to fine dining a la carte, the main restaurant aims to cater for a diverse range of audiences and is often tailored to the theatre's performances.
It now uses sausages from Lashfords in Hall Green, vegetables from Flights Orchard Organics in Ledbury, Herefordshire, cheese from Malvern Cheesewrights in the Malvern Hills, and cured ham and bacon from Dukeshill Farm in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. "We wanted to use local produce, support the local producers and use food produced as environmentally friendly as possible.
"Where possible we use organics and we felt that traceabilty was very important. We need to support the people around us in the same way they can support us.
"The quality of the produce means the chef doesn't have to worry about creating a nice meal or dessert," Ms Cartwright added.
"It seemed to be an obvious thing to do. I suppose it depends on the ethos the restaurant is trying to create.
"Perhaps more ethnicbased restaurants might not have the option but we are trying to produce British food with a continental slant and this is probably the best way to do it."