The locally owned restaurants in Los Angeles are among the small businesses that employ at least 7.1 million people in California. That’s 48.8% — nearly half — of the state’s private workforce. When business leaders support these local restaurants, LA’s people, industries, economy, and culture flourish.
When you funnel finances and resources into local restaurants, you’re supporting a major backbone of the local economy and the people who surround you. It’s an industry that supported my own family’s beginnings in this country and this city: My aunt was an immigrant from Taiwan who ran several Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, and my grandmother also owned a restaurant that my mom worked at when she moved to LA.
Restauranteurs rely on working-class positions — from dishwashers and hosts to servers and prep cooks — to open their businesses every day. That’s a huge segment of the working population. Because these employees shop locally, supporting the restaurants that employ them means returning money to the same community. According to the Home Sweet Home: Pros’ Edition study, business-to-business purchases made at local companies more than doubled the money in the local economy versus at national chains.
The Social Payoff of Eating Local
In addition to the economic benefits, there’s also a social and cultural payoff. Immigrant populations, like my aunt and my grandmother, fill the majority of restaurant jobs. Because California has more foreign-born residents than any other state in the U.S., supporting local establishments contributes to a thriving ethnic immigrant population while leveraging an even more inclusive workforce. Today and throughout the city’s history, a vital community of immigrants contribute more than their share to LA’s economic health and cultural diversity.
When a city supports its local restaurants, those establishments become more profitable. This allows them to expand, increase staff, and build their core business. Additionally, restaurants can then explore sharing their flavors outside of LA through franchising or other opportunities. We’ve seen this effect when we partner with local restaurants.
The Local-Economy Ripple Effect
All of this creates a ripple effect. When a local restaurant sees an uptick in business, it’s inevitable that their own suppliers will see an increase in profitability as well. This is especially important for the local restaurant that sources food and supplies locally — which many can do thanks to shorter processing times and more unique products.
Local farmers can anticipate more orders, local dairy producers will see more business volume, and local meat purveyors can expect to provide more deliveries. Restaurant owners then feel pride for their local providers and know they’re supporting local as well. At Chewse, we work to make sure every local has a seat at the table through our Chewse to Give program, donating the untouched leftovers sourced from local restaurants back to the community.
Beyond the economy, however, eating local also enriches LA’s unique regional flavors and history. The traditional flavors brought by immigrants from Mexican and myriad East Asian and South Pacific cultures have shaped the city’s iconic foodways; local restaurants like our partner Little Fatty & Accomplice Bar bring their own flair to this traditional cuisine. Eating these foods means their flavors and traditions can be passed on to future generations.
3 Ways to Eat Local in Los Angeles
Calling on local restaurants bolsters LA’s economy and preserves its history. Here are three ways you can eat local in LA:
1. Break local bread with colleagues and clients. Eating together is a popular and effective team-building activity and a prime opportunity to engage local restaurants. Whether you use them as a venue for company events or to cater in-house meetings and celebrations, staying local makes the experience more meaningful.
2. Find a knowledgeable guide. There are tons of stellar restaurants where you work or live that are flying just under your radar. Call on a service that will help you explore the local tastes and flavors of a restaurant you may been overlooking. For example, we’ve partnered with Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery and Baby Blues BBQ and turned new diners on to their unique flavors. Catering services that call on local restaurants become a marketing platform for up-and-comers seeking to reach new customers.
3. Generate buzz. When ordering from a local restaurant, let everyone know about it. When you share the experience on your company’s social channels, you help the restaurant generate the buzz and attention they need in order to bring in new customers. Employees can quickly share the photos and reviews that help elevate a restaurant’s profile on services like Yelp and Google.
My family’s work in the local restaurant industry showed me firsthand exactly how eating locally helps restaurants serve food rich with their own histories and stories. The success of so many distinct restaurants shows that supporting them also bolsters LA’s economy, keeping the city vibrant, healthy, and diverse.
Tracy Lawrence is the founder and CEO of Chewse, a service that delivers family-style meals to offices from the best local restaurants. Her vision is to transform transactional drop-off delivery into an inclusive meal experience that also gives back through meal donations. Chewse operates in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Silicon Valley, California; Chicago; and Austin, Texas. She has raised $30 million for her company and feeds thousands daily. Tracy also mentors female founders in technology, working to fulfill her personal mission of building a more authentically connected world based on vulnerability as a leadership philosophy.