How Yorkshire farmers are breaking into the out-of-home market

A pioneering project that aims to get hospitality businesses of all kinds selling local food is being trialled in Yorkshire.

The initiative, a collaboration between NFU North East and the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Hospitality Forum, was launched at a roundtable discussion in May.

It follows the publication of the NFU’s Food, Farming and Hospitality report earlier this year (see panel), which showed how the public had favourable perceptions of the use of British and local food in the hospitality sector.

The Yorkshire project is the first of its kind in the country and has ambitions to shorten supply chains for the benefit of the agriculture and hospitality industries.

See also: Foodie Farms: A celebration of the best of British food

Rachel Hallos, NFU North East’s regional chairman, told Farmers Weekly the end game was to “reconnect people with food”.

“It’s something there is a lot of passion for here in Yorkshire,” she said.

“If we can spark an interest in food and where it comes from, it gives a real sense of belonging, community, and support in the area.

“We’re a big county. We’ve got just about every single food you could possibly think of. Gorgeous strawberries to hill lamb – we’ve got it.”


The hospitality sector has for years now struggled to attract workers, and more recently has been hit by the challenges associated with the cost-of-living crisis, as well as soaring input cost inflation.

Philip Bolson, chairman of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Hospitality Forum, explained that the industry was also grappling with a heavy tax burden.

But he is still keen to make sure the project targets hospitality businesses selling at all price points.

“People talk about Michelin stars and that’s great, but the majority of hospitality isn’t that,” he said.

“It’s your bars, your restaurants, your cafés, your burger vans on the A1. That’s going to be the challenge – and the opportunity – to get in front of that lot and say, ‘have you thought about this?’.

“Their first response will be, ‘it’s too expensive’, and the second one might be, ‘where do I go?’. It’s a challenge, but it needs to be done.”

Mrs Hallos agreed. “There is no reason why people who are spending less money in takeaways shouldn’t have the quality product,” she said.

“We need to do it for every single price point. We can’t turn our back on the people that have got to think more carefully about how they spend their money. We’ve got to respect that not everybody can make the same choices.”


The idea of bringing the hospitality and farming industries together was the brainchild of NFU president Minette Batters, who is, in addition to being a farmer, a qualified chef and a wedding venue owner.

“This, for me, is really important, because we have been talking about self-sufficiency and food security for a very long time,” Mrs Batters said.  

“The out-of-home market is 50%, effectively, of the value of the food market. Our members tend to focus all of their attention on retail, but the out-of-home market matters just as much.

“Actually, the negative impact of trade deals will be felt first of all in the out-of-home market. Ministers talk about the importance of labelling, but it means nothing at all in this market.

“This has been a long piece of policy work for us, in considering how we make sure we get more British food on more British plates in the out-of-home market.”

Early stages

While the project is still in the preliminary stages, the plan is to roll out a programme over the winter, when business owners are starting to think about the changes they can make in the new year.

“Step one is to get people round the table,” said Mr Bolson.

“We need to get those businesses, suppliers and maybe the middlemen, whoever they are, together and figure out how this works.”

And while the Yorkshire project is still in its infancy, there is hope that, if successful, it can be replicated elsewhere in the country. “It’s what happens next that counts,” said Mrs Hallos.

Wagyu beef is for everyone

Tom Richardson, managing director of Yorkshire-based Warrendale Wagyu, which works in partnership with more than 500 farmers across the UK, spoke at the Great Yorkshire Show about how the business was catering for everyone.

“We’ve been successful over time in catering for all markets, whether it’s Michelin star restaurants or local pubs around Yorkshire,” he said.

“We’ve got the ability to balance our carcass through being really targeted with different cuts and being customer-focused – giving people what they want.

“Key to that has been really consistent supply, so we’ve got the volume of product to offer so they can always keep things on their menus, and also consistent quality.”

Public support for British out-of-home food

Despite the cost of living crisis, research published in the NFU report found that 87% of out-of-home consumers want to support British food production and believe local food sourcing is the most important element of sustainability when eating out.

NFU regional director David Hall suggested the Yorkshire initiative would help in this regard, supporting businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Through its drive to reach net zero by 2040, farming has the potential to make a huge contribution to the efforts of the hospitality sector to become more carbon friendly,” he said.

“In return, creating demand for more home-grown produce could help small family farms and horticultural growers develop a local market for their produce and boost their income at a time when many are struggling to cope with soaring prices.”

Transparency on the sourcing of food was also considered “very” or “somewhat important” by those surveyed as part of the NFU research.

The report went on to suggest that, by stocking locally produced food, businesses would be able to stand out from the competition and appeal to customers, with more than half of consumers willing to pay extra for meals where the main ingredient was British and where the origin of the product was promoted.