Five things that contribute to a food-forward town

By Jordan Knox

When I left the city of Calgary for the small town of Kimberley, B.C., I expected that my days of going out for dinner would be limited to a few restaurants with limited selection.  When I arrived my experience was quite the opposite, and with further inspection I found that the town with a population of less than 7,000 boasts a total of 35 restaurants (or 148 people per restaurant).  This is significantly higher than both the cities of Montreal and Victoria, which have both claimed they featured the most restaurants per capita in the past.  So why does this relatively small town have so many dining options, and what makes it a food-forward town?

Believe it or not, the restaurant community of Kimberley has made an effort to respect their competitors and differentiate their offerings, each appealing to a separate niche in the market.  The Heartbeet Bistro caters to the local vegan traffic as well as anyone interested in a great gastronomic experience. It also offers a completely different setting than the Pedal and Tap, which has an innovative and original menu and unique atmosphere that was featured in an episode of the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. Nearby sits the Stone Fire Grill, where guests can find flat bread pizza prepared to true Neapolitan specifications, complete with San Marzano tomatoes. On a sunny afternoon, it is great to sit out on the patio at the Burrito Grill while enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine. What all of these restaurants have in common is that they are not common; each has its unique draw that would do well in any larger market.

With all food-forward towns, there is somewhat of a dependence on tourism to drive business, and Kimberley is no different. In the winter season, the Kimberley Alpine Resort draws tourists from around the world for its large amounts of snow and excellent grooming conditions.  During the summer, the focus changes to the three golf courses within the town, including the award-winning Trickle Creek Golf Course. Other outdoor activities such as hiking and biking help to supply the demand for the many food and beverage establishments.

Tourism alone cannot sustain all the businesses of Kimberley, so when the shoulder seasons arrive they rely a great deal on their local traffic as well as support from surrounding communities. Kimberley has the distinct geographic advantage of being a 20-minute drive from the city of Cranbrook, B.C., which is on a major international trucking route to the Canada-U.S. border. The two communities share an airport which provides easy access for tourists and commuters to both areas.

The community support is only one part of the equation, as local government has recognized the unique opportunity they have to showcase local restaurants. Along with some of the local restaurant owners and managers, they have partnered to create a unified front in marketing Kimberley for its dining options on their own merit.

In addition to its restaurants, these small food-forward towns tend to have hidden gems like the local Kimberley Centex Market that has more local organic produce, dairy and meats than could be found in a typical city organic market. What looks like a small service center from the storefront carries some of the best local products: Gwinners Meats, a fourth-generation German butcher that produces the best bacon that I have ever tasted, and Steam Donkey Coffee, a local roaster that would not be out of place with an upscale barista in a large urban center, come to mind. If all that was not enough, this unique market is set to launch its own line of whole grain artisan breads.

With the global focus being placed back on local, organic and 100-mile sourcing, small towns like Kimberley have a distinct advantage over their larger city counterparts.  The access to fresh food makes for a more vibrant culinary and cuisine experience in food-forward towns.

Hoping you enjoy your next food destination.

About the author:

Jordan Knox works at Northland Properties and is a General Manager in training at Moxie’s in Vancouver, B.C.  With over 18 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Jordan has worked throughout North America and the Caribbean with industry-leading companies. He received his diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management from SAIT Polytechnic in 2000 and is a lifelong student of the food and beverage industry, always looking for what new trends are emerging.

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