“Locally sourced” claims from a Florida restaurant chain triggered a complaint from the state’s attorney general, who alleged the defendant actually purchased its ingredients from a national food distributor.
Icebox Café ran afoul of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by claiming that its “farm-to-table” restaurants serve food products that are “locally sourced” and “sustainable,” Attorney General Pam Bondi alleged, despite evidence to the contrary. Other claims included fish touted as “wild salmon” and the sale of “Garden-to-Glass” and “Farm-to-Bar” cocktails that were purportedly made with ingredients picked in a local garden.
In reality, the food sold at the Miami Beach restaurant and airport locations was provided by SYSCO, a national food distributor, the AG said. “Defendants’ marketing and other claims create the false impression that most, if not all, of Defendants’ menu items are made with locally-sourced or sustainable products, when in fact just a small fraction of the food products they use are locally-sourced or sustainable products,” according to the Florida state court complaint.
The defendant’s deception was an attempt to capitalize on the rising consumer demand for locally sourced and sustainable products, the AG alleged, a lucrative proposition as such products are typically more expensive, and consumers are willing to pay more for local and sustainable food.
“Defendants’ menus and marketing systematically and routinely use the terms community, farm-to-table, fresh or gardens to describe their establishments and food to create the impression that their menu items are made with locally-sourced or sustainable products,” according to the complaint.
Despite these marketing claims, the AG said invoices for the same time period reflect that the defendant purchased food products primarily from commercial distributors and that almost none of the products were sourced from local farms or distributors.
“Rather than providing a ‘farm-to-table’ concept in which Defendants offer menu items with locally-sourced or sustainable products, just a small fraction of the food products purchased by Defendants are locally-sourced or sustainable,” the complaint stated.
The AG requested injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, civil penalties and attorney’s fees and costs in the action.
To read the complaint in Office of the Attorney General, State of Florida v. Icebox Café, click here.
Why it matters: “Many Floridians want to know where and how their food was grown, and we will not stand for any restaurant misrepresenting the origin of the produce they sell to deceive customers seeking locally-sourced, fresh food,” AG Pam Bondi said in a statement about the case, noting that her office is investigating the business practices of other self-described farm-to-table restaurants across the state for deceptive claims.