Purchasing power is an advantage chains have long enjoyed over smaller restaurants. Economies of scale and forward-looking contracts generally minimize volatile price swings for larger operators. But as many smaller operations are proving, food cost and menu pricing can be improved by buying locally and seasonally. Even with the challenge of creating Yucatan-inspired foods at his Louisville, Ky., restaurant, Mayan Café, chef/co-owner Bruce Ucan draws on local ingredients for nearly 80 ...

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