Selling Directly to Restaurants
Posted: May 16, 2012
Some restaurants, especially locally-owned ones, want to feature dishes and menus that use local produce. This presents a good marketing opportunity for farmers to sell to them directly.
Chefs value fresh, high-quality products.
- Expect small order size and frequent delivery.
- Chefs value top-quality produce.
- It's important to provide the buyer with a weekly availability list.
- Chefs may require a consistent supply of particular items.
Tips for Direct Sales to Restaurants
- Be consistent. Chefs expect a product will be delivered if they put it on the menu.
- Build a relationship with the entire staff. Chefs move frequently.
- Chefs are on a tight schedule and generally require deliveries when they're not busy, such as before 10 a.m. or between 2 and 5 p.m.
- Introduce new products by dropping off free samples with your regular deliveries.
- Fax or e-mail a list of available products for the chef to order from.
- Use the chefs as your best source of market information. They may know what the next big thing is before you do.
- Know how the chef is using your product and be prepared to talk about other ways to use it.
- In the autumn, ask the chefs what products they want you to grow next season.
- Ask about each restaurant's needs: pack, size, variety, post-harvest preferences, new items, and how they would like to place orders (by fax, text message, phone, e-mail).
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
- How far in advance do the chefs need to see an accurate schedule of product availability in order to allow them to plan their menus?
- What restaurants are the best fit for my product profile? Ethnic? High-end gourmet? Specialty bakeries?
- What production, handling, storage, and delivery methods will I use to ensure the freshest and highest quality products to high-end chefs? Highlight these in outreach to chefs.
- How frequently and quickly am I able to deliver to restaurants? What are the chef 's expectations about this?
- How do the restaurants want to communicate with me? Cell phone, text message, e-mail, fax?
Resources for Selling to Grocery Stores and Restaurants
- Advertised prices of last week's produce nationwide and by region -- www.marketnews.usda.gov/portal/fv
- Chefs Collaborative network --www.chefscollaborative.org
- Lookup prices (PLUs). A complete list is online -- www.plucodes.com
- Selling to Restaurants is an ATTRA publication that details how to successfully deal with chefs -- attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=266
- Selling Directly to Restaurants & Grocery Stores is a Small Farm Handbook from the Washington State Department of Agriculture -- http://agr.wa. gov/Marketing/SmallFarm/DOCS/3-selling DirectlyToRestaurantsAndGroceryStores.pdf
- Selling Produce to Restaurants: Marketing Guide for Small Acreage Growers by Diane Green, a farmer who has been selling herbs, flowers and produce to restaurants for over a decade. Book sales benefit Rural Roots, an Idaho nonprofit working to enhance local food networks -- www.greentreenaturals.com