Tips: Selling Your Produce Directly to Restaurants and Chefs

Sometimes all we need to know are the basics to get going. I found this article in Johnny’s Select Seeds, March 2011, newsletter to be one of those little gems that plants a seed in our minds and inspires us towards directions we might not have considered otherwise.

Like many, I find the local and slow foods movements to be right up my alley. It’s so much more fun to shop for fresh produce from people you know and live near… not to mention keeping more of the money within the local economy. Those who are getting started in selling to local restaurants or chefs this year may find these words encouraging and helpful…

Sell Directly to Restaurants and Chefs

Thanks to the popularity of local food, many restaurants are eager to buy directly from farmers. That’s been true with high-end restaurants for many years, but now all kinds of restaurants want to brag about their local food connections. Here’s some advice about selling to chefs.  Tips: Selling Your Produce Directly to Restaurants and Chefs | Sacred Habitats

In restaurants with static menus, you may be able to suggest places where your produce could substitute for the wholesaler’s. Be aware, though, that some items are used in such large volume that the restaurant needs to buy from the cheapest source to contain costs. If you don’t want to be the cheapest source, you might try to supply a lower-volume specialty item.

Restaurants with seasonal menus are a better choice for many growers because those chefs can find a good use for just about anything you grow. The more creative the chef, the more likely he or she is to buy local.

If possible, meet with the chef before you plant to determine varieties and quantities. Take your Johnny’s catalog along to show the possibilities. Most chefs won’t commit to buying a specific item, but will provide guidance that will help you determine if you want to grow something special.

Price your food fairly from the start. Base your prices on your costs of production and on market prices. Don’t offer it too cheaply in the hope you can raise prices later; it’s always hard to raise prices, but easy to lower them.

Ask for what you think your produce is worth, which may be significantly higher than the wholesaler. Point out the advantages of buying from you, such as longer shelf life and less waste, so the chef can justify paying more.

Work out a payment agreement in advance. Some restaurants write you a check when you deliver, and others pay 30 days later. Ask what the arrangement will be and, if it’s acceptable to you, write it on every invoice.

Expect to be part of the restaurant’s marketing efforts. You may be asked to provide photos, a copy of your logo, and information about your farm. So be prepared with your best marketing materials, because you may end up being featured prominently.

Johnny’s is one of my favorite places to buy seeds. I think I discovered them in 1987 and have been quite pleased with their professional, friendly and educated service all these years. You can check out their online seed catalog here.

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