Working with restaurants as a small-scale farmer can be a mutually beneficial partnership that allows you to sell your produce while providing restaurants with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Here are steps to help you connect with restaurants in your area:
Identify Target Restaurants
The first step in your journey to wholesaling to restaurants will be to determine your ideal customers. Look for restaurants that prioritize locally sourced ingredients. Restaurants that are heavily involved in community life and events would also make for good prospects. Most importantly, make sure that you find restaurants you are able to supply their necessary ingredients. For example, if you primarily produce eggs, make sure not to inquire to a vegan restaurant!
Understand Their Needs
Once you have found a few good prospects, it’s time to take the next step and really get to know them. Every restaurant operates a little differently, with some opting for a seasonally-based menu and others keeping their offerings year-round. They may also have specific needs related to how the products are produced – for example, they may require soy-free eggs or only organic certified produce.
Develop a Strong Product Offering
To establish yourself as a trusted supplier, it is important to make sure you have high quality standards for your offerings. They should be consistent in terms of freshness, taste, and appearance. Ensuring this high level of quality will make you a favorite supplier!
Comply with Local Laws and Regulations
Get to know your local food safety regulations and necessary certification. Every location is slightly different, so make sure you do thorough research.
If you need to be certified organic or non-GMO for the purposes of a specific restaurant, make sure that is all in order before offering your products!
Create a Pricing Structure
In order to make your wholesale business successful, fair and competitive pricing is absolutely necessary. The USDA offers pricing information that they regularly update, which could be helpful to you in creating your pricing. Don’t forget to include production, labor, materials, and overhead costs in your calculations.
Check out our blog How to Price Your Eggs to Sell in 2023 for more information!
Prepare a Professional Presentation
Create a professional presentation that includes information about your farm, your products, and your commitment to sustainability. Include high-quality photos of your farm and products. If a restaurant becomes interested in working for you, your presentation will already be ready to go!
Attend local food-related events, farmers’ markets, or culinary festivals to network with chefs and restaurant owners. Personal connections can be invaluable in building business relationships.
Cold Calling & Emailing
Connect with restaurants via phone or email to introduce yourself and your farm. Be concise and clear about what items or services you’re offering. Be sure to mention any unique selling points, such as high quality or sustainable practices.
Sample Your Products
Another good way to get in front of potential buyers is to sample your products. After all, they won’t know how good your offering is until they can see and taste it for themselves! Don’t just target the restaurant owner or manager, make sure the chefs get a taste as well.
Collaborate on Menu Ideas
Maintain open communication with the partners you work with, and be open to flexibility with your offerings. If you have an extra yield of a unique item, bring it to their attention, as they may have an idea for a dish. This kind of openness is greatly appreciated by many restaurant owners and employees.
Delivery and Distribution
Make sure you are able to reliably transport your goods to the restaurant. It is also important to have the right packaging materials to maintain freshness on the journey. Being punctual to your delivery appointments goes a long way!
Communication and Feedback
Maintain open communication with your restaurant partners. Periodically ask for feedback on your products and services to continue improving your offerings.
Contracts and Agreements
When an agreement is reached, formalize the arrangement with a contract that outlines the terms, pricing, delivery schedule, and any other important details that are necessary.
Market Your Collaboration
Once you are well-established in your relationship(s) with restaurant(s), don’t forget to advertise about it! Post on social media, your website, and other digital tools you may have to let people know what restaurants they can try your products at. Additionally, the restaurants will appreciate the free marketing!
Remember that building relationships with restaurants can take time and persistence. It’s important to be patient as you work to establish yourself as a trusted supplier. Additionally, staying up-to-date with restaurant trends and evolving your product offerings to meet changing demands can help you maintain successful partnerships with restaurants.