How to Start Selling Food to Local RestaurantsDara Wechsler
Supplying food to restaurants and other foodservice establishments secures a solid and constant demand.
You can do a few things to start selling food to local restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Whether you carry fresh produce, microgreens, meat and poultry, seafood, sauces, or pastries, we’ll teach you a few simple strategies for a confident head start.
Why Should I Sell Food to Restaurants & Other Local Businesses?
- Profit from a Steady Market Demand: what’s better than knowing that a good deal of your food supply sells steadily? Most restaurants require pre-established, recurring orders, which means you get to make more accurate predictions on your product or food crop (sales forecasting).
- Get Local Recognition: sustainable and locally-grown (or locally-sourced) produce is in, and some restaurants love to market that to their customers. This means more people in your local community recognize your brand or farm, providing you with better opportunities to grow your clientele.
- Build Personal Relationships: whether you reach out to the chefs and businesses owners yourself or use an online wholesale platform to connect with restaurants in your region, you’re joining a new market segment. That translates to more opportunities to build lasting business relationships, secure quality contacts, and expand your brand.
It’s great and all, but how do you get started? Worry not, for we’re about to introduce you to five basic steps to help you supply into the foodservice market.
How Do I Start Selling Food to Restaurants?
1. Research The Local Market
You’ll have to do your research early on. Target and choose the businesses that match your brand vision and could therefore require your goods. Consider criteria such as:
- The type of cuisine (local, specialty) & menu specificity (vegan, vegetarian)
- Business size (startup, medium, large business, or extensive chain)
- Proximity to your business
- Brand image and reputation
Our most important tip is to start small and local: use existing contacts and exploit familiar segments before moving on to bigger or remote targets.
For one thing, local establishments might be more eager to respond, as restaurant owners and chefs typically pursue proximity with the supplier. Why? Among other reasons, proximity translates to quicker deliveries, reliable transportation, and fresher products.
Additionally, a small restaurant is more likely to consider forming relationships with new suppliers. Veteran businesses (large restaurants and extensive food chains) may, in contrast, be more rigid, sticking to already defined purchasing processes and suppliers.
That’s not to say that you should restrain your enthusiasm. On the contrary, if you strongly believe that your crop of product vision matches the needs of a high-end foodservice business (which is usually willing to pay more for fresh, local produce), it’s time to reach out with the right mindset!
2. Reach out With the Right Mindset
You’ve done your research, gathered up some matches, and listed out their contact information. It’s time to get the conversation going! Owners, inventory managers, head chefs – they’re very busy people. Therefore, you’ll want to show consideration towards their schedule by reaching out to them outside peak hours: perhaps between lunch and dinner rushes.
Be to the point and not overly persistent in your initial approach. You should clearly state why you’ve called and focus on the people showing a form of immediate interest in your product (slight as it may be). You’ll want to secure a meeting with the right people. Usually, it’s the restaurant’s chef or head cook that places orders with suppliers, so you’ll want to be precise, swift, and grab their attention with a focus on the relevance, specificity, and quality of your product.
3. Articulate Your Selling Points
Maybe you’ve found a niche or a thin gap in the market that your product can cover. Or perhaps you are highly confident in the premium quality of your ingredients (it could be that you source organically-grown produce at peak freshness). Drop the “it’s a pretty good X” mindset. Regardless of your selling points, be ready to articulate and market them to your prospective clients.
That is to say, prepare to sell your business story, too: convey why your products are better or fresher than your competitor’s—using your unique vision or brand identity. However, try to stray away from making exaggerated statements or false promises. At the end of the day, any client expects that you abide by the arrangements you have agreed upon.
4. Arrange for Meetings (and Include Samples!)
Even if you know how to articulate your selling points, it’s the actual taste and quality of your products that ultimately seals the deal, particularly when a chef is doing the sampling! Therefore, find an appropriate point in your communication to arrange for a tasting.
With samples, be tidy, bring fresh products, and care for packing and presentation. With new, limited availability products, provide chefs with the opportunity to taste, slice, and experiment with your goodies – some really love that sort of thing!
If you’re a wholesale produce supplier, write a simple fact sheet presenting the products and varieties you carry, how and where they’re grown, when they are available, and how much they usually cost.
Other aspects you should consider:
- Be sure to formulate a delivery schedule and set prices for your products in advance.
- Be neat, professional, and put effort into how you present yourself to prospective clients.
- Finally, secure only as many contracts as you can genuinely work with. It’s best to not risk drops in quality, lack of supply, or late deliveries, as such incidents can negatively impact your brand image.
5. Take The #Digital Way with Online Wholesale Marketplaces!
Although the benefits are significant, it seems (and it is) very hard to start supplying in the foodservice industry. Personally securing contacts and contracts with restaurants takes the kind of time and effort that most farmers or food suppliers can’t afford to spare.
It’s time to talk about a completely different approach. With CoVid-19, we are witnessing a rapidly growing B2B industry trend towards online ordering platforms. And it’s to be expected that such a trend is on the rise!
Using a platform like DineMarket to directly connect with local restaurants, cafeterias, cafes, and other eateries makes it significantly easier for suppliers to offer and sell their products, as the ordering process is fully digitalized, error-free, and equally profitable for both parties.
Digital Wholesale Marketplaces vs. In-House Sales Representative
Unless you’re already selling online, chances are you’re too busy to perform the above-mentioned steps all by yourself. Food suppliers hire professionals to reach out to prospective leads and convince them to purchase your services or products (i.e., acquiring new accounts) – in short, an in-house Sales Representative. It’s worth mentioning that the average salary for this job in the U.S. is somewhere within the $50-60k range.
Sales representatives play a huge role in maintaining customer relationships. On top of obtaining new customers, they offer a sense of security to your existing and prospective clients through a deep understanding of the market at large and their business needs in particular. Typically, clients can easily reach out to Sales Representatives for additional info regarding your goods (e.g., recommendations or information on the availability of some seasonal varieties for wholesale produce).
But here’s the amazing thing: digital wholesale marketplaces can make for the ideal Sales Representatives. In this case, the cost of acquisition is considerably cheaper, while all of the above benefits are checked with no additional resources spent on your part. By using a digital marketplace like DineMarket, your business becomes immediately visible to hundreds of local restaurants. Our platform also operates a customer support service to represent your brand, clarify details, answer inquiries, or fix potential issues.
Naturally, you may also keep an in-house sales representative for your offline operations, but the advantages to eCommerce platforms are enormous, as all the connection work is already done for you.
Final Thoughts on Supplying Food to Local Restaurants
If you’ve got some extra time and resources on your hands, try out both the traditional and digital approaches to figure out which one suits your business model best. Hybrid approaches are also fairly popular nowadays, as more and more F&B businesses try to enter the eCommerce market.
All in all, signing up on an online wholesale marketplace helps you overcome much of the stress and paperwork of personally reaching out to foodservice establishments. With a deep understanding of the restaurant industry, DineMarket can effectively and professionally represent your brand in front of our extensive restaurant network.