Selling food to restaurants can be a hard market to get in.
Restaurant sales in Canada have grown significantly in the last 25 years. Finally, locally-sourced food has found a growing market within the restaurant business. Restaurants want to stay current by being able to source fresh, local ingredients to add to their menu, which is notable for local food suppliers and for diners.
The question now is how, as a local food producer, how do I start selling food to restaurants?
It never hurts to do some research. Look up restaurants near you and look at their menus. Do you produce the type of food they sell? Do you think your product would be a good fit with their style of food? Create a list of all possible candidates. This allows you to have insight on who is available for possible relationships.
Attend food festivals
Local food festivals are a great platform for local vendors, restaurants and food suppliers to meet and share their love for food. Visit different stands that could showcase your products and make connections with the chefs. This allows you to taste food and meet who’s behind it to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
Use social media
Social media is a leading tool in marketing for all businesses. Many restaurants use their social media to show off their food, show new items on the menu and try to reach new customers. Use the explore page or search restaurants near you to see what they’re serving up. There are also an infinite number of Facebook groups available. Find a specific group that is applicable to your business. This often a great place to make connections with local restaurants that are looking for new products.
Follow food blogs
Many chefs are interviewed by food writers to showcase their restaurants. Interviews often display the philosophy behind the menu and what types of food that are frequent to their restaurant. This allows you to determine if local is important to them and whether they could be a possible buyer.
Word of mouth
Ask around to non-competing food suppliers near you which restaurants they supply to. This will give you insight on which restaurants buy from local food suppliers. Having a connection will also allow you to have a foot in the door when connecting with chefs for possible purchase.
Have a meal and ask
Attend the restaurant of a possible buyer and ask questions about their menu. What is your vision for your menu? Is sourcing local food important to you? Is there any food you are missing from the menu? What are they missing and what do they want to improve?