Most specialty food crop growers consider restaurant chefs to be one of their most profitable markets. Chefs need fresh, high quality vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and other food products and are willing to pay top dollar if it’s fresh and local.
Communication is the key to successful restaurant sales. Growers need to tell chefs well in advance what they have, or expect to harvest, how much it costs and the quantities they can supply.
Chefs expect frequent deliveries, often 2-3 times a week, and count on their suppliers to show up on time with the quantity and quality promised. As one grower said, “Surprises are for birthday parties.” You may have to fit the deliveries to the restaurant’s schedule, showing up before 10 a.m. or in mid-afternoon, when they are less busy.
Ask the chef you work with what they prefer in quantities, varieties, post-harvest preference and how they prefer to place orders. Some chefs like to phone, so they can check what’s available, others prefer to email or text message their orders. In the beginning, discuss payment terms with the responsible person at the restaurant. You may deliver a bill with each order, but most restaurants prefer to pay every 2 weeks or monthly. If you’re just getting started and cash flow is a problem, explain that to the chef or restaurant owner. Most are understanding and will pay on delivery to help out.
If you can deliver fresh, high quality products produced locally, restaurant chefs could be an ideal market for you. They use large quantities of produce, and appreciate growers who take pride in what they grow. A great way to introduce yourself is to stop by with free samples, but be sure to arrive during the non-peak hours.