For many farmers who have already attained a reasonable level of productivity on their farms, selling crops to restaurants would seem like a logical business move. Restaurants consume a lot of fresh produce on a daily basis, and being tasked to fill that need could easily multiply your earnings as a farmer. But as with most things in the world of farming, selling crops to restaurants isn’t as simple as it may seem. It might even be more complicated than selling crops at the farmers’ market. So, before making your move, ask yourself the following questions.
Do you have enough resources to cover their needs?
Perhaps the most obvious—and most important—consideration of all is whether or not your farm has enough resources to produce the volume of crops needed by the restaurant you’re approaching. The safest route to take here is to scope restaurants whose size matches your farm’s capacity. Try to evaluate your production figures objectively so you have a clear picture of how much you can deliver. Taking on a project that demands more than what you can comfortably produce isn’t always a great idea, especially if it’s your first time selling direct to restaurants.
Do you have enough time for selling crops to restaurants?
Direct selling newbies are prone to thinking that as long as they can produce the products needed by a certain restaurant, then they’ll do just fine. Many farmers tend to underestimate the time it takes to connect and communicate with the chefs and restaurant owners, as well as time you need to accomplish all of the other steps between the proposal period and the actual sales. There’s order processing, invoicing, delivery, and even post-sale tasks like gathering feedback.
With that said, if your farm’s day-to-day needs are already taking up a lot of your time, you might have to hire someone to take care of restaurant sales.
Can you guarantee consistent production?
It’s not enough to provide the volume of produce needed by your target restaurant. When it comes to businesses that rely so much on fresh ingredients, consistency is just as important as quantity and quality. Restaurant owners need to know that they can count on you throughout the course of your agreement.
Similar to how you only want to enter projects that you can comfortably cover quantity-wise, it’s crucial that you keep up with the agreed-upon requirements week after week. Being inconsistent, even just once, is the fastest way to lose business opportunities.
Can you forecast accurately?
Many chefs anticipate the delivery of seasonal crops for special menu offerings. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to offer dishes that are available only for a limited time as some sort of a promotion, so you’ll definitely earn brownie points if you can accurately forecast the volume of seasonal crops that you can deliver.