Presented by Michelle Akindiya
Farmshare Austin Education Manager
Is the restaurant market a right fit for your farm?
- Good source of income that can
complement Farmer’s Market or CSA
sales. Often can get a premium price on
- Can grown a lot of value in small space -
think baby veg, herbs, edible flowers,
- Great for urban farmers
- Sometimes will also buy seconds at lower
price that can otherwise be hard to sell
- Personalities - chefs can be finicky and
- Don’t grow a large quantity of something
for one person unless you have a very
- Leg work to get customers
- Often will need to deliver
Two types of Restaurants that tend to purchase locally:
High End, Low Volume
- Very fancy, small restaurants with a high
- No set menu, chef will often make it up after
they see what farmer’s have for the week
- Will often shop directly at the farmer’s
- Will pay close to retail price - maybe just a
20% discount if that
- Difficult to get them to tell you what they
want you to grow. They want to be inspired!
Larger, High Volume
- Larger restaurants with set menu.
- May purchase items that are on the menu
all the time or may have seasonally
- Often appeal to a wider audience and use
more common veggies
- Will purchase higher volumes at lower
prices - probably 50% of retail price.
- You will have to deliver. They may want
deliveries a couple times a week.
Resources to find chefs that buy local
Local Harvest www.localharvest.org has some restaurant listings.
Slow Food USA https://www.slowfoodusa.org/ Get in touch with your local chapter.
Edible magazines - find the one closest to you at http://www.ediblecommunities.com
This is a trade organization for
chefs with chapters all over the
Try contacting the chapter closest
to you and see if you can present
about your farm and/or give out
samples at one of their meetings.
- Farmer’s Markets can be good places to meet chefs, but you will need to do a fair
amount of leg work and follow up to build and maintain relationships.
- You need to have an online presence - Website, facebook, instagram. You need a logo
and business cards. You want to be easy to find and contact.
- Take samples to chefs you are trying to court.
- Go eat at the restaurants! See the menu and get an idea of how your produce could fit
into their operation.
- Invite chefs and their staff to your farm. Let them try the products straight from the
Orders - Communication & Consistency
- Choose a consistent time to send out your weekly availability list. Include
photos! E-mail is best, but some chefs prefer text. Ask their preference.
- Monday mornings are usually good time to send out availability. Thursdays
are often a good day for delivery.
- Set an order deadline and minimum order or delivery charge.
- Let the chef know a week or two out when you anticipate a new crop coming
- If you cannot supply the chef’s needs, let them know ASAP so they can find
other sourcing. Do not leave it to the last minute. This is especially
important if you have a regular order with them.
Often farmers will take a base percentage off of their retail price to set a
wholesale price - usually 20 - 30%.
Do ask for feedback on pricing and be willing to negotiate, but beware of
undercutting yourself. Make sure you are making money by developing
enterprise budgets for your different crops.
Consider charging retail for small quantities and giveing price breaks for a case
or larger quantities.
It is better to start high and bring down a price than start too low and try to raise
- Schedule a time to meet with the chef/buyer when you are working on your crop plan.
- Bring a harvest calendar - don’t assume that chefs understand the seasons,
especially in the south.
- Have some ideas about what you would like to grow in the coming season, but also
ask the chef what they would like. What do they have a hard time sourcing that you
could grow? What do they use all the time and what might they want for seasonal
- Find out exactly what they prefer - size, variety, color etc. - If they say carrot - how
big? With or without greens? Just orange or rainbow?
- Find out how much they would use of each crop per week. Set up your succession
planting accordingly. Plan an extra 25% just in case.
Think about how restaurant orders will fit in to the rhythm of your weekly
- What days are best for your farm as a whole to harvest for chefs? Do you
need to balance out harvest timing with harvest for other market channels?
- What days can you deliver? Ideally you create a loop where you deliver all
the orders in one go to save on time & gas.
- Can you streamline with other tasks? Can you get the chef to pick up at a
market or CSA drop? Can the chef host a CSA drop?
Also consider the flow of the seasons. Are you overloaded at a given time? Will
you need to hire seasonal help?
- How much can you deliver at one time?
- Do you need to invest in a delivery truck
or hire a delivery driver?
- What is the capacity of your cold
storage? Can you harvest the day before
and deliver the next day?
Set up terms before the first delivery.
- Will they give you a check upon delivery or will they mail it?
- Do they prefer to pay by credit card? Do you accept credit cards?
- Is there a different contact for accounting than there is for ordering?
- Have a way to keep track of open invoices. Quickbooks or other invoicing
apps are out there to help you make sure you get paid and track sales.
- Consider making an info sheet with the story of your farm and what you
grow for the restaurant that they can display in the restaurant or use for their
marketing, like a one page press release with photos of your farm.
- Introduce yourself to the front of house staff. Tell them your story and info
about your products the restaurant is featuring. They will talk up your farm
to their guests.
- Share your social media handles with the restaurants and get theirs. Be sure
to follow them and tag them in relevant posts. The more you tag popular
sites, the more new followers you can find. Free advertising!