By Laura Gozney, co-founder of Gozney
When you’ve had a great idea for a high-quality product for the food industry and developed it, perhaps in your own kitchen, what next? How can you persuade a restaurant that this is a must-have and get your product sold?
Aim high! Go for the big names and large chains. A good place to start is businesses you feel have brand or culture alignment with your product. If you are a match, it’ll be hard to ignore you.
It can be more difficult to break into restaurant chains as they tend to work with long term trusted suppliers, so don’t be surprised if you need to diversify, working with distributors to sell your products to larger restaurant brands.
Target quality small independent establishments as well. These businesses can be very influential in the long run. Build a solid local reputation and it’ll help you take your business nationwide.
Use your network
Use your existing network, and avoid blanket networking events, particularly if your product only targets a particular type of food establishment. Getting a good name in the industry, through happy customers, is also essential as they’ll do the talking for you. We have reached out through social platforms to up and coming brands we feel are essential to work with. Look who you’re already connected to. If they’re the right fit, reach out to them.
Focus on the client
It’s essential to relate to the people as a human and a business owner. When talking to restaurants, it’s important to keep the focus on them. Don’t over-promise or pretend to be something you’re not. It’s important never to be too salesy, especially early on.
You should start by listening and gaining a sense of what the restaurant owner is looking for, and show how your product can provide the solution, or fulfil objectives in ways they may not have thought of. We really believe our products do the talking, so we often share places where you can find our products being used. We also invite people to meet the team and sample pizza from our ovens.
Remember to think like a restaurant owner e.g. when are their busiest times of the day? In other words, when would they least appreciate a call or drop in! Show that you understand their day-to-day challenges and they’ll want to work with you.
Exude confidence with your brand
Confidence in your product is conveyed through your brand identity. A strong brand conveys quality, vision and professionalism. Of course, you need the right balance. It doesn’t send a good message if your branding has all the bells and whistles but your product, or knowledge of your product capability, is doesn’t match up. Your brand materials and marketing should showcase your product, tell the story of how you got here and show your business as aspirational and going places.
Nurture the relationship to ensure repeat and long-term business
Getting your product into restaurants is much more than closing a deal. Once you have an agreement, keep working to ensure the product is operating as it should be and continues to fulfil the restaurant owner’s evolving needs over time.
Always look after the small independents as much as your larger clients. As they become more established, smaller or newer restaurants can have as much of a platform to extol your product (or more) than your larger chains. Independents give care and attention to sourcing their products, so keeping them happy is vital. As always focus on the individual, not simply the brand or size of the business; keep the conversation channels open, ensure the product is performing as promised, and be sure to invest in your customer service as you grow.
We recommend that you start planning to sell to restaurants wherever you are in your product development. Get to know the sector, make contacts and you could find that will move from the hear of your home to become the heart of your future business.
About the Author:
Laura Gozney is co-founder of Gozney, makers of commercial and residential stone fire pizza ovens. Gozney’s latest innovation is Roccbox – the only professional standard portable wood and gas stone oven that can cook a pizza in under 90 seconds