As an entrepreneur, when you start developing a product for the food industry it’s a good idea to start planning how you will be selling into, say restaurants, right away.
Here are some tips based on our practical experience.
First steps in selling
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 tricky 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. I’ve found that these businesses can be very influential in the long run. Build a solid local reputation and it’ll help you take your business nationwide.
Rather than going to blanket networking events use your own network. 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.
Getting a good name in the industry, through happy customers, is also essential as they’ll do the talking for you.
Understand your clients
Always relate to the people as a human and a business owner. When talking to restaurants, it’s very important to keep the focus on them. Don’t over-promise or pretend to be something you’re not. It’s don’t be too salesy, especially early on.
Start by listening and getting 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 people can find our products in use. We also give invitations to meet the team and try pizza from our ovens.
Think like a restaurant owner e.g. when are their busiest times of the day? Don’t plan to call or drop in then! If you show you understand their challenges, they’ll want to work with you.
Confidence in your product is conveyed through your brand identity. A strong brand conveys quality, professionalism, vision. Of course, you need the right balance. Your product, or knowledge of your product capability, need to match up to the marketing messages. Your brand materials and marketing should showcase your product. It should also tell the story of how you got here and get the message across that your business is aspirational and going places.
Develop long-term relationships
Getting your product into restaurants is much more than closing a deal. Keep working to ensure the product is operating as it should be and continues to fulfil the restaurant owner’s needs as they evolve.
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.
With a great idea turned into an excellent product, all your research into the food/restaurant sector can pay off. Which of your contacts will you speak to first?
By Laura Gozney
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
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.