Farmers, artisinal bakers and specialty chefs increasingly market sustainable local food products at restaurants, bars and hospitality sites. Restaurants often market their own signature sauces, spice blends, jams, jellies and food products in professionally produced bottles and cans. Regardless of source, restaurateurs must research food production techniques, sanitary standards, quality control procedures and cleaning and sterilizing capabilities of vendors before committing to carrying any products.
Local Products Impress Restaurant Guests
Successful restaurants look for ways to enhance the guest experience by providing products from local farmers and artisans, packaging favorite restaurant foods and featuring local foods on menus. Information about local foods, farms and quality products impresses guests and builds loyalty by giving value to everything that people see, touch and eat during visits. Food quality is important to health, and marketing a signature line of products helps to convince customers that a given restaurant is an expert on food in general and local produce in particular.
Restaurant entrepreneurs need to do their research about national and local safety regulations for retail food products and systematize their business arrangements with vendors by signing legal contracts that require companies in the supply chain to meet minimal safety standards. Restaurants can also demand that suppliers indemnify restaurants against litigation caused by unsafe food handling or storage. Restaurants looking to market products should follow certain steps before beginning:
- Research the market, and find out what local foods inspire customer pride and loyalty.
- Start small by producing limited quantities because only a few products become successful enough to extend a restaurant’s brand to Internet and retail marketing outlets.
- The safest products to market are dry foods such as spice blends and baked goods.
- Restaurants might need to partner with food manufacturers to replicate recipes in large quantities.
- Large-scale recipes might require considerable tweaking to duplicate flavor profiles, but products must have identical flavor and quality to what restaurants serve on their menus.
Cross Promotional Opportunities
Selling foods in restaurants offers many promotional benefits including increasing customer awareness of sustainability, improving a restaurant’s brand and image, reducing costs and acquiring new customers, so merchandising must necessarily be superior to the limited exposure that other retail environments offer. Successful marketers choose reliable partners, educate guests about product superiority of signature foods and promote loyalty to local and heirloom products. Strategies to up the ante on restaurant products include:
- Encourage loyalty and generate publicity by asking for reviews that get posted in the restaurant and online.
- Make sure that partners promote the business relationship with comparable verbiage and promotional materials.
- Make displays focal points by engineering attractive arrangements, keeping foods spotless and dust-free and highlighting displays with deliberate lighting.
- Packaging must be professional and attractive even if simple.
- Include detailed nutritional information that goes beyond simply listing ingredients.
- Take advantage of local tourism by partnering with tourist destinations, chambers of commerce and civic organizations to promote cross-marketing arrangements.
- Consumers demand that the foods they eat be free of contaminants, food-borne illnesses and excessive chemicals and preservatives, so restaurants can promote how their products meet these requirements.
- Marketing products through restaurant loyalty programs is a good way to publicize them and get customers to read more extensively on heirloom commodities and local food-production histories.
Restaurants can introduce new revenue streams, generate publicity and receive promotional referrals from Internet sales, word-of-mouth and partner referrals when selling signature products. Clever marketers introduce merchandise that goes beyond the typical t-shirts and coffee mugs that restaurants offer, but the most successful eateries market local foods on their menus and sell signature products made of quality produce, locally sourced ingredients and heirloom commodities.