Tips for selling your fresh produce to local restaurants

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Tips for selling your fresh produce to local restaurants

Selling fresh produce to restaurants can be challenging at times, especially because modern establishments have such strict health standards, and chefs only want fresh, organic vegetables for their dishes. While it may sound daunting at first, make sure you have the right business approach.

Here are a few tips for starting your own distributing business:


  • Register your products to ensure it’s legal

In the hospitality and retail industries, there are plenty of standards and legal regulations you need to adhere to in order to sell products. Your products need to be labelled and packaged correctly, according to the South African Bureau of Standards. This means that your business needs to be registered, your product needs to be legal and you need to clearly attach a list of the ingredients for health and safety reasons.


  • Be well-equipped with the latest documentation

Whether you’re sending your produce straight through to the restaurant or you’ve created a relationship with a distributor, you will need to undergo a food safety test, which will provide you with the necessary documentation for the companies you do business with. The food safety test will check the water you use, to show companies that you are using safe water to produce your goods, and to give you product liability insurance, business certifications and any other documents to prove that your business is legal.


  • The packing standards need to be good

As part of the legal standards, your packaging needs to be safe, healthy and practical. Whether your distributor or restaurant owner wants to receive individually wrapped products or in bulk, you will need to discuss all these factors beforehand. The packaging you choose to deliver your goods in also needs to be durable and standardised for weight purposes, as you may decide to charge your customers according to weight. Apart from the legalities, choose packaging that sets your business apart from the rest. You won’t believe how quickly word of mouth will spread when you deliver well-presented items that look attractive.


  • Make the most of your labelling

Apart from a beautifully designed label, make sure that your labelling includes everything that needs to be mentioned. For example, the ingredients, any allergens, the harvest date, the expiry date of your product and any other production details. This is necessary for companies to ensure that the products they’re selling to their customers are safe and according to legal regulations. When you sell your products to companies, you become responsible for any quality concerns. Be sure to keep your business clean.


  • Transport facilities

Selling your products doesn’t just stop there. You’ll need to include a delivery service for those items. While it may not be possible to purchase a delivery vehicle at first, there are various options to assist you with transport finance. “What is transport finance?” might be a question running through your head, but there is no need to panic. There are many financing companies which will help you qualify for a business vehicle loan, with affordable monthly repayments. This vehicle will then also need to undergo inspection to ensure that you are transporting your goods in a safe environment that doesn’t allow for spoilage.


Tips for selling to a distributor company only

If you decide to rather distribute your products directly to distributors who will deliver your products to their client base, here are a few tips to ensure that the relationships you create are sustainable:


  • Invest in a long-term relationship

Distributors have hundreds of farmers to deal with on a monthly basis. This makes it difficult for them to always keep up with your harvests and business needs. When you decide to partner up with a specific distribution company, create a solid foundation of communication. Depending on how seasonal your produce is, keep in contact no matter what. Keep them in the loop of your production, so that they are always aware of your movements. This is not only beneficial to them, but it pays the bills for you.


  • Be professional. Always

No matter the industry you’re in, there are always going to be complications. Remember that you are selling your business name, alongside your products. Always make sure that you supply them with professional, quality products that adhere to their safety standards. Make sure that your business has the correct documentation on-hand, as this will show them how serious you are about your business. You could make them look bad, so keep an open level of communication to avoid any costly hiccups.


  • Set clear pricing from the start

For the first few months of your business, you’ll need to compromise on profit. A smaller harvest, depending on the product, could be expensive in the initial start-up stages. As important as it is to get your money's worth, you also need to offer competitive pricing to be accepted by any distributor. Know what price you need to work with, to accommodate their needs. Remember that you will be selling your products to a distributor for lower amounts than what you would be selling straight to a restaurant or any local market, so do your research, be clear about payment and weigh up your options.


  • Make sure you have all your ducks in a row

Before you can start distributing your products, you need to have a proper business plan, with clear pricing and quality standards. Do your research about competitors in the area, to see what they are offering and how you can get one step ahead. Your distributor will need a clear business plan to be able to sell your products to their clients, so make sure everything is in place before you approach anyone.

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