Saturday, June 11, 2011

Marketing: Restaurants 101 - Step Four (Making contact)

Last week we talked about the personality of chefs. This week we're going to talk about how to make that first contact with them.

Step Four - Make Contact

You have your hit list, you know the names and back story of your chef, your products are in the right price range. It's time to pick up the phone to make that first call.

Check your restaurant list and see what times they serve meals. A good rule of thumb is to try calling them between 2-3pm. If they serve lunch, the busy hour should be about over and if they serve dinner it will before too much prep time gets underway.  Never call first thing in the morning. Chefs work late and aren't early risers by nature. I never call before 10am, unless specifically requested to do so.

Tell the person who answers the phone who you are and ask them when a good time to talk to Chef Dan (fill in the blank) is.

This is the most intimidating of all the steps. Nobody likes rejection.  As Joel says, "This is why we call traffic lights Stop lights. Because if we didn't mind rejection, we'd call them Go Lights."

But I digress.  Plan your spiel. Be quick, concise and to the point. Tell them who you are, what farm you are with and then proceed to ask them for a good time to send samples.

"Samples? I thought we were trying to sell them our products."

Yes, that's right, samples. Let your product speak for itself.  In the end, it really doesn't matter what you say as much as how well received your product is.

My spiel goes something like this:

Hi, I'm Sheri Salatin with Polyface Farm. We raise pastured poultry, pastured pigs, Salad bar beef, and pastured eggs. We have the world's best product and I would like to know if I can send you a sample package to try it all out. 
Is there any particular product or cut you would be most interested in or may I send you a little of everything? 
When is the best time for me to drop these off? 
I'm in your area on Thursday, can I drop them then?

Some chefs will want you to schedule an appointment and meet with you face-to-face. Others will be fine with receiving your products and then going from there.

Secondly, if you are unable to talk to the chef when you call - this is the most common occurance - ask the person who answers the phone for an email address (or mailing address for some or the best time to catch them) to the chef (be specific on their name). Then send an email with a SHORT, very short paragraph introducing yourself and your farm. Then proceed to say that you saw these items on their menu (list them out) and that you offer these products (list your products) on a consistent basis. Highlight a few other products that you have plenty of and you feel are top quality and then attach a copy of your price list.
End the email with asking permission to send samples. You should not have to scroll to finish out this email. Keep it precise and get to the point. They don't have much time.

Follow up the next week with a phone call and keep calling every week until you get a "NO" or a "Send a sample". The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Do a little jig around the kitchen table and get your samples ready to send out, because half the battle is won.  But it ain't over yet, so just do a little jig.

You can save the full dance for when your product gets featured on the menu. Then it might just be time for a celebratory dinner. Hmm...I wonder which restaurant you should choose? 

Go to it!

Next week, I plan to finish out with maintaining good report with chefs.

Did I miss anything?

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