Rory Lewandowski, Extension Agent Ag/NR Athens County
Goat meat is a unique product that is very much in demand among certain segments of our population. But how can producers go about marketing goat to restaurants?
Athens restauranteur Mike McKniff, who buys vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat produce from local farmers, recommends doing background research to determine which restaurants to approach. Those that can appreciate quality products and have some flexibility in purchasing are the best to target. Chain restaurants do not have the flexibility to try alternative products or sources, and they most likely would not pay a premium for the product. Instead, restaurants that have an interest in working with local produce, have flexible menus, support seasonal products, show a willingness to try new products and can pay a premium for quality are the best to work with. Often, but not always, these may be higher- end restaurants. Many restaurants have Web sites with information about their business that can be helpful.
A visit with the chef at a restaurant-- preferably, between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. -- is the next step in marketing the product. Mike McKniff also suggests that providing them with a sample of the product as well as recipe is a good idea. Additional information that can be provided includes a price list of the product, the quantity available and a time when it can be delivered; as well as seasonal or year-round availability, production schedule and days of the week the product can be delivered.
According to McKniff, the food service world is changing, and there is a growing trend for restaurants to try new foods and/or return to traditional foods, work with local producers and develop seasonal menus. These trends may offer meat goat producers the opportunity to market to restaurants.