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Selling signature items

Selling signature items

Question:

Due to my husband's health, we closed our 50+ year old restaurant in January 2013.  I have been debating between making a cookbook of the favorite recipes from the restaurant or hiring a company to make three or four of our most popular and unique items for public sale.  Where do I start looking for the companies to help with either project and what are the realities of any success in this next endeavor? 

– Sue Kobold, Owner-Operator, Mickel’s Family Restaurant, Harlan, Iowa

Answer:

Last week, we discussed the first option you proposed, publishing a cookbook of your restaurant’s favorite recipes. Now let’s look at the other proposal, making a few of your signature items for sale.

I think you’ll find you’ll face three big limitations in developing and marketing some of your signature items:

  1. Delicious restaurant items do not always translate well to consumer packaged goods.
  2. To do this yourself, you will need an approved kitchen facility, complicated by the closure of your restaurant.
  3. Some co-packers who can make this for you require a large minimum order so you’ll need to have a well-developed market.

Just as we discussed in the first part of your question, having a platform is key. While packaged foods like private label hot sauces or take-home baked goods often do well as add-ons to an existing market of loyal guests already doing business with your restaurant, will these products have the same traction now that your doors are closed?

In order to make a private label product work on a larger scale and without your restaurant as a platform, you will need some combination of products that can have wide appeal even to those unfamiliar with your restaurant and retailers who will be excited to stock your products given your strong local brand.

More on developing private label products here.

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