Until our deer herds increase significantly, venison marketing will have to be carried out by individual deer farmers or groups of deer farmers. Venison is a premium product and will do best if targeted at the high-end restaurant market.
At the NADeFA conference, chef Kurt Fleischfresser gave the following practical tips for marketing venison to restaurants.
1. Cost is a major consideration for most chefs. The cost of the centre of the plate (e.g., venison) represents 25% of the cost of the final serving. The critical factor is how many portions the chef can get from the meat you sell him. They will use every part to make other food items, e.g., stock, pate, etc.
2. The trend in restaurants today is to use local ingredients. Therefore focus on your local or regional markets first. It is also easier to get to know the chefs and their unique needs locally.
3. Have the product with you when trying to sell to new chefs. Give them a sample. Also bring peripheral products to leave with them (jerky) to promote your company.
4. Call or visit chefs at non-peak times - 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4:30 pm. Don't be afraid to call for reorders. Chefs are busy and don't always have time to call you.
5. Venison is seen by most chefs as a seasonal product that is most appropriate in the fall and winter. Also, chefs will have greater success selling venison if it is treated as a special rather than a regular menu item.
6. Help new chefs with cooking suggestions. Venison is very lean. It has to be cooked over very high heat for a very short time. This shears in the juices. Since venison is so lean, adding bacon or olive oil to ground venison works well. Venison goes well with dried fruit and all wines. (If it is sold as a special, be sure to have the waiters recommend a special wine).
7. Another suggestion for promoting venison is to hold venison cooking competitions with chefs. Have local media food critics act as judges. Hold a cooking contest for the best venison recipe. Cooking classes also are a great promotional tool.
Of course, as a deer farmer, you will work very hard to provide venison of the highest and most consistent quality you can produce. If you do, your customers will keep coming back, ensuring venison sales for years to come.