It’s happening again. Like weeds, the issue springs up regularly and with vigor; restaurants claiming to use our product, when in actuality they don’t.
This is an issue that, in particular, boils Robin’s blood. We have worked diligently and determinedly to grow the farm, our vegetables and our people. Our sister business, Sun Grown Organic Distributors, our staff and our family has sacrificed time, effort and energy to make Suzie’s Farm successful. We have built a name, a reputation and a following. When people hear about us through a friend, when they see us in a market or on a menu, when they taste the quality of our food, their idea of Suzie’s Farm is reinforced. The Suzie’s Farm name is no accident. This business isn’t a whim. This endeavor is work. It angers us to see other’s reap our reward.
People believe something when they see Suzie’s Farm. When we associate with another entity, the belief is strengthened. The belief is strengthened whether or not that association is true.
So what do we do?
It is frustrating because most restaurants are on razor sharp budgets. Most likely they want to do the right thing; they want to support other local businesses. But their budgets or their management require them to decimate their spending. The Suzie’s Farm client in particular is a supporter of local businesses. To restaurants attracting these supporters this can be important because the Suzie’s Farm supporters tend to be extremely loyal, educated and savvy.
There are a few different camps here at the farm, though we all sit around the same fire. My preferred approach? We have no competition, we can only improve ourselves. What other people do is none of my business. I can’t constantly make known the restaurants that lie. It’s a never ending battle that we can’t win. Robin’s feeling? They are lying and using our name illegally. They promote their business through the strength of our business. Our strategy also differs. I prefer to answer the question truthfully when asked directly. Robin wants to make direct announcements.
Either way, it sucks.
All of the feelings surrounding this situation are rough; the feeling of being used, the feeling that people who once did business with us or might have done business with us are now people with whom we don’t want to do business, the feeling that people are being deceived, the weight of carrying this thing.
Regularly we make announcements on our Facebook page. Some restaurants do themselves in by advertising our name. Our customers check in with us and find the declaration to be false. Our customers or supporters of the restaurant will ask if there is another way, besides our 5-day-a-week direct delivery, that the restaurant could be receiving our product? Could they receive it through another distributor? Or through the Farmers’ Market?
The answer is usually no. We have an excellent handle on our inventory. We know how much we planted, how much we harvested and down which sales avenue we have sent our product.
If a chef is purchasing from the Farmers’ Market believe us, we know. Chefs want their wholesale discount even when purchasing through a retail outlet and they typically need quantities greater than what the average consumer would purchase. You, Holly Smith, want cauliflower for a dinner you are having this Thursday? You’ll probably only buy one, maybe two heads. Chef Willem St. John needs cauliflower for dinner this Thursday? He needs 1 case.
If a restaurant is purchasing through a wholesaler we know. We can count our relationships with other produce wholesalers on one hand, not including the thumb. We know how often and what they order.
We are running a business here, people, not making pies with sticks in the mud.
We created our restaurant partner page in part to answer this question for our customers. But even the restaurant page can be deceptive. Is a restaurant really our partner if they only order once per month? Do you, as a consumer, believe you are getting Suzie’s Farm products, as advertised by them, if they only order once a month?
We are changing the parameters for our restaurant page. If a restaurant is listed as a partner it means they order weekly. It means they have a Suzie’s Farm inventory that they cook through that needs replenishing. It means that we have a real relationship with that restaurant or chef.
Robin has suggested that if you want to know about a restaurant’s relationship with Suzie’s Farm you ask about the veracity of the relationship on our Twitter Feed. Robin will be happy to spit the truth.As for me, I hate writing blog posts about this. I want people to be respectful of our effort and theirs. Using our name when they don’t use our product only minimizes them and their efforts.
Our customers can tell the difference between our product and some other random farm’s product. Our customers see our product every week in their CSA box, at our Farmers’ Market stall or at our partner-grocery stores. Our customers are extremely loyal, educated and savvy. They aren’t making pies with sticks in the mud . Give them the respect they deserve.