Restaurant and Retail Market Sales

Restaurant and retail market sales entail fishermen selling their catch directly to restaurants and/or retail markets who in turn prepare it and sell it to the consumer. This shortens the supply chain, as fishermen do not use a third party (traditional buyer, processor, or distributor) to supply these markets. Fishermen typically must deliver the product, and may need to do some cutting (portioning) and packaging beforehand, requiring compliance with HACCP regulations. Increasingly, these customers are interested in offering safe, high quality local products and knowing the story behind the catch, something fishermen can provide. 

To evaluate whether this type of alternative market is an option for you, explore the benefits and challenges (in addition to those on the Considerations page), key questions, tips and resources in the boxes below.

Restaurant and Retail Market Sales

Benefits and Challenges

  • Opportunity to create strong partnerships with chefs and owners; they may even highlight you and/or your boat on the menu or in the media
  • Opportunity to sell less familiar products 
  • Enhances knowledge of and connections with local community members through education of local chefs and retailers about your product, seasonality and other features
  • Processing may be needed to accommodate limited storage and preparation space at restaurants/retail markets, requiring additional resources (financial, human, physical) and/or arrangements with a processor or seafood market
    • HACCP training, certification and maintenance required to process food that is sold through these market types
  • Consistent and frequent deliveries of small orders at particular times of the week may be required to ensure freshness and accommodate the needs and abilities of restaurants/retailers
    • Seasonality, weather and variable resource availability can make this difficult
  • A single restaurant is unlikely to buy your entire catch; additional markets may be required
  • Time may be required to educate the chef, restaurant staff and others
Restaurant and Retail Market Sales

Key Questions

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others about the operations of and personal considerations for this market type. Contact proper authorities to obtain up-to-date information and specific requirements for your business.

  • When is the best time to approach chefs and restaurant owners about buying your product? What will you bring with you (e.g., samples, product list with prices, business information)?
  • What are the delivery expectations of these customers?
    • What time of day and how frequently do they want your product? Will this fit with your fishing schedule? 
    • How far in advance do they want to know whether you will have product? 
    • How will you and they handle delays due to weather, breakdown or other supply issues?
  • Will you require a minimum order? Will you offer volume discounts?
  • Do you have the proper equipment and supplies for maintaining safe, high quality product while handling, holding and selling it? 

  • Do you need to process your catch? If so, what additional facilities, supplies, equipment, personnel and permits are needed?

    • How will you address additional seafood safety issues? What kind of control measures, monitoring procedures and records are needed to document the use of safe handling practices?

Restaurant and Retail Market Sales


Consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood. In some states, requirements for selling to the public are different from those for selling to retailers, chefs and other food service providers (see Permits and More).


  • Approach restaurants well before or after standard meal times. Call ahead to make an appointment and bring samples of your product, especially for less familiar products.
  • Prepare a list of products you will have during the year, along with prices and seasonality. Highlight the high quality of your product and service. 
  • Consider contacting restaurants and catering companies that offer seasonal specials, as these businesses typically have experience working with local, seasonal products.


  • Create and maintain strong relationships with restaurant owners, chefs, food prep and service staff. The more they interact with and learn from you, the more likely you will develop a long-lasting, loyal partnership.
    • Provide information on safe storage and handling of product, recipes, the catch, yourself and your boat, and related stories.
  • Describe how your pricing reflects the high quality of your product and service.
Restaurant and Retail Market Sales


Tips for Selling to Restaurants
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Additional permits and other documentation usually are needed to establish an alternative market. Be sure to consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood.

Information provided on this page was synthesized from interviews with fishermen and buyers, and from the Fishermen’s Direct Marketing Manual, the Small Farm and Direct Marketing Handbook, ATTRA publications, and other resources (see About this Website and Resources).