Your Own Retail Market or Restaurant

Your own retail market or restaurant is an alternative market option where fishermen sell their catch from a structure that they operate, including a roadside stand or a food truck (mobile market). This type of alternative market provides opportunities for both one-time and repeated face-to-face interactions between the fisherman (when present) and customers. It usually has low transportation costs, but high overhead/startup costs related to obtaining and maintaining physical infrastructure, staff, licenses and permits. Roadside stands generally require less investment, but also support more limited seafood handling and processing compared to restaurants and retail markets. As with other alternative markets, the fixed and operating costs are incorporated, at least partially, into the price of the product, reflecting the complexity of the operation.

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.

Your Own Retail Market or Restaurant

Benefits and Challenges

  • Offers flexibility, as you control the days and times open for business 
  • Opportunity to sell less familiar products
  • Allows control of product quality if you are engaged in the daily operations
  • Face-to-face interactions allows you and/or your staff to:
    • educate customers 
    • obtain customer feedback
    • build long-term relationships with customers, which may provide support when needed
  • High overhead costs to develop, staff, operate, and maintain the facility, including permits, licenses, insurance
  • Likely to need more than your own products to cover the costs of the facility
  • Location is critical, and obtaining a site that ensures high visibility and traffic may be costly and difficult 
  • Customer flow uncertain; advertising may be necessary 
  • Must comply with zoning, building, business, public health and other regulations
  • HACCP training, certification and maintenance may be required if processing and/or packaging seafood

  • Processing (e.g., portions, filets, steaks) likely needed to meet customer demand, requiring additional resources (financial, human, physical)
Your Own Retail Market or Restaurant

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.

  • Is there sufficient demand for your product (or the products you can offer) to support this type of market? If so, can you produce and/or obtain sufficient seafood to supply the alternative market?
  • What are the zoning ordinances where you want to sell your catch? What permits are required for operating your alternative market there?
  • Is your establishment accessible and visible to potential customers?
  • What types of staffing (e.g., full-time, filleter, cashier) will you need to operate this alternative market effectively and profitably? Will you be behind the counter selling fish or will staff?
  • Do you have the personality and skills to manage the staff required for the alternative market, or will you hire someone to do that on your behalf?

  • 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?

Your Own Retail Market or Restaurant


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).


  • Location is crucial. High traffic, good visibility, good parking, and proximity to other businesses all make for an ideal spot.
  • Use a clearly visible sign that passers-by can read.
  • Consider partnering with local farmers and artisans to broaden your inventory. For example, include ingredients that can be used in seafood recipes. 


  • Maintain strong customer relations. The more customers interact with and learn from you, the greater the likelihood they will continue to buy from you. 
    • Provide information on safe storage and handling of product, recipes, the catch, yourself and your boat, and related stories. 
    • Consider providing free samples, especially for less familiar products. 
    • Try to be consistent in your availability, hours and location.
  • Consider collecting email addresses from customers to enable communications outside of the sales venue, including notifying them of product availability.
Your Own Retail Market or Restaurant


Tips for Selling at Roadside Stands
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).