I'm looking for advice on how to best approach restaurants about selling my desserts (mainly cheesecakes). FYI, I'm in the process of getting licensed and I have access to a commercial kitchen.
I have already been making cakes for a friend's restaurant for a few months, but it was easy to get my foot in the door there since he already knew me and my products. I guess I'm looking for advice on how to approach restaurants/chefs that aren't familiar with me. Should I just call them up and try to set up a sample tasting with the head chef? Any other advice?
I don't think you should approach any restaurant until you are licensed and insured. It's not professional. You may need a separate wholesale license for this situation. Be apprised of all laws concerning labeling and allergy alerts. You should have a list of ingredients on hand and with the restaurant if they use you for just these purposes. A copy of your insurance policy should also accompany your first order.
For the approach, have a menu, a price list, and all policies in place. A section on your website would also be appropriate for this aspect. Know your product, the market, their style (scratch or processed), where they stand in the market, and you should know what wholesale cheesecakes are available through purveyors, the price, and the profit margin for the restaurants. You should know how your profit margin compares. This research is all done and known before you introduce yourself. You should also have exclusivity policies in place.
Be aware of the laws governing transport and freezing. There are issues with perishable items. You will need a method of transport that will never allow the cheesecake to go below the required temp. In MD, if a dairy product has been previously frozen, it must be stated, in WV, it doesn't.
You are already selling without being licensed, so that's not a good start, unless you are an hourly employee working exclusively in their kitchen. I would not mention that to other restaurants. It's a good way for both of you to be turned in.