How to Grow Fresh Vegetables for Restaurants


Vegetables aren't second-class citizens in restaurants anymore. Chefs are concentrating as much on the side dishes of vegetables and garnishes as they are on the entrées. Restaurants pride themselves on serving the freshest local produce. Baby lettuces--mesclun--have always been popular for salads in fine dining establishments. Tiny or exotic vegetables are served more often and at a premium price. If your green thumb has led to an abundance of vegetables, consider turning your crops into cash.

Research the Types of Vegetables

Step 1

Contact restaurants in your area to see if they will buy from local producers without going through a produce wholesaler or distributor. Many chains, whether company-owned or franchised, have specific wholesalers they must buy from to keep the food consistent. Your best bet is individually owned restaurants.

Step 2

Visit farmer's markets in your area to see who is selling, what they're selling and who is buying. If every other vendor is offering heirloom tomatoes, it would be wise to choose other vegetables to avoid the competition.

Step 3

Select the vegetables to grow. Ideally the veggies will thrive in your area so you don't have the double challenge of struggling to grow the vegetables and then selling them. If you plan on selling organic vegetables, make sure that you and your garden qualify. If you've used chemical fertilizers in the past, that may disqualify you.

Planting, Growing and Harvesting

Step 1

Start the vegetables from seed. The variety from seed is much greater than what's available from plant nurseries as a transplant. Seeds are much cheaper than transplants. Soak the seeds overnight in warm water to boost germination. Plant immediately after soaking.

Step 2

Use fresh potting soil to avoid dampening off. Keep the seedling under grow lights close enough to the plant to avoid long, spindly stems. Thin to the strongest seedlings. Harden off the plants by placing them outside for a few hours the first day. Lengthen the time gradually until they're outside most of the day.

Step 3

Transplant the veggies in beds that have rich, well-drained soil that gets six to eight hours of sun daily. Water deeply only when needed rather than a shallow sprinkling every day. Fertilize per package directions.

Step 4

Inspect the vegetables every day for yellowing leaves--a sign things aren't growing well--and pests. Remove insects, worms and caterpillars immediately. If birds like what you're growing--they love tomatoes, for example--be prepared to install protective netting or other deterrents.

Step 5

Harvest at the peak of flavor. Restaurants pay a premium for freshness and don't want underripe or overripe vegetables.

Tips and Warnings

  • Check what liability insurance you need. Acquire the necessary business licenses.

Things You'll Need

  • Seed catalogs
  • Grow lights
  • Plant trays for seedlings
  • Potting soil
  • Shovel
  • Soil amendments
  • Fertilizer


  • "Sell What You Grow: How to Take Your Herbs & Produce to Market for Serious Cash"; Mimi Luebbermann; 2000
  • Iowa State University: Selling Vegetables

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota: How to Pick, Store, and Sell the Vegetables You Grow
Keywords: grow veggies for restaurants, growing vegetables to sell to restaurants, selling vegetables to restaurants

About this Author

Katie Rosehill holds an MBA from Arizona State University. She began her writing career soon after college and has written website content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on, eHow, and GolfLinks. Favorite topics include personal finance - that MBA does come in handy sometimes - weddings and gardening.