Industry Perspective

Why Restaurants May or May Not Buy Certain Oysters

Direct from the chef's mouth — what he's looking for when buying an oyster for his restaurant.


Michael Wiley, business owner/chef


Big Tree Hospitality/Eventide Oyster Co.

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The Minimum Requirements

Our approach to buying oysters is pretty straight-forward. There are a few unsurprising characteristics that we look for in the oysters that we source for the restaurant, we expect the product to be:

  • freshly harvested
  • delicious
  • handled in keeping with DMR policies
  • delivered on time
  • consistently and competitively priced
  • consistently sized

Be Professional

An oyster farmer is going to have a hard time getting in the door or maintaining a relationship with us if the above criteria are not met. That said, there are a few things that farmers can do to set themselves and their product apart from the competition. And the biggest factor among these has nothing to do with oysters. Call it professionalism or business acumen, but we prize our purveyors who are polite, respectful, and low key. If our interactions with purveyors are drama-free and generally positive, oftentimes a friendship or affinity for the product results. That relationship is priceless to us, and should be a priority for fledgling oyster farmers: there's no shortage of fine oysters in our great state, but if you can offer a premium product AND maintain a degree of professionalism, well, that can serve as the foundation of a long-lasting and productive arrangement. It's worth mentioning that we can take 'farming mistakes' and curveballs, like enormous oysters or misshapen oyster and find a way to get them on the menu. There are plenty of practical, bottom-line-motivated reasons for having conversations with your customers!

Going Above the Minimum

For those well-organized social butterflies who want more specifics on the product itself, I would encourage farmers to tumble/polish/wash their oysters really well. Many farms have wised up to how much trouble and plumber's fees an oyster farm can save a restaurant by delivering immaculately clean oysters. Also, our shuckers really appreciate it when the oysters have been aggressively scrubbed or tumbled to round off the sharper edges that can injure shuckers or end up in a diner's mouth.

If the farm is running well, accounts are fat and happy, I'd strongly suggest turning an eye to branding. Give your restaurant customers' staff hats, t-shirts, all manner of wearable schwag. Our front of the house team often shepherds people through their very first oyster slurping experience, and our guests respect their credibility and knowledge--seems like the just the kind of person you want advertising your aquaculture!

Case studies are authored by industry members at the request of The Maine Aquaculturist. Authors are selected based on experience and expertise in a key business aspect of aquaculture. See our About page for more information.