Chef's buying retail products

3,142
613
Joined May 5, 2010
I've been working as a produce manager the last 6 months.
I have noticed over that time that a few of our local restaurant owners are shopping my aisle.
They buy the avocados, the cilantro, the coleslaw mix, the lemons and limes.
My tomatoes fly out the door.
I asked a couple of these owners why they shop at my store and pay retail. That has to screw up food cost no?
The reason? The produce is better than they can get from their food purveyor (S___o.)
They'll order ripe tomatoes and get green ones. They'll order shredded cabbage and it comes grey or is too large a shred to use for coleslaw.
I don't get this. Why don't the big whig food guys get this?
 
2,067
578
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Off to work but here's a possible answer-Broadliners need vast reliable quantities from their suppliers. Grocery stores have begun going local for produce in season. Several in my area do it and highlight the farm the produce comes from. Even then the quantities bought from farms needs to be on the high side but getting the public to accept certain realities about buying local year round is a slow process.
It's a complex arrangement of long standing but changes are happening.
Decades ago we in US relied on seasonal produce mostly. But with that comes poor harvests, shortages, short shelf life and accepting bruises and damage in the average produce shipment. Foreign Imports and year round availability just wasn't possible. Then we (scientists, marketers, big companies, farmers, etc) figured out how to grow year round, trains began faster shipping, supermarkets, restaurants and the general public began to expect better availability, improved quality and the rest.
What gave way was flavor. "No, It isn't the same tomato your Grandparents grew but at least you have tomatoes in the middle of January."
In the past few decades awareness has grown about what we've given up. This is why farmers' markets are becoming more and more popular, more farms and orchards sell retail on site and the chefs in your area come to you. God bless them for having awareness that they can and should get better produce to serve their customers. In my area we are surrounded by hundreds of great family farms. A surprisingly small number of restaurants here take advantage of this but as I said the grocery stores have caught on and some are even now beginning to offer seconds labeled "Ugly" produce.
I'll be really happy when I can no longer get cardboard tomatoes from a broadliner and am told "Tomatoes are only available in summer". It may never happen but we're getting closer.
 
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3,142
613
Joined May 5, 2010
Funny.....My produce comes from mid-state Wisconsin and I'm in the UP of Michigan.
The driver takes 5 1/2 hours to get here one way.
Why?
Cause most "Broadliners" will not do business with small town America grocery stores unless they meet a month minimum in purchases.

We still put up with the damaged produce, poor quality, and availability issues.
I had over $700.00 in losses this past July. Everything from poorly packed pallets that smashed tomatoes, to rusty iceberg lettuce I can not sell. I order "green" bananas, they send colored. I order cilantro, they're out. The list goes on.
Again, I ask why purveyors aren't recognizing these issues and taking steps to provide the optimum products. I would have no problem with no tomatoes or asparagus in January, but now we are so used to this availability it would be difficult to change back.
 
630
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Funny.....My produce comes from mid-state Wisconsin and I'm in the UP of Michigan.
The driver takes 5 1/2 hours to get here one way.
Why?
Cause most "Broadliners" will not do business with small town America grocery stores unless they meet a month minimum in purchases.

We still put up with the damaged produce, poor quality, and availability issues.
I had over $700.00 in losses this past July. Everything from poorly packed pallets that smashed tomatoes, to rusty iceberg lettuce I can not sell. I order "green" bananas, they send colored. I order cilantro, they're out. The list goes on.
Again, I ask why purveyors aren't recognizing these issues and taking steps to provide the optimum products. I would have no problem with no tomatoes or asparagus in January, but now we are so used to this availability it would be difficult to change back.
Just like with a lot of other things they won't do anything that costs them extra money until it gets to be a big enough problem or enough people make a stink to hurt their bottom line. Why invest money now to build better systems when they can just kick the can down the road and wait until the last possible second?
 
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2,067
578
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Seoul Food is correct. The big suppliers want big orders. Answering complaints from the little customers isn't worth their time they think. They have different price structures for different levels of orders but don't stick to that completely and will charge whatever they can get away with. They listen if the person complaining has a large enough account but that large account often requires more oversight than the customer is able to give it. So prices can be upped accordingly here and there without being noticed. Big profits with little risk. Smaller accounts are often required to pay a trucking fee in addition to higher prices.
The smaller suppliers are still interested in customer satisfaction and price and service often reflect that. They also offer products from different sources, often better quality. Many operators don't want to see a stack of bills from multiple suppliers or make multiple orders each week simply because of the inconvenience but it's often more cost effective not to rely on the big guys alone if at all.
Glad I'm not having to deal with all that anymore.
 
1,801
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
I've been going to the grocery more and more...been back at work for about a month now (post Covid). I'm finding that many of my vendors have reduced the amount of things they sell, they don't break cases on things they used to, etc. We're slower than we'd normally be too, so I might only need a couple dozen lemons instead of a whole case.

Sometimes the prices per unit are actually better at the grocery as well. .
 
630
232
Joined Sep 17, 2018
I've been going to the grocery more and more...been back at work for about a month now (post Covid). I'm finding that many of my vendors have reduced the amount of things they sell, they don't break cases on things they used to, etc. We're slower than we'd normally be too, so I might only need a couple dozen lemons instead of a whole case.

Sometimes the prices per unit are actually better at the grocery as well. .
Yeah we ran into some major issues with this as vendors were not reordering anything and trying to burn out their warehouse stocks. Which you can guess how well that went after weeks out substitutions and supply issues. Add to the fact that the substitutions were often times more expensive. I think it's all a cycle and as the service industry gradually gains steam there will be less pick ups at local stores and more direct shipped goods naturally.
 
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