When your distributor misses your delivery ....

Joined Feb 18, 2007
I buy from one of the bigger distributors (in the same category as GFS, Sysco, Reinhart etc) and this past week, I had an order due on Friday. Typically they arrive in the afternoon; we had two things we absolutely, positively had-to-have-it that day and so around 2ish I left a message to find out about an ETA. At 3, I get a call from an inside sales person (my sales rep was retiring that day so I didn't want to disturb her) saying the driver was delayed; other drivers were coming to assist and how long was I going to be at the shop. I tell her what I absolutely had to have and that I would stay as long as it took because I had to get this stuff (it was going out at 6 am on Sat morning; I told her this). She says it should be by 6 but not before 4 pm.

At 4:15 I message her and ask for a status. "working on it but running out of options" Huh? You told me an hour ago someone else was coming, you knew I was waiting ... running out of options is not in my vocabulary. I'll go meet the truck, or leave my stuff at the stop he is at now and I'll go get it..... but no reply

At 4:40, I get a text message from the inside sales rep saying the driver was returning to the plant because he was out of hours (DOT regulation) and I would not be getting my delivery at all.

You can imagine how furious I was. So now I have to activate plan B which is to find 40# of chicken and 20# of hamburgers. I am immuno-compromised and so cannot just go to the grocery store; and I also am alone in the shop waiting for a client pick up; Restaurant Depot closes in 45 minutes. I am SOL. I talk to the inside sales rep's manager who apologizes; agrees that they dropped the ball big time but there is nothing they can do.

Saturday morning, another driver shows up and tells me the Friday guy has only 6 months of experience, he put in a "big day" on Thursday so was ineligible for a second "big day". The warehouse loaded the truck late, so the driver got a late start (!), he had 19 stops, 22K pounds of goods and was alone in the truck.

Talk about stacking the deck for failure, right? I didn't create this mess but now I have to fix it.

The inside sales mgr emails on saturday morning and confirmed all of that stuff and went on to say that Friday is their busiest day and I would get better service if I switched to Wednesday. Mind you, customers are allowed two delivery days - mine are Wed/Fri. With COVID, they shut down on Wednesday so the only option is Friday.

I asked for a credit for the chicken and hamburgers and have heard nothing back. The new sales rep called, tells me that Wednesdays are now back and says my delivery day is now Wednesday, This doesn't work for us; I get my orders from my accounts on Thursday afternoons for the following week. Most of the time I try to get my deliveries on Wednesdays anyway; having Friday gives me the option to get fresh berries and stuff that I have to get because someone missed getting their order in to us.

As a small (tiny) independent bake shop, I am not a big account; I buy about 34K a year from this place. They clearly do not care about small accounts, me leaving them won't matter to them at all. I buy ingredients, paper goods, janitorial supplies from them; when they are out I go to Restaurant Depot, I buy specialty ingredients from other places (AUI, for one and

I am now trying to figure out if I want to talk to Sysco or Reinhart or US Foods but I don't want this to be an exercise in futility. I want to work with someone who wants to work with us. Am I just too small an account to matter to the bigger distributors? What's been your experience with this - does your sales rep give you a credit when they screw up like this?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
In my experience giants play best with giants, and dwarves play best with dwarves. Don’t bother going to Sysco or the mega-broadliners, they’ll only harp on minimum delivery, (what is it in your area, $500.?) or get you to buy their special hand soap and special paper towels of which the dispensers will only take “their” size of cartridges.

If you want chicken, go to the chicken suppliers, where do you think the broad liners get their chicken? Same with beef. Some will deliver, others are pick up. The one good thing about pick up is that your order is there, no excuses, no run around.

When I had my catering business, I had my beef and chicken delivered, but would pick up 75% of my produce, my “ Italian stuff” ( pasta, evoo, tomato product, cheeses) coffee, dairy, and disposables and cleaning stuff. Yes it was a bit of a hassle, but I never had late or no-show deliveries, and many of the suppliers had a healthy respect for guys who would pick up their own stuff. The other bonus is that you will be paying less by going through individual suppliers rather than through one broadliner.

I know this is not the answer you’re looking for, but it worked for me, and I hope it works for you if you give it a try
Joined Mar 1, 2017
My uncle realized the shortfalls and disadvantages of being a small account with a large supplier early on. Back in those days, tho, restaurants often had their own meat room and bought sides of beef, pork and chicken and hung them on site. Mondays were "butcher the meat for the week" day. The only person we had to rely on for meat was the local or regional butcher who supplied the meat.

Its nothing like that today. The days of choosing your hand cut steak from a glass cooler at the restaurant are over with the exception of a very few high end steak houses. But, Im getting off track.

By the mid to late 80's, the local butcher shops were drying up. So, my uncle had the presence of mind to realize that it would only be a matter of time before the restaurants in town were at the mercy of the supplier. So, what did he do? He organized many of the restaurant owners and we all used one supplier. If that supplier started messing up, we had a talk with them. If it continued, we all cancelled our accounts and went to another supplier. This happened a grand total of twice in the 30 years that I worked with my uncle. It was a great way to keep the suppliers in honest and in line.

Sadly, over the years, the privately owned restaurants in town began to fade away as the owners retired. Most didn't have kids that wanted to take over the business so they either closed or sold to a larger chain etc. With the end of that era, the collective power that we had with the suppliers vanished as well. By the time I retired a few years ago, there were only 3 of us left out of about 14 or so.

My Executive Chef that bought my restaurant uses largely farm to table products, especially meat. We are fortunate to live in a state where there is a healthy farm industry with growers that are eager and willing to do business directly with the restaurants.

So, to answer your question, get rid of your supplier and get a new one. You are not doing them a favor by being their customer and if they don't have the respect for you as a customer to not jerk you around like that, then, you don't need them. There are plenty of others out there that would happy to have your business and give you the respect you've earned.

Good luck. :)
Joined Sep 17, 2018
I would drop them as well, unacceptable. I've had great reps that drove several hours to get me my stuff.
Joined Dec 13, 2018
Absolutely time for another distributor. Like stated above, getting proteins direct will save you money. If you'd like a broadliner, I'd suggest Performance Food Group/Performance Ledyard. Their customer service is on point and they will go out of their way for the little guys. At least, that was my experience.
Joined Jan 17, 2015
Some good advice in previous posts. Unfortunately this things happen and if you stick around the kitchens this is likely to happen again. Finding good suppliers is a big part of the job for us, if suppliers are forced down on you than the job is not great in my experience. So look for someone better, they are out there, Try and have a plan B, contacts that can deliver maybe for cash in case of emergency. etc. I know it's easy for me to say that now but trust me I've been there. Over the years you get to know a few people and have suppliers you have been dealing with before. I get my own stuff pick up mostly because I work for myself and although pain sometimes, you can't beat it, if i don't like it I don't buy it. Good luck!
Joined Feb 18, 2007
Thank you, all, for the excellent advice. I might see if PFG has some of the things I want; and since the pizza shop that is due to open next to us uses Reinhart I might check them out too.

I have been burned more than a few times over the years, so I tend to carry slightly more inventory to always have a Plan B. My accounts do large parties (the average is 200+ guests) and we average 250 wedding cakes during the season, in addition to plated desserts and mini pastries. I know they are likely to have increased counts after guarantees so if they order 200 individual cheesecakes, I make sure I have ingredients to make 300 just in case. For this instance, I called a chef at one of my accounts and bought some chicken and burgers from her.

There was a change in ownership about 5 years ago, the minimum went from 400 to 750. They clearly only want to do business with nursing homes and schools. I just don't have any experience with anyone else that size and if they're all alike, I don't need the headache. There are enough smaller operators like myself who would welcome doing business with us and that's the way I'm going to go.

Joined May 5, 2010
We have the same situation up here where I live. None of the purveyors will do business with accounts that can't meet a monthly minimum. The only option is Sysco. The rest won't either come to the island or even meet a truck at the dock on the other side.
Our produce purveyor comes from Wisconsin twice a week and it's a 5 1/2 hour trip one way.
It's crazy that the big boys won't help out the mom and pops, like they do the big stores
Joined Feb 8, 2009
If you're looking for heart in this industry forget it. Those days are over and gone. At one time my Salesman drove to Spokane (141 miles one way) to pick up what was needed for my Friday evening banquet. If you're not getting what you need from one company move to another. Being a small account won't get you better prices but, it may get you better service. When I started my company I was small and didn't get the prices. As I grew they did anything and everything to get my business. I had one food service company bring in all the delivery guys to find out what my needs were. They delivered and also put everything away. Money talks! I told my Salesman the better he is at his job will make my job easier. Thats what I need if you can do that you have my account.
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