From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: USA Bulk foods supplier?
Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2005 23:16:08 -0400
On Thu, 24 Jul 2003 14:29:07 GMT, "Rox"
>"mcldanl" <email@example.com> wrote in message
>> Any good ideas on who has good products and prices?
>> I am looking for basic things like baking supplies, spices, grains, rices,
>> noodles and such.
>SYSCO is pretty good (and comprehensive). I don't know if they will sell to
>private individuals or not but they do a handy business in rest. supply.
Uuuugghhhhh!!! SYSCO has to be the worst! They are very anti-small
business and won't fool with small orders. Consider this. They
recently implemented a new policy that requires each account (NOT
one-time customers but restaurants like mine) to order at least 25
pieces and a minimum of $500. For a small guy like me, that would
force me to become a warehouse, something I lack the room to do. When
they screw up on an order (almost every time), they hold your money
until the product can be returned to HQ and "inspected". A sleazy
method of holding onto your money for a couple of weeks. No other
jobber does that. I quit dealing with them years ago.
Here's some info you need to know before considering buying from a
restaurant supply jobber.
There are two major classes of jobbers - grocery jobbers and specialty
jobbers. The grocery ones carry a little bit of everything like a
grocery store, but the selection and range is limited. Specialty
outfits sell only produce, only seafood, only Italian goods, only
Mexican goods and so on. Grocery jobbers are frequently national
operations while specialty jobbers are almost always local or
Small operations (those without negotiated national contracts) pay
nearly "retail", depending on the product. Meat probably has the most
"discount" because it has the most markup at the grocery store. Dry
goods the least. I run a truck to the local Sam's Club every other
week for things like paper towels and disposable wares because it is
You will not get wholesale pricing even if you meet the jobber's
minimum order requirement (usually $250) and have a commercial dropoff
point (they won't drive the 18wheeler into a residential
neighborhood.) Every customer gets a different price, depending on
his volume and how well he knows how to work the system.
The jobber salesman is free to set the price at whatever he thinks he
can get above the "floor" or "cost" price set by the company. This
price can be dropped below the floor cost but only with upper
management approval. The salesman makes his commission on the spread
between what he sells it to you for and his floor cost. You won't get
the floor cost as a private citizen.
A large quantity of a particular item must be purchased in order to
get at or below the floor price. I buy several hundred pounds of meat
every week and bid it out among local jobbers every couple of weeks so
I get it for a penny or two above actual cost and quite a bit below
the floor price. I use much less paper goods so quite often, Sam's
Club is cheaper.
In general, do not get caught up on brand names. All the familiar
brand names are available in restaurant sized containers but they all
carry a premium. Some of the best deals are on house labeled products
- products manufactured for the jobber and labeled with their name.
Hunts or Heinz ketchup is good but the 33% solids house branded
ketchup from Gordon Foods is the same stuff and is, in fact, packaged
by one or the other.
Many times I find the house brands to be better than many of the brand
names. French fries are one of the best examples. It appears that a
lot of times a large jobber will buy overruns or contract
cancellations and have the product labeled under their house brand.
These are usually offered to operators via "cut sheets" as one time
What I suggest is this. Make a deal with a local restaurant operator
(you ARE supporting your local restaurants over the chains, aren't
you?) where you can place periodic orders with him. Those orders are
placed in with his normal orders and the best price possible is
Find out when the truck comes and make DAMNED sure you're there with
cash in hand when the truck arrives. Most operators (at least the
smart ones) pay COD and don't have much extra storage area, especially
for refrigerated goods, so you'll not be on his hit parade if he has
to float your purchase for a few days and maybe have it in his way,
clogging up his cooler.
If you're a regular customer, he'll probably pass the goods along at
his cost to build his volume for better discounts. Offering him a
little markup, say, 5% would make things flow better.
Form a small cooperative of friends, families and neighbors and pool
your orders so that you can buy case quantities (most jobbers will
break a case but they charge for that service.) Ideally you'd install
a large refrigerator and freezer in a central location so that
inventory could be stored until needed by each member.
One person is designated the treasurer/picker-upper who collects the
money, places the order and picks the stuff up from the restaurant. A
retired person is ideal for this, as the truck arrives either early in
the morning or shortly after lunch, depending on what mealparts the
Collect the money from each member at the time he places the order. Do
NOT fool with trying to keep accounts or collect later. One or two
deadbeats will spoil the whole thing.
Take only cash to the restaurant. Even though the restaurant may
accept credit cards, do not ask the operator to do so. Small
restaurants get socked with high CC commissions. The operator won't
be very happy if selling you food actually costs him money, as a
for-cost deal paid for with plastic would do. Many banks charge small
operators a per-check fee for depositing checks so cash it is.
Be prepared to pay sales tax on the food if that applies in your
state. The jobber never collects tax but the operator must account for
inventory. Don't put him in a spot by asking for an "under the
I was in a buying coop like that before I got into the restaurant
business and it worked well.
I provide this buying service to a number of my customers. The above
are pretty much my rules. I pass through at cost plus sales tax if
the customer or co-op takes case quantities. I charge a 10% handling
fee for partial quantities, cutting a few steaks to order, for
Some grocery jobbers (Gordon Foods, for example) operate retail stores
and some other jobbers have a "city desk" where walk-up traffic is
handled. In both cases, the prices will be full retail. I've been to
several Gordon (GFS Stores) stores and found the prices much higher
than at Sam's. OTOH, the jobber stores carry products that Sam's
Last bit of advice - check around. If you have more than one local
restaurant that you frequent, get each operator to check the prices on
things you're interested in. The reason is that the operator's prices
vary fairly widely depending on his volume, the jobber he uses and
even the salesman he has to deal with. Whenever I need something new,
I shop it around to all the jobbers I deal with. You should too.