Do you trust your sales rep?

I am looking for some insight on how to have a good relationship with our main food rep. I am just baffled at the whole process.

We have been in business for 14 years. I pay my bills on time (direct debit) I NEVER call for last minute needs, we borrow from our other location. I am just stumped. We are the drop off site for our sales rep for needed items for other places

About 10 years ago we had the best sales rep ever so I know what it feels like but he moved on to a new job. Since then we just don’t seem to mesh with any of them that come along. We have had 2 different vendors over the years, so I am begining to think it is us. I need your insight.

2 years ago we signed an agreement with our main distributor that if we lost our other supplier we would have a standard cost plus 8%. They seemed eager for our continued business.

I try and trust the relationship but I just keep getting red flags for example in the past 2 weeks-

Salami went up a dollar a pound (10 bucks a case) in a matter of 2 days
Saran Wrap was over 40 bucks for what I can get at sam’s for 15.
Cheese prices went went up after I asked about it Sunday
Any time I question pricing he says he has to ask “the buyer”
The entire time we have used US foods he is the first one to use that line…of course he blows me off about it all.
Prices always go up but NEVER down, never
We are afraid to try/buy anything new because the prices jacks up over the next few weeks.

We have met with 2 other companies and are waiting for their bids so I just would like your insight.

Am I missing something?


Hi Kris,
You have much more experience than me, but I can’t imagine not having trust in my sales rep. She is great. I followed her from another distributor when she switched over to USFoods. I don’t buy the “I’ll check with the buyer” line and she knows it. The rep knows exactly what the company paid for the product and how much margin they have built in. A good rep will even let you know why a certain commodity went up.

If you don’t get satifaction from your rep, I would definitely call his/her manager. That is a seriously competitive business and I’m sure the manager would hate to lose a longstanding customer such as yourself.

BTW, are you using Roselli cheese from USF?

Yes we are using Roselli LMPS block. Went up to 2.29 after I asked him about the price. The last go around he said there is a 6 week lag…give me a break.

I worry about calling his manager cuz I don’t see how that will help our relationship seems like it would make it worse?

Thanks for replying because I don’t want to be on a wild goose chase lookin for something that just isn’t there.

I want a rep that realizes if I am making money so are they. He acts as though he cares but his actions show me he doesn’t.


This is exactly why i use 3 distributors. You can never really know the market with 1 distributor.

Search around for another distributor Kris, you’ll be surprised.

If you can prove that their prices are phony, you can most likely get out of the contract.

I would do business with both. You can see prices better that way.

Drop the old guy for 2 weeks and watch and see them knocking on your door.

Best of Luck… and did you ever sell that store?


having sold food b4, it is a tuff biz…

there is little loyalty - from both sides…

trend is “new” sales people have little room to manipulate prices…their “book” price is set…

after a few months or a year (depends) they are given a guide-line pricing…

when I sold food, I had to maintain an 85% FC…so customers that bought a lot, it was a bit easier to be flexible on items they were checking…

there are also several “levels” of “cost” prices…

low-volume accounts got few breaks, as their volume wasn’t great…

it used to cost the co. $75 just to stop @ your door…

with fuel increases…

plus, you have to pay for their overhead…

so a 15% mark-up from the salesman’s POV, is normal…if you buy several $1,000’s @ once, there is more wiggle room…

getting 3-4 deliveries a week (@$500) drives the prices up…

many sales reps are poorly trained…too many products to get a grasp on & too many customers want far too many “different” items…

a good solution is to learn to sell a set variety of products & to get you customers using them (i.e. AllTrumps flour)…

then the supplier won’t have to inventory/stock 20 various bread flours, but maybe just 3-4…

mfg do pay slotting fees to the distributors as well…kickbacks might be available from the mfg - ask!!!

btw - I now go to Restaurant Depot for 90% of my supplies…

You should call him on the fact that, given a 6-week lag, your price should have dropped this week. On a six-week lag you should have been paying based on a block price of 1.6175. The week before it was 1.663.

You could also point out that your cheese probably arrives with about 25 days of age on it. How could there possibly be a six-week lag when your cheese wasn’t even produced yet?

I dropped a distributor because they monkeyed with my cheese prices. They were back the next week, hat in hand, with a block plus contract.

Quick Question, what is LMPS?

My Roseli Whole Milk Low Moisture (from US Foods) was sold to me for 2.07 on this last order I got on monday and 2.03 on last thursdays. I have noticed its never the same price 2 deliveries in a row. I get 2 deliveries a week, and use about 400 pounds of cheese a week.

Is this normal or is this something i should be concerned about? We do all our ordering online, and the only time i ever talk to a rep is when i have bad product come in or something missing from the truck. I dont have the luxury of choosing my vendor, although if i see a major problem with our current one, i can bring it up to the owner to review.

LMPS= Low Moisture Part-Skim

Trust but verify . . .

Your rep is only in control of part of the price picture. The cost they see does not include slotting fees and other incentives from either the brokers or the source vendors that boost margins. Sometimes I can shop around on basic stuff and save several dollars per case. We use both US and Sysco and we shop them both every week.

I know a number of restaurant owners in town that have exclusive contracts with US Food. When I have looked into the numbers, they are paying MORE not less than I am. If they are happy with the service, that is fine. I have also asked for a price quote on going with this kind of program but when I got the quote it did not save me any money. I don’t buy the story about better prices. 8% above “cost” does not mean much when “cost” is a fictional number.

Cheese is our biggest cost. When one vendor is 5 or 10 cents a pound higher the difference is hundreds of dollars per month in cost. The block market has been down in the neighborhood of $1.70 long enough now that I feel comfortable calling a price of $2.29 a rip off. Gas/diesel is cheaper now than it has been in a couple of years. You may not be used that fact yet, but reps whining about fuel costs are just distracting you. Even when the cost was $4 a gallon the difference only comes to about a penny a pound and was never more than an excuse to boost margins. (It takes about 200 gallons of fuel to move 40,000 lbs of product 1000 miles. An extra $2 per gallon is $400. $400 spread over 40,000 pounds is 1 cent per pound)

Do I trust my rep? Yes. Do I trust the company he works for? Not for a minute. I also think my rep has a lot on his mind and may not be working the brokers on my behalf. From the company perspective, there is no reason for him not to do this as the price breaks the brokers provide are pass throughs for the supplier, but with 40 accounts to keep track of, I find that if I do not remind the reps to work on my behalf that I miss a lot of savings.

i trust a few of my reps, my produce rep i trust alot, he has put alot of personal effort into assuring good product, including helping us sort out our veg storage issues to ensure product lasts longer(getting fresh produce in alaska is akin to swimming upstream sometimes, keeping it fresh is also a battle). my butcher we used to trust but he has fallen short alot lately, i found out he has been buying our grande 50/50 by the truckload then freezing it on me. he has been freezing his blue cheese crumbles not to mention trying to deliver blue cheese crumbles that were past there use by date (his excuse was since he froze it, it was ok.) his 7 oz chicken breasts we have stopped using, twice in one day tried to deliver freezer burnt chicken that was packed more than a year ago. also there is no consistancy on his canned goods, seems that every week it is a different brand of pindapple chunks, pickled jalapenos ect. we have found other vendors for probably 65% of what we used to get from him, some other vendors were cheaper, some more expensive but we are getting a more consistant product.

those are pretty much the 2 extremes at our shop, but don’t feel bad about calling your sales reps manager and discussing how you feel about your rep. or even getting a new rep, you are their customers, and if your not happy let them know, and let them know your are pricing/shopping elsewhere. as there customer you have the right to refuse delivers if its not up to your standards, you should be able to set times for deliveries so you will be properly staffed to check and receive the order. I have had someone try to deliver a order during peak business hours, and just refused it, told them to come back later or that they should have shown up on time. always remember you are there customer, if your not happy find a purveyer that will make you happy.


I might trust my rep more than I will rely 100% on the company! We started out 15 years ago with Sysco as our only supplier and eventually I was contacted by a sales rep from another smaller distributor. I started ordering maybe 75% Sysco/25% FSA, which got my foot in the door for when Sysco started dropping products I had come to rely on. The FSA rep had a good grip on the business of food, and was very helpful so when he switched to USFoods, I ended up with a mix of 50% Sysco/25% FSA and 25% USFoods. Then US Foods dropped their truck in our region, so that was that. And then about a year ago, Sysco dropped me (and the whole route) with no more than a “thank you… you have a month to find other suppliers.” Fortunately I found another small local distributor to pick up some of my lost items (which they special order for me because FSA won’t).

Anyway, the lessons I have learned are not to rely on anyone as change will surely come along and it will be up to me to deal with it. I value honesty from my reps, who usually are just as subject to the corporate muck slinging as we are as customers. I think they know my loyalty only stands as long as I get quality, consistency, and fair pricing.

Don’t even get me started on the beer/wine distributors!!!

I used a Vendor for:

Bread/Sub Rolls/Lavash
Flap Meat/Ground Beef/Cold Cuts/Cheese
Paper Products/Pizza Boxes
Dough - Fresh
Main - Grande/Roni/Plum/Crushed/Flour/Tuna…etc.

Six Vendors, all with great prices and services. I opted to utilize different vendors with a speciality instead of being like all the rest, IE SYSCO. I trusted them all but had I had my eggs in one basket, I might not have.