How Many Food Vendors Do You Use?

I currently use two food vendors, but am considering consolidating down to one. Anyone have any advice? The task seems daunting.

My advice don’t do it. Keep your two vendors. Keeps them honest. and one vendor might not carry something crucial to your brand

I use two vendors plus I shop at the local Restaurant Depot. December (Jamie) has it right, keep them both!

Depends on the flexibility of your supplier. You will still need to keep an eye on markets to make sure he is treating you right, I use one supplier and haven’t had any problems, I check prices against RD and another supplier in my area and I have never had a problem. Your diligence will keep them honest and if not get rid of them.

I think having multiple vendors makes it easier to control costs. They wind up contacting you with better prices rather than you having to do your own study of the market. It doesn’t mean you put blinders on, but it sure helps when they take initiative.

We have only used 1 for 30 years now. I do an emergency Rest Depot run every now and again on the weekends though.

I have 3. A meat guy, 2 bigger distributors, and then the weekly restaurant depot run…so 4 I guess. I play all 4 against each other. it keeps things in check and saves me some money on produce and dairy each week. Most times there is a 10 to 15 dollar difference on the same items.

There was an article in one of the pizza mags saying that having more than one was not the way to go and that the costs outweighed the benefits in the long run.
Anybody see/read that?
I know nothing about that stuff!

I have 1 main supplier I get the majority of our stuff, 1 for produce, and restaurant depot for everything else. I’m sure you can save a little cash by comparing multiple distributors, but the savings don’t seem worth dealing with another salesman to me. If there was an item that I felt I was getting overcharged on, I would just get it at RD instead.

We use one main supplier and they give us a percentage markup over their cost of most products we buy from them. This can padded for their benefit using “slotting fees”, shipping costs ect. Our small company has gone to a lot of private label items to avoid the slotting fees and have the ability to negotiate pricing into the distributor with the manufacturer. There are always a few items that can be found elsewhere for cheaper but they are a small percentage of our overall purchasing. As a company I think that if we were to shop and purchase between multiple distributors then we wouldn’t be able to get the same low markup as we are given. I feel our purchasing scale is a big factor in the pricing. Multiple suppliers have approached us about moving our business to them but none are willing to beat the current pricing we are getting as a whole.

What December Said. It’s the only way to keep them honest.

They may sell you certain products with great pricing , but most will pad other items to maximize their profit

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If you are not doing serious volume (1M+ in purchases) having two is crucial. Even when they are not gouging you, the different suppliers will have better prices on different things from time to time. I have seen the price of cheese vary by as much as 25 cents a pound in the same week. That’s $11 a case! I often see price differences of $3-5 per case on things like veggies and canned goods.

Best meeting I ever had with an area boss was when the Sysco sales manager showed me that we were the lowest margin customer they had in town… then he laughed out loud and said he admired it. We had a good talk. He wanted to know how to get more of our business. I told him his company was a good vendor and we liked his rep but that was true of US Food as well. Both companies take orders by 3PM and deliver the next day. Both have pretty much everything we need. Red onions are red onions and we are going to buy on price. Get us the best price and you get the business.

Seems like that woulk take up a lot of the kitchen managers time…haggling reps on pricing. Does it? Or do you use an online ordering system that shows prices before ordering?

I agree though…red onions are red onions (and that can be said for many products in our kitchen). So best price should get the business.

most items prices are constant. dairy and produce fluctuate the most. all my sales guys email me the weekly prices and I check who is the cheapest on the items that move the most…everything else I know who is already the cheapest. usually, ill look up prices on 5 or 6 items a week. the rest of the stuff is constant and ill check those monthly. I can easily save myself 30 -50 bucks a week just by spending 20-30 minutes looking stuff up. and ill maybe spend 1000 on product. 3-5% doesn’t seem like a lot but 120 a month pays the phone bill.

It’s sounds like a pain but it’s really not.
I save thousands a year simply by getting my big items from whoever has the best price.
Have your reps text the prices of cheese etc. The day they update pricing for the following week. No text = no order. The reps catch on quick.
Within a month you’ll see who consistently has the best pricing on a particular item. Then you can structure your ordering to make sense with your workflow and cost. It becomes second nature

We have a spreadsheet with the 40-50 things we buy all the time. We update that every month or so as tguag says. Most things we end up buying from the same company all the time but produce and cheese do move around a fair amount. I guess it might take a half hour once a month to check a bunch of prices. We check cheese every week.

I guess we save at least $200 per week all the time by having two vendors but if cheese is 20 cents per pound different which it often is that comes to $9 per case. At this time of year that would be a couple of hundred a week all by itself.

If you are short of time pay a cook to come in an hour early once a week and use that hour to track and chase savings on various things. While you are at it, have that cook come in an hour early another day and spend that hour contacting your local business neighbors or putting out emails, facebook posts etc

Having owned my own place and now doing sales for a major distributor I’ve seen both sides. You will certainly get the best price on items by spreadsheeting every week. But lowest cost doesn’t always mean the best value. Like most people I always thought a #10 can of artichokes is a #10 can of artichokes no matter the supplier. Being on the other side now I know that’s not the truth. IsIt really a pain in the ass but if I were to do it over again I would take the time to go item by item and make the choice. A lot of cheaper places play games with pack sizes, volume, and water weight. Really the games are endless. Sure brand names are consistent, but house brands very wildly. Another thing to consider is added value. Is your salseman always keeping you up on trends, bringing you ideas from his research, and helping train your staff if need be? To me that’s worth something. I’m crazy but I go in one of my customers 4 days a week and fill out his orders for him. He’s new and really busy. I’ve saved him thousands already and helped him streamline production for a better guest experience. Most of the older salesmen around just don’t have that relevant skill set or don’t care to, but it’s my favorite part of the job. Bringing value to my customers just like when I was selling pizza, but I’m not the cheapest.

For 19 years the service from our two main vendors has been indistinguishable. Both reps would stop in weekly, both found new products, both would take orders to 3PM and deliver the next day.

Times are changing. NOBODY around does what you describe. Both vendors went from three reps down to two to cover the 100 restaurants around here. The reps tell accounts order online or call the company. They certainly will not hang out writing orders or even entering them.

When you can’t tell the service apart, price is the differentiator. I don’t buy the argument from rep that if I give them all the business they will give me better service any more than I buy employees telling me " if you pay me more I will work harder". That is just not how it works.

Kill me with service and give me the best pricing on most things for 6 months and we will talk.

Hence the reason we stay away from house brands.

On some items sure, but there are certainly quality house brands out there that will save you significant money over branded. During my training they sent us to a competitors retail outlet and had us pick 10 house brand items. Then we compared them even things as innocuous as red pepper flakes, breaded mushrooms, and canned green beans. There is high quality house brand stuff out there that offers big savings. Some distributors just carry the cheap shit because nose people just care about price.