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Need help with purchasing stratagy for small non-profit

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've been volunteering to cook at this social services and treatment center for homeless people. On average they do 50 people for lunch Mon-Fri (less on the weekends because attendance isn't required), a similar number for cold breakfast (almost always small bowl of cereal w/ milk, toast, coffee and oj), and maybe a dozen sack dinners every day.

 

I'm trying to help them stretch their food dollars, and we're making some progress by doing more scratch cooking and getting some of the clients there to learn cooking skills and help out in the kitchen.

 

Right now, the more then half meals are frozen entrees (eg family sized stoufers lasagna). They've even been serving canned peas (it's like a personal affront).

 

They don't have anybody with food service experience working there. I'm told that before the new director arrived, they were only feeding them frozen burritos (only had one microwave). The new director and the person they employ to do the kitchen are really committed and want to do better stuff though. It's kinda frustrating though, because both of them are responsible for so much other stuff, that the kitchen is almost an afterthought. For example, I traded shifts so I could do the St Pats day party for them, and they ran out of salt!.

 

Anyway, they have a couple vans, so cash and carry aren't a problem. Right now, they're using a combination of Smart and Final, and sometimes Costco. They aren't using Restaurant Depot, but that's in the works.

 

Mostly, I've been trying to figure out if a once a month (maybe once a quarter) drygoods/paper products/chemicals order with a broadliner would make sense. They've got tons of storage, and they use a lot of paper (they've got around 9 bathrooms!). Would a broadliner even bother with a small account?

post #2 of 11

Costco is many times cheaper then a wholesaler like Sysco, or US foods. Simly because of the volume, because its cash and because there is no delivery, no sales force to pay. All those things add to price

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #3 of 11

You can't beat Costco for stuff like milk, some meats, and a lot of dry goods.Paper and disposable is pretty good, but you can get cheaper with a paper supplier--but only  with large volume.

 

You can get some produce like pots and onions locally at a decent price, and stuff like fresh fruit.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #4 of 11

If your going to tackle a venture like this use your professional contacts. Call the whole sale produce vendor you work with and see if they can cut you a break. If you don't have personal contacts talk to your Chef and ask him/her to set you up with the sales rep. You can do a lot better buying produce that might be on it's way out (maybe even get it for free!).

Produce at Costco here is more $$$ than most of the retail produce markets but sub-primals in cryo and cheese are priced very well as are some dry goods. Costco prices have soared here over the last year so I now have to watch prices very closely there.

If you have GFS stores there ask if you can get a business discount card.

As far as ordering paper products direct call the vendors and explain what your doing. It may be out side their normal business model but It never hurts to ask.

 

 

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #5 of 11

This is very similar to what I do. I work for a small nonprofit senior center where I serve lunch to about 35 a day, but I've done up to 140. Our program serves hot, nutritious lunches every day to seniors over 60 for a suggested $3 donation...they can eat for free if they can't afford it. We average about $1.80 per person in donations right now. Government subsidies make up the difference.

 

A few questions. How much, per person, do you have to spend? I have to keep my budget to $2 per person, but I am usually closer to $1.50. Do you get any subsidies to help pay for the meals? Subsidies are a double edged deal...to get them you must adhere to nutritional guidelines, which may create more work than you can handle.

 

You can do all of your shopping and budgeting, so you should go at it with a vengeance. Find EVERY store in your area. I use a food wholesaler called Cash & Carry here in Seattle, and suppliment that with Costco, Sam's Club, various asian market, and...especially...produce stands. You must try to avoid supermarts...you'll kill your budget there.

 

Do you have adequate refrigerator and freezer space? When you find good deals, you have to stock up. When you have an opportunity to get something, you need room to hold it. I have a relationship with the guys that work at Cash  & Carry. They know what I do. If they drop a 25# top round and it starts leaking, they'll put it away for me (I'm there every day) and sell it to me for half price.

 

I'm assuming you have a somewhat well equipped commercial kitchen. You could be making lasagne from canned sauce, frozen pasta sheets, tubs of ricotta and shredded mozz and chubs of ground beef and it'll be better and cheaper than buying Stouffer's. That is exactly what the chef before me used to do...I spend less money than she did and produce a better product.

 

It does take some time and money to ramp up, though. My current senior center went to scratch meals on Feb. 1st and I've finally gotten things running smoothly. I've had to haunt Goodwills and the used room at restaurant supply stores to get the little odds and ends the kitchen needs...and I still could use a lot...but I'm at the point of economic efficiency now. We make money from our state and federal lunch money grants.

post #6 of 11

Funny but at todays prices Lasagna is not cheap to make anymore. You are better off with Penne with Meat sauce. Or Fett. Alfreddo. Ricotta and mozzerella are as high cost as meat and maybe more so..

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 


Thanks for the help guys! I'll have more updates in the coming weeks. Too bad I can't be there more often.

 

Gotta run some numbers on lasagna. Maybe do a bechamela instead of ricotta.

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Man, I'm getting a little sick and frustrated with this place. Really disorganized and extremely set in their ways.

 

I think part of the problem is that the employee that got the kitchen job dumped on them, doesn't feel like they can tackle it with confidence, so a lot of stuff, like most of the food purchasing, tends to get left up to her boss. It's like decision making by commitee, but the commitee never meets.

post #9 of 11

get to know the 'employee' or the boss... it's for a good cause!

 

personally i'd get to know the boss...

 

but that's just me!  :)

 

 

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

While I was at restaurant depot for another gig, I noticed they are selling ground coffee 15% cheaper then the Folgers they're getting at Smart and Final, among other things.

 

Not sure exactly how to advocate switching to Restaurant Depot. It would be a pretty serious savings for them.

 

Right now, I've printed out the circular and highlighted some items of interest. Should I do a cost comparison?

 

The employee says I'm wasting my time, and that he won't bother.

 

That's the other thing, I think I've managed to alienate the employee. Food quality aside, she wasn't doing standard shit like putting dates on the food. The boss noticed when I started doing it, and had a coaching session with the employee. He's also complaining about her serving leftovers after too long, etc. I traded a shift so I could put together the food for their cinco de mayo party. Only for 75-100 people, anyone of us could do it in our sleep, but I didn't need her help. So she had time on her hands, and the boss was involved in setting up the dining room, so it she might have thought it didn't look good for her.

 

I wish I understood people better...

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

The other thing is that I've hit a couple personal lows here.

 

The first one is kinda funny, but sad. They get lots of cakes among the day old bakery goods that are donated. The freeze a lot of them, and save it for bdays or what have you. Yesterday, we needed a cake, she pulled one out and had me scrape off the "Happy St Patricks Day!" and shamrock off the top. Since it's may and all.

 

Second is scary and depressing. Also from yesterday. I'd volunteered to set up the breakfast and do some lunch prep for that day. I'm the first guy there after the security guard this morning, he lets me in, and I get the kitchen ready. And there were 4 5lb chubs of ground meat, and 5 lbs of Italian sausage sitting in the sink. She'd left them out all night to thaw. Between the fridge and pilot lights it gets to 85 and 90 deg F at night in that kitchen when it's locked up and the ac and fan are off. It wasn't a mistake either as she's "done it many times before and there's never been a problem" I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't say anything and prayed for her lucky strike to continue.

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