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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey there fellow food industry professionals,
Im relatively new to this world and my uncle has asked me to help manage his restaurant and currently the way he orders supply is very old school and tedious. He spends about 6-8 hours a week doing price comparisons and talking with sales reps to negotiate and order his supplies. SO my question is:
Do you typically place orders online, through a distributor, or directly with suppliers? And how often do you make those orders – daily, weekly, monthly, or something else?
I'm also wondering about the challenges and considerations you face when it comes to ordering supplies. Do lead times, delivery schedules, or minimum order quantities play a role in your decision-making process?
Any insights or personal experiences you can share on this topic would be really helpful. I'm just trying to get a feel for how other restaurants and take-away shops handle their supply chain management, and see if there are any tips or tricks I can use at my own establishment.
Thanks in advance for any input you can provide!
 

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I'll get the ball rolling and hopefully others will chime in.
Kudos to your uncle for paying attention and investing the time. Too many owners don't and then can't figure out why they lose money. Without any more details about his process, I don't see six to eight hours a week to be overdoing it.
Much of the answer to your questions is.. It depends. All of the above. Everyone likes online everything now because it makes it easier for all concerned. But it also makes it easy for owners to ignore or forget about price comparison and it makes it easy for large suppliers to change the price without you noticing it. So you can end up paying more than you thought you were.
Large distributors like minimum orders to maximized the cost of driver and fuel, warehouse inventory, etc. Smaller suppliers may not have them but may not have all the products you require.
I don't think going with one supplier for everything is a good idea. Spread your purchasing around to get the products you. need at a price your comfortable with. When a company knows they are getting all your business, they get cocky and take you for granted and you can quickly lose sight of how much your paying for things. Sales reps are a good thing generally. Not all of them but they can be helpful in getting the information you need.
Delivery times matter depending on your business. In the middle of the lunch rush isn't optimal.
You make the orders when you need to make them depending on the product and your business volume. For example, you can order a case of canned goods or paper products once a month if you won't use it all right away. Fresh vegetables would need more frequent purchasing.
Until you find your own answers, be open to the way your uncle does it. Learn that to start and time and experience
may show you new things. But whatever you do, keep paying attention. Before doing anything for convenience sake, make sure it isn't going to cost you one way or the other.
One last thing. If you can, visit food shows. You discover new products and get a better feel for how the sales force operates generally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your response! Ive had a lot of people also tell me to just keep observing and keep track of his orders/costs. One thing also, sales reps vs ordering online. He's currently talking to 4-5 different sales reps, and theyve been his reps for a while now - hence the 6-8 hours of calling back and forth, surfing the suppliers sites and he knows that the reps also add their fee on top of the order, however still uses them due to the relationship they've built and the conveniece. but to me 6-8 hours doesn't seem convenient.
 

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Hey there fellow food industry professionals,
Im relatively new to this world and my uncle has asked me to help manage his restaurant and currently the way he orders supply is very old school and tedious. He spends about 6-8 hours a week doing price comparisons and talking with sales reps to negotiate and order his supplies. SO my question is:
Do you typically place orders online, through a distributor, or directly with suppliers? And how often do you make those orders – daily, weekly, monthly, or something else?
I'm also wondering about the challenges and considerations you face when it comes to ordering supplies. Do lead times, delivery schedules, or minimum order quantities play a role in your decision-making process?
Any insights or personal experiences you can share on this topic would be really helpful. I'm just trying to get a feel for how other restaurants and take-away shops handle their supply chain management, and see if there are any tips or tricks I can use at my own establishment.
Thanks in advance for any input you can provide!
Vegetables Fish and Meat back when I was working in the restaurant business was delivered twice a week. Chefwriter gave you some good advice. We used to have two meat suppliers, so we could have some idea of prices . This was in the late 80 s So internet purchases were not possible. Today I imagine a good percentage of shopping is done online. If you have time available don't be afraid to visit
local supermarkets. Some caned goods and condiments are cheaper there. Also, some stuff from big grocers you are forced to buy in cases of 12 and 24. When you may only need 2 or 3. Some products you may need in recipes you may only cook in certain times of the year. Buying what you need when you need it is advantages. Also depending on the size and type of restaurant sometimes storage can be problematic. Good luck with every thing. I could just imagine the prices of food now. I have never seen anything like this!
 

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If you want to simplify this process, there are software programs that highlight variances of (you insert) % and notify you immediately of price changes that exceed your allowance, then contact your sales rep and rip into them for not giving you the heads up. You have to train them, just like a prep cook. You're in charge...not them!
 

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Convenience is not the point nor should it be. Efficiency is a better guide. Food, paper goods, etc. are a major expense of restaurants. As mischief advised, there are software programs that alert you to changes in price changes. There are also other software programs like Quickbooks to help small businesses keep track of general expenses and payroll. They are all very helpful in making these tasks more efficient. I found quickbooks to be enormously helpful in many ways but it still required me to take the time to enter invoices, employee hours, and fully utilize all it offered.
I have used a menu/food costing software that was provided online by our big supplier. While it was "convenient and useful", I discovered that this didn't mean they weren't charging too much for various items.
Due diligence is a must for keeping track of saving money wherever possible. This means doing the tedious task of food costing, price comparisons on an ongoing basis and a never ending focus on getting the best products you can for the lowest cost.
Sure, there is a lot to concern yourself with when running a restaurant and many things can often be distracting but it is a business and in business you worry about the difference between what your raw materials cost and how much you sell them for.

he knows that the reps also add their fee on top of the order, however still uses them due to the relationship they've built and the conveniece.
This isn't a bad thing. Sales reps are given a specific price for any item in the companies inventory. They are told they can add a percentage on top of that but within a specific range. They can sell it at cost so they make no money or they can sell it for the high end of the range depending on the customer and how good they are at the job. Here is a hypothetical example.
The company says the product costs $10. The salesman can add nothing and sell it to you for $10. They make no commission. Or they can up add up to 15% on the same item per the companies guidelines. How much they add is up to them depending on the overall amount of products you buy, their relationship with you, market demand, and other factors. So they like you and know they can charge a bit more on other items you will buy or charge more at other accounts so they might add only 5% percent and you pay $10.50 per unit. Or you're a pain in the ass, the product is rare, the demand is high so they charge the full 15% and you pay $11.50.
You don't like this and decide to skip the salesman and buy direct. The company automatically adds the full15% on every item you buy and there is no negotiation. You order, they deliver, you pay. Much more convenient, right? And much more expensive.
Here's an actual case in point.
I wanted veal bones for Demi glace. With my regular, large supplier it's a special order requiring me to order a week in advance and more than I care to spend. A bit of research on my part informs me that there is a local supplier who is surprisingly close by who is where the main supplier is getting the bones from. They will sell direct to me at a much more affordable price with next day delivery if I buy a minimum of fifty pounds. I was going to buy fifty pounds anyway so a little time and effort on my part saved me quite a bit of money.
So yes, your uncle spends six to eight hours a week on this. As he should. And you should too.
 

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My wife does the procurement for our catering company and for her...shopping is a blood sport. She uses all kinds of tricks to save money (that goes directly into our pockets) and has scored big time by forming relationships with various vendors so she gets tipped off to anything offered at a great price. We buy 50-100% more product from US Foods than anyone else in our area and they only get 40% of our business...the rest comes from other sources. Hey, if ya spend 6-8 hours a week shopping to save $7K...you are being well paid for the labor.
 

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My wife does the procurement for our catering company and for her...shopping is a blood sport. She uses all kinds of tricks to save money (that goes directly into our pockets) and has scored big time by forming relationships with various vendors so she gets tipped off to anything offered at a great price. We buy 50-100% more product from US Foods than anyone else in our area and they only get 40% of our business...the rest comes from other sources. Hey, if ya spend 6-8 hours a week shopping to save $7K...you are being well paid for the labor.
Are you shopping at sources like a commercial wholesaler? Or Costco local supermarkets farmers markets? 7K a week is a big difference in price!
 

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Are you shopping at sources like a commercial wholesaler? Or Costco local supermarkets farmers markets? 7K a week is a big difference in price!
She doesn't discriminate, she's connected to wholesalers, Farmer's Markets, places like Smart & Final, Restaurant Depot, local bakeries, even some suppliers in Vegas. I've seen her purchase 6 months worth of chicken from a wholesaler who stocked it for a franchise that was shut down and wanted it gone. We have massive cold storage capabilities. My wife is Italian from NYC...she's indescribable. Can run circles around most people.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
She doesn't discriminate, she's connected to wholesalers, Farmer's Markets, places like Smart & Final, Restaurant Depot, local bakeries, even some suppliers in Vegas. I've seen her purchase 6 months worth of chicken from a wholesaler who stocked it for a franchise that was shut down and wanted it gone. We have massive cold storage capabilities. My wife is Italian from NYC...she's indescribable. Can run circles around most people.
I love everything about this! kudos to your wife.
 

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Funny thing is, her food career began with a massive brain tumor. No kidding. After removal she was partially blind, had no balance, lost half her hearing and was forced to recover for months on the sofa downstairs cuz she could not make it up the stairs to our bedroom. Her surgeon told her it would take a full year for her to recover. She's Italian from NYC and her grandma basically raised her with an amazing love of cooking and she still makes authentic recipes from the 'old country" that people go nuts for. I laugh when they taste her gravy (pasta sauce for you west coasters) and ask which brand it is. Takes her 2.5 days to make. LOL

One time she was in this allegedly Italian restaurant and their cannoli was an insult to the name. She took one nibble and pushed it away. The owner noticed this and questioned her about it and she told him, "That's not a cannoli. I'm from NYC and know what a cannoli is." So the owner challenged her to prove it and she did. She made fresh cannolis and terimasui for him to try ten days later. I'll never forget the look on face...it was like he hadn't ever eaten anything so good. He tried for years to get her recipes but that's not my Mary.

Anyway...I got off-track. She's out of the hospital, she stuck on the livingroom couch with nothing to do. The Food Network had just launched so she listened to it all day (could see clearly yet) and she loved it. That David Rosengarten was her favorite and she decided right then and there..."I'm gonna be on this network." This is her two weeks beforehand.

Medical equipment Comfort Patient Medical procedure Health care


She had a recipe for a spicy-sweet concoction that's she'd make for me once a year for holidays. Seven months into her recovery she was able to stand, get around a bit, see about 90% and her hearing had returned. She decided for my birthday she was gonna make my special sauce for me. And so she did. But she also made cases of it (sans labels) and sent to grocery buyers. A 300 case order was given by one chain pending approval of the label. There was nothing out there that taught people how to make a compliant label, how to source ingredients, bottling and packaging guidelines, sizing up recipes for mass production...she had to learn the hard way. And so she did. Next thing I know we are delivery to several dozen stores, restaurants, hotels and markets. This was what the product looked like.

Bottle Liquid Glass bottle Food Ingredient


Three months later she's being interviewed by the Food Network after winning a prestigious award in an international competition. One year after having major brain surgery she hit her goal. A year later she won so many trophies at the Fiery Food Show in Ft. Worth Texas the Food Network wanted to do a follow-up. Then things really changed. Every third contact generated by this exposure was somebody asking, "How did you get started in the food business? I can't find anything out there and have a recipe I want to make and sell to the public." Being a kind hearted woman, she'd talk to them...sometimes for very long periods of time to help them. In fact, it became a problem. We needed her attention on the business but she wanted (and enjoyed) helping these people. So she opened up a consulting company and wrote a book on the subject. Not because she planned to or saw money in it...but because she'd been in their shoes and nobody would help her. Next thing I know we're on TV selling a friggin' book and yeah...commercials on cooking stations were the key. She helped hundreds of people get started and warned em all...entering the market with a new item was easy...making money at it over a period of time was hard. it required real work, real salesmanship, real risk and a bean-counter mentality. Some did well, some didn't...some never got off the ground. I remember one guy who canned chili. Mary told him to start small, 6-10 cases to see if it sold. His copacker had a 300 case minimum. He made 300 cases. A divorcee with no furniture, he stacked the cases into the shapes of tables, chairs, a TV stand and a couch covered with comforters and pillows or table cloths and literally sat on his product until it expired. He never really tried to sell it to anyone but his neighbors. I still shake my head when I think about that guy. :)

Next thing we know...she's being ask to speak at tradeshows and culinary schools and suddenly we're in the continuing education field and she's a keynote speaker for the National Restaurant Association. Who knew?

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I'll share more later...time for dinner. Oh and we do not sell any of these things anymore...this was long ago and you won't even believe the stuff that followed.
 

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So we were referred to a company called Avendra who apparently delivered products to several of our larger customers, hotels and country clubs. They approved us (admittedly because our company women owned which was key to securing this deal) and our production for gallon jugs suddenly skyrocketed to fulfil what this distributor was ordering. Now truckloads of product is being delivered to us...so many more pallets than we could store that we rented a massive storage until. It was then we realized something seemed amiss. The labels were all wrong, every single one. We could deliver these and had concerns about what was actually in each jug...the coloration was off...as if they either misblended the sauce or labeled it the wrong flavor or both. When we contacted the copacker and notified them of the problem they basically told us to pound sand. They refused to come pick-up the product and fix it. This began a long and arduous...not to mention costly and financially brutal period for us that lasted years. We lost Avendra because of our ability to deliver on time. Our cashflow dried up. We were paying to store inventory we could not sell and threw it away when it expired. it was crushing...we never imagined such a thing happening. I had borrowed money to produce all this inventory and unable to repay the loans. Mary responded by going full blow mad at pushing her seminars and consulting. I began litigation with the copacker.

As Mary dove deeper into consulting, she discovered that the newbies to the commercial food business she had assisted were getting boned by the food labs who were charging her client $4500.-$6000 for services that only cost $1500. Why? You'll love this. The noobs didn't use the industry lingo when requesting specific services so the labs jacked their prices up knowing these people didn't know better. One lab guy even said it took 45 minutes on the phone to figure out what the newbie needed so they 'offset the time spent" with added fees. In short, they ripped people off because they could. Mary lost it! I've never seen her so pissed and trust me, Italian blood from The City isn't something you ignore. Once ignited...people back up. So she opened a testing division up, charged the market rate and created another revenue stream. Next she opened a test kitchen and production facility so people could come and make small batches of their product...something the copackers often refused to do. Boom! Another revenue stream. Clients saved money, got what they actually needed and we could pay our bills again. She's really something, my wife. During this time (now 2010) she's being published (a help column...kinda like the Ann Landers of food manufacturing) and teaching clients how to sell at tradeshows...something many of them sucked at. We had exhibited at several food shows and developed a remarkable marketing strategy for them. We had beautiful women greet attendees as they exited the registration area, stuck a big sticker with their name on their shirt, gave them a sample, a flier and discount coupons good for purchases at the show. Upon arrival at our booth they saw more woman covered in paint. We had artists come in and turn our staff into all kinds of crazy things...my favorite was the alien reptile we put on one tall gal with a perfect body and shaved head. Others were jungle cats, monkeys, it was really something. Everyone wanted a photo with them. The company name was on their shirts and the registrants shirt...magnificent marketing. Then they'd ring a bell and start tossing small samples into the crowd of people at the booth. Total frenzy. All this created a buzz and everyone at the show knew our company. This included every exhibitor...some of whom didn't appreciate it. :)

Oops...gotta go...will check back later.
 

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Three years later, the attorney representing the negligent/ignorant copacker advised them to settle cuz we'd crush them in court. They unwittingly proved their guilt during discovery on video when being asked questions for days. By then we'd pretty much lost all the sauce sales and were making better money with our other divisions. After a number of years helping people get started in the commercial food manufacturing business, we decided to produce our own annual event, complete with celebrity chef appearances, competitions, seminars and an exhibits floor where most of our clients could retail their products. We also invited grocery buyers (well...woo'ed em with special incentives) so our exhibitors could secure wholesale business...it worked. People attended by the thousands in Orange County and the tradeshow people sold a ton of product. There were also a lot of grazers who walked the floor tasting products instead of buying lunch. (((sigh)))

On a personal note...many of the most popular so-called "celebrity chefs" are trainwrecks as human beings and David Rosengarten was one of the few that we liked and respected. I won't name names but some of the bigger names were fatally flawed addicts with zero common sense. I'll step off now.
Gesture Cartoon Tie Art Happy


Despite the growth there were still times when our massive kitchen sat empty. Tried renting it out for a couple of years but that came with too many headaches so we decided to give catering a try. We found success in a unique niche' marketing with lots of opportunity and special needs few others would be willing to accommodate. 14 years later we are so busy with the catering that we had to drop virtually everything else. I've lost count of the number of delivery trucks and vans we've bought but I see mail from the DMV almost weekly. Mail from the DOT too...cuz we have 16' reefer trucks. What a P.I.T.A. they are!!! And the insurance!!! Don't get me started. But I digress. Our catering business is "essential" which we learned when Covid struck. Our US Foods rep had one active account during that time...us. No more late deliveries! LOL

Last year we began selling franchises and they are selling like hotcakes. None of these things were ever planned out...my wife just saw opportunities and acted on them. We both work endlessly but we enjoy what we do so it's not pure grief. Tiring? Yes. Sometimes our eyes get so baggy they could hold a ten day rain but hey...we're in our 60s now and no longer worry about looking good. We're just happy to be above ground, loving what we do...and seeing it benefit so many others. At the end of the day, money isn't the reward we value...knowing we are making a beneficial difference in people's lives and helping them advance in life, prosperity and wellness. We've worked for the coin...it's an empty feeling. Working and knowing you are making a difference for the better helps ya sleep better.
 
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