Determining what distributor to use can be one of the most critical and difficult decisions a foodservice executive has to make. There is the challenge of matching the consistency, speed, and accuracy of the front and back of the house with consistency, speed, and accuracy at the back door. To make matters more challenging, the recession has put a new emphasis on cost savings and the need for selecting and working with a distributor who will be a long-term partner.
QSR is out to make that choice a bit easier by showing you what distributors—beyond the likes of McLane, Sysco’s SYGMA, or U.S. Foodservice’s North Star—are available in your region.Throughout the country there are a number of strong, regional, independent broadline distributors that have been serving multiunit operators ever since AmeriServe declared bankruptcy in 2000. AmeriServe, which at one time delivered to 38,000 units, was sold to McLane, which gave a boost to McLane’s foodservice business but also left a large segment of the chain business open to new relationships. Broadliners that could handle the requirements of systems distribution were the beneficiaries. These regional distributors are smaller but often offer value-added services to independent operator customers. The perks include consultative sales people, test kitchens for menu development, and marketing departments to help with everything from point-of-sale materials to menu engineering. Most even have product specialists and in-house chefs that work as consultants with customers.
While average order sizes for multiunit business range from $2,000–$5,000, pricing is negotiated on an individual basis and takes into consideration a number of variables such as proprietary items, specialty products, order frequency, and distance. To help you assess the broadline distribution opportunities in your area, we’ve compiled profiles of a number of strong regional players that serve quick-serve customers, as well as distributor groups that have formed to deliver products beyond set regions.