Florida foodservice business for fresh produce a mixed bag

01/19/2012 05:26:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Chuck Bruno, vice president and general manager of tomato repacker DiMare Fresh-Tampa Inc., Riverview, called 2011 sales slow.

“It was kind of strange because it’s been flat,” he said. “We had some spurts of business during different times of the year, but overall, the take on the product is a little bit less than it has been in the past. People just don’t have the funds to buy what they need.”

Though Coosemans Tampa Inc. doesn’t deliver directly to restaurants, Justin Warren, general manager, said you can tell how well the region’s restaurants are doing.

“I think the economy is down,” he said. “You hear on the news and you definitely see that restaurants are not as hard to get into lately. Some are doing fine and some are not. You see independent places will open and be gone in two months. Another one opens and it’s gone. But that has always been the case.”

Warren said foodservice jobbers tell him sales remain slow.

The stress on foodservice purveyors challenges wholesaler, said Louis Garcia III, salesman and buyer for Crews & Garcia Inc.

“To get the jobbers we sell to, we have to be so competitive with the prices or we won’t get the orders,” he said. “They do complain about having 30 stops and not that much to take while on other days, they’re slammed.”

Seth Movsovitz, vice president and part owner of Produce Distribution Center LLC, Jacksonville, said Town Center, Jacksonville’s new shopping and entertainment venue, is affecting the restaurant business in other areas of the metropolitan area.

Movsovitz said the “destination” center, near the Atlantic beach, hasn’t severely harmed traffic at other area restaurants, but is pressing other restaurants during a slow economy.

“There are certain restaurants that will be busy no matter what,” Movsovitz said. “A few of those are going to pretty much turn it over once or twice a night, no matter what, especially on the weekends.

“Then there’s another level, the franchise groups, the multiunit places that might not pack them in like some of these other places.”

While some speculate retail sales benefit from a depressed foodservice industry, others, such as James Killebrew, vice president of Baird Produce Inc., said retailers aren’t doing much better.

“They’re feeling even more hurt,” he said. “They’re being hit even harder. I think their expenses stay the same or continue to rise. What they’re seeing in sales isn’t rising so they’re not keeping up with expenses.”


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