“I think it’s even harder in the suburban areas,” said Benjamin Friedman, owner of Riviera Produce Corp., Englewood, N.J.
“There will be some sweet spots where one to two people in a certain town will be doing the business, but some of the people who have been around for 10-15 years are losing new business to places opening up that might have a trendy chef.”
Riviera distributes produce to high-end and white-tablecloth restaurants, hotels, caterers, country clubs and institutions throughout the tri-state area.
Retail competition is also heating up, distributors say.
“With all the competition between Fairway Market, Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and the Aldi’s, there are all these competitors that have come in here,” said Joe Granata, director of produce for RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J.
“Plus, there are all the other general trading stores. All these places are just popping up. It’s gotten so competitive.”
Joel Panagakos, executive vice president of J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., said the suburbs such as the eastern end or northern shore of Long Island offer pockets that host concentrations of wealthy people.
“Those pockets still seem to be doing well,” Panagakos said.
“The east end does very well during the summer months and the northern shore of Long Island does well throughout the year. People will sit down at certain restaurants and spend $60-70 without thinking twice. On the flip side, there are chain restaurants very busy with the $10 dinners.”