NEW YORK — Restaurant sales in the dining capital of the world remain strong, distributors report.
Wholesalers on the Hunts Point Terminal Market say sales to purveyors and others are fluid.
“The foodservice business has been good,” said Thomas Cignarella, president of Morris Okun Inc. “Some restaurants are quiet while then again, the better ones are busy. You’d never know there’s a problem.”
There is an abundance of restaurants, particularly in Manhattan, and they remain busy with customers, said Jeff Young, a fruit buyer for A&J Produce Corp.
“The high-end white tablecloth restaurants seem to be doing well. That area (in Manhattan) seems recession-proof,” Young said.
Economic pressures make it difficult for some to sell in the foodservice arena, said Ira Nathel, president and vegetable buyer of Nathel & Nathel Inc.
“It’s been very tough because we position ourselves as a high-end receiver,” Nathel said. “When you go to a customer who’s price, price, price, it’s a little tough. A lot of our product is geared toward the better and fancier customers, so it makes it a little tough for us with the foodservice guy. We have to give them the price we can to compete and give them the best package.”
Nathel said foodservice sales remain steady and many independent jobbers are getting squeezed by larger purveyors and the big cash-and-carry restaurant supply stores.
Mike Cochran, sales manager and vice president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., agrees foodservice customers are suffering price pressures.
“The purveyors, you don’t see as many now that you have the Restaurant Depots,” Cochran said. “Most of the purveyors seem to be doing pretty well.
“Restaurant sales to those guys have been steady. It doesn’t seem to be too bad this year. Last year, they were all complaining about how all the holiday parties got cut down. They aren’t saying as much this year and seem to be a bit busier,” he said.
Joel Panagakos, sales ambassador for J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., said the area’s restaurants remain steady in business.
He said distributors who service restaurants try to help their customers save money by providing product suggestions.
“This year we’re experiencing a good crop of Idaho potatoes, an item that can be used in many different ways,” Panagakos said. “We suggest creative ways of serving those potatoes and creating dishes with them as a focal point as it will save them money.”
Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said he thinks foodservice sales aren’t nearly as strong as they were pre-recession.
He said he doesn’t think the restaurant business has fully recovered from 2008.
A Manhattan resident, D’Arrigo said his neighborhood still shows many empty storefronts and in at least one case, a storefront that went out of business two times before reopening.
“The restaurant business is a very difficult business now,” D’Arrigo said. “I just don’t think there are as many people eating out in the metropolitan area as before. It shows. You don’t see a single supermarket or bodega that has gone out of business during that time. So it’s a classic kind of feast or famine for different segments of the industry.”
D’Arrigo said more people are trying to save on their food expenses by doing more supermarket buying.
Alfie Badalamenti, vice president of Coosemans New York Inc., said foodservice business is encouraging for the purveyors.
“This year, it’s a little better for everyone,” he said. “If they’re busy, we’re busy. We started off a little better this year. And prices are higher, so that helps on the margins.”