Doug OhlemeierTony Buff, owner of Tony Buff Wholesale, shows off peppers at Coosemans New York Inc. in the Hunts Point Terminal Market. Buff says foodservice sales remain very quiet. He says distributors have endured a rough winter and a rough economy. NEW YORK — In a city so dependent on its tourist visitors, business visits and people dining out, slower foodservice sales stress distributors.
In the City that Never Sleeps, dining options abound every minute of the day.
Produce distributors say their customers are tightening their belts and reacting to consumers who aren’t patronizing restaurants every day anymore.
“Sales are very quiet,” said Tony Buff, owner of Tony Buff Wholesale, Westchester, Conn., which sells mostly to the restaurant trade.
“It has been a rough winter and a rough economy. Everyone is way off. Some are going out of business. With prices being high, it makes it tough to wholesale.”
Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said the smaller number of restaurants shows the state of the foodservice sector.
“There is still a tremendous amount of empty storefronts that used to be restaurants in Manhattan and in the metropolitan area,” he said.
“It won’t take you long before you walk by some empty storefronts. I would say the foodservice side has long since adjusted (to the economy). The people that were in a weakened state when the economy turned, they’re basically all gone. The stronger ones have survived. There are some new players that have taken the place of a lot of the ones that are gone.”
Pete Pelosi, buyer and logistics for A&J Produce Corp., said he thinks foodservice purveyors are focusing more on volume sales to make up for the lost margins.
“In the past, they could maybe make more money on margin because they had higher-priced items,” Pelosi said.
“Those guys are always complaining but they’re still buying. I haven’t seen too many go out of business since the recession. They’ve had to adjust like everyone else.”
The foodservice business remains stressed and restaurants must adapt and try new things to keep attracting customers, said Joel Panagakos, executive vice president of J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y.
“When you look at the national guys like Applebee’s and the Ruby Tuesdays, they’re wheeling and dealing deals all day long,” Panagakos said.