Ebb in foodservice sales challenges distributors - The Packer

Ebb in foodservice sales challenges distributors

02/28/2011 03:14:14 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

New York City remains dependent on its many restaurants and grocery stores.

People are always looking for something good to eat in the city’s many eateries.

Distributors say the segment, which accounts for a big chunk of their business, remains challenged by New Yorkers more willing to buy food at grocery stores and prepare meals at home at less cost.

Still, the city remains a thriving restaurant capital.

“Foodservice was off for a while, but now it’s back as normal,” said Richard Cochran, president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., New York. “The holidays helped it a little.”

Others aren’t as optimistic.

“There are a lot of businesses that have gone under in the restaurant world,” said Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market. “The restaurants that are doing well are still there and are doing well. You can walk down a block and find empty storefronts, but all kinds of restaurants that are doing fine.”

Joel Panagakos, executive vice president of J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., said improving economic conditions have helped foodservice sales.

“The economy here has rebounded a little but it’s still far from where it was a little while ago,” he said. “People are adjusting menus to the times and offering different types of products. National chains are focusing on $10-12 meals vs. the $15-18 meals they used to concentrate on. They’re giving more and more value to the diners and are using a lot of fresh vegetables in these presentations.”

Panagakos points to McDonald’s introducing healthy breakfast items.

He said J. Kings over the last year has been recommending its customers focus on breakfast items and has been selling more types of apples and dried cranberries for use in oatmeal bars.

Becoming more competitive and offering better pricing for its customers, Panagakos said New York restaurants have put a squeeze on the margins of suppliers.

“We find ourselves trying to work together with our customers and figure out ways to offer them these products at competitive prices matched with fewer deliveries,” Panagakos said.

Paul Auerbach, president of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., South Hackensack, N.J., said he can tell that foodservice sales are stronger than they were a couple of years ago.

“I see it’s busier and around the New York metropolitan area, especially here in north New Jersey, in the popular restaurants, you can’t get in on a Friday or Saturday night. It appears to me as a consumer that activity in the restaurant business is up.”

Auerbach sells produce to foodservice purveyors.

Carlos Garcia, general manager of Krisp-Pak Sales Corp., New York, said he thinks successful restaurants remain busy every day while less popular establishments may be busy only a couple of days a week.

While Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays remain busy days for many restaurants, Garcia said even Wednesdays have been busy for some eateries.



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