Higher-end and lower-end eateries seem to be stable, Escene said.
“The guys that have money still have it and they still spend it at the white-tablecloths,” he said.
Foodservice customers have experienced economic pressures, and that can be seen in purchasing decisions, said Dale Hayton, sales manager at Valley Pride Sales, Mount Vernon, Wash.
“We’re seeing more and more requests for steady contract-type pricing and just steady consistent quality,” he said.
David Rinella, owner of Portland, Ore.-based Rinella Produce said building a consistent foodservice customer base requires keen knowledge of the product.
“Knowledge really solidifies trust, and we try to meet two three times a day with every trend that comes up,” he said.
Tacoma, Wash.-based wholesaler Evergreen Fruit & Produce’s customer base is almost exclusively foodservice, said Ray Iannielli, owner.
Iannielli said he had noticed a slight upward trend in sales of late.
“You see busy weekends and slow midweek traffic,” he said.
Ernie Spada Jr., owner of Portland, Ore.-based Duck Delivery and United Salad Co., said it’s important to maintain communication with foodservice customers.
“A lot has to do with your sales staff keeping chefs up to speed on what’s out there and available,” he said.
Spada said his sales staff maintains updated product sheets.
“Here, we do a fresh local sheet, a lot of items that are out there they can feature on menus as local and stimulate extra sales,” he said.
Restaurants appear to be recovering from the malaise of years past, said Doug Huttenstine, executive vice president at Seattle-based wholesaler Charlie’s Produce.
“As the economy had struggled over the past few years, we found that the discretionary dollar for foodservice had declined, particularly for white-tablecloth concepts. However, recently we are seeing positive trends in year-over-year sales in all foodservice,” he said.