Despite the lagging economy, foodservice sales appear to be holding steady and even are increasing in some cases, most Atlanta distributors report.

This is contrary to many other metropolitan areas where wholesalers report sluggish foodservice sales.

“(I think) everyone’s sales are up a little,” said Nickey Gregory, president and owner of Nickey Gregory Co. Inc., Atlanta. “Most of the purveyors’ sales are up a little. It’s coming back. Everyone’s getting a little more relaxed.”

Gregory said foodservice remains highly competitive. He said it seems more smaller jobbers are starting businesses in Atlanta, which makes for a highly competitive market.

David Collins III, president of Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc., Forest Park, Ga., said sales remain consistent.

“A lot of people, if you asked them three years ago how many stores they expected to open in the next five years, I would say the numbers would be a far greater estimate than what they achieved,” he said. “But things are starting to step in the right direction.”

Collins said produce sales are increasing in the Atlanta area and said Phoenix’s sales have jumped 10% over last year.

Foodservice jobbers appear to be doing OK, said Andrew Scott, sales and procurement manager for General Produce Inc., Atlanta.

Scott said shorts or late trucks increase ordering as do the tightness of certain crops, such as red grapes which were in shorter supplies in late May.

“I am seeing more and more people out in the restaurants,” Scott said. “More are going out to eat more. I’m not sure if this has to do with their time constraints or if they have extra income.”

An indicator that things may be trending positive is increased orders in a particular foodservice segment.

Robert Poole, junior partner and vice president of sales for Athena Farms, Forest Park, said he’s seeing more business from caterers.

“Catering is strong now,” he said in late May. “In years past, as the economy (faltered), people would book a party and would be only willing to spend a certain amount. There’s been a gradual turnaround. We’re not seeing that as much. People are more open with their wallets and are now willing to spend more.”