The foodservice business is doing well in the Northeast, distributors report.

Restaurant sales remain high and the foodservice jobbers that purchase from wholesalers on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market report strong movement.

"The restaurants are busy," said Martin Roth, secretary-treasurer of Coosemans Philadelphia Inc. "Their volumes are up. Business has been very good."

The foodservice trade is increasing, said Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., in Philadelphia.

New restaurants and other businesses are being opened in older neighborhoods in a city which once experienced stagnant business growth, he said.

"Foodservice business is strong," Wiechec said. "The restaurant business is a good one. It's actually improving."

The city has done well removing vacant old buildings.

One of Wiechec's foodservice wholesale customers recently sold his dilapidated warehouse for $5 million in an older area which is now a booming district.

New York's high rents have driven many chefs to Philadelphia which sports many renowned chefs and restaurateurs, said Christine Hofmann, the market's marketing coordinator.

A recent city magazine reported on the city's up-and-coming restaurants and the city is enjoying a thriving restaurant industry, she said.

"The food scene in Philadelphia is huge," she said. "It's very busy. We have a lot of world-class chefs here. It seems like so many restaurants are popping-up. So many areas of town are coming alive. I think it's a renaissance for this city."

Though movement will slow, particularly during the dead of summer when many Philadelphia-area residents vacation at the Jersey Shore beaches, foodservice sales remain strong, said Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros Sales Corp., Philadelphia.

"The restaurants are doing well," he said. "Their orders are good. With the Democratic National Convention in July, they got a little bump. Many of the wholesalers we sell to off the market are in the height of their tourist season in the summer and all those restaurants and farm stands are seeing good sales."

In general, patrons need reservations for the better restaurants, Maxwell said.

Foodservice business at Philadelphia's M. Levin & Co Inc. remains consistent, said Mark Levin, co-owner.

"I see more restaurants opening in Philadelphia," he said.

Levin points to the King of Prussia mall, on the city's west suburbs, which may be as large as the Mall of America in Minnesota.

Down the street, construction of a complex, which is designed to house about nine major restaurants, is underway.

"Someone must be seeing a future in the restaurant business," Levin said. "The purveyor business is strong."

Fresh-cut

Fresh-cut processing sales are booming, said Tom Curtis, president of Philadelphia's Tom Curtis Produce Inc.

Curtis said his operation is selling more produce to supply fresh-cut processors that produce party trays filled with precut broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and celery.

"That business is taking off on us and that end of the business has really expanded," Curtis said. "It blew-up in the last two to three years and we are seeing it becoming bigger and bigger. It's amazing how people pick-up those products. They're orders are monstrous."

Meal replacement

Retail involvement in foodservice is growing, said Bill Burr, outside sales associate at John Vena Inc., in Philadelphia.

"Retailers are looking to capitalize on the growing consumer preference for unique and ethnic flavors, as well as expanding meal solution concepts for the busy consumer," he said.

Displays within stores are trending on "building the plate."

"Whether it is complimenting items cross-merchandised from multiple departments to build the market basket or ready-to-go meal kits all in one convenient box, the race is on," Burr said. "The meal delivery trend is challenging retailers to think differently to retain existing shoppers and capture the attention of the younger generations."

 
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