Selecting a distributor for your restaurant is not something that should be taken lightly.  It is a major decision that will encompass, depending on your concept type, 28-40% of your weekly expenses.  It is a partnership and relationship that can make your life easy or create unnecessary frustration.  Below we have a few points and references to help you make the right decision.

Type of Distributor:

  • Local vs. National –
  • Specialty vs. Broadline
    • Specialty distributors of produce, meat, poultry, seafood, disposables, imports, etc… There is a place for these specialty players, but you want to limit as much as possible to drive expenses down.  The more volume you give one distributor the better your chances are to get the best pricing. 
    • The correct broadline distributor will have the majority if not all of the specialty items you need.  We suggest to exhaust this option and only split up your buying power if you absolutely have to. 


Local advantage – it will always make more sense to buy from a local broadline distributor in regards to pricing.

  • Not all broadline distributors are created equal. 
  • Pick someone who is large enough to have buying power but not so big that you are not a big deal in their building.

Understanding Distribution

  • Distributors make anywhere from 3 – 6 cents on the dollar at the end of the day.
  • Knowing this will allow you to negotiate in the right way that is sustainable.

How to be important to a distributor

  • Pay Quickly!
  • Limit Deliveries
  • Give as much volume as possible
  • Be organized!


Will Call recovery – can the rep bring you product? Where is will call located and what are hours?

Service levels: Fill Rate, On-time Delivery, Ops Errors

Capacity from growth

Item selection – Push or Pull

Value Add:

Menu costing – Do they have a system if you don’t?

Reports – what reporting is available

  • COGs Report
  • Void Reporting for multiple locations

Order Entry – Desktop and Mobile.


Likeability of Rep and Management

  • Not something to overlook and worth having a candid conversation.

Ongoing partnership

Get references – 5 years a longer

Get one reference of the customer who purchased and then left.

What are your long term goals and do they understand them and care?


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