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How to Choose the Best Restaurant Food Suppliers (2023)

Finding the right restaurant food suppliers are essential for any restaurant business. With the right supplier, you can get quality ingredients at competitive prices and ensure that your customers always have the best dining experience. But with so many options, how do you choose which one to go with?  

In this blog post, we will discuss some key factors to consider when selecting a restaurant food supplier in 2023. We’ll look at things like price, quality, delivery times, and customer service, as well as what type of products they offer and their sustainability practices. By understanding these factors better, you can make an informed decision that will help your restaurant run smoothly for years to come!

Restaurant Food Suppliers

Restaurant food suppliers are companies that provide restaurants with the necessary ingredients, materials, and other products needed to prepare meals. These supplies typically include fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen and canned goods, dairy products, seafood, meats and poultry, grains and starches, condiments, and spices.

In addition to food items, restaurant food suppliers also provide a range of other products, including kitchen and dining room supplies, cleaning equipment and chemicals, restaurant uniforms, and a variety of paper-based products for use in the kitchen and dining areas. 

By working with a restaurant food supplier, restaurateurs can obtain all the necessary products in one convenient place. This can save them both time and money regarding product procurement and inventory management.

Types of Food Suppliers for Restaurants

For restaurants to be successful, they need reliable and quality food suppliers. Here are some of the most important types of suppliers that restaurants need to consider: 

  • Perishable food suppliers (produce)
  • Meat suppliers
  • Seafood suppliers
  • Dry good suppliers
  • Baked goods suppliers
  • Specialty Ingredients
  • Beer suppliers
  • Wine suppliers
  • Hard alcohol suppliers
  • Sodas
  • Coffee suppliers
  • Non-perishable item suppliers (restaurant equipment)
  • Servingware suppliers
  • Disposable item suppliers
  • Technology Suppliers

How Restaurant Food Suppliers Work

The process of bringing food from the farm to the restaurant table involves various players such as farmers, processors, manufacturers, wholesale suppliers, and restaurants. Understanding how these players work together is important to ensure that food is safe, sustainable, and high-quality.

Here is a breakdown of how restaurant food suppliers work:

  1. Farmers: Farmers are the foundation of the restaurant food supply chain. They grow and harvest produce, raise animals, and cultivate seafood that will eventually be served on customers' plates.
  2. Distributors: Distributors, also known as first-line handlers, collect and aggregate goods from farms and transport them to processors, manufacturers, and wholesale food suppliers.
  3. Processors and manufacturers: These companies take raw ingredients from farmers and turn them into finished products such as pre-cooked vegetables, canned goods, frozen proteins, sauces, dressings, and oils.
  4. Wholesale food suppliers: These suppliers purchase goods from processors and manufacturers, negotiate prices and maintain relationships with restaurant partners. They also store the products in their warehouses and deliver them to restaurants.
  5. Restaurants: Finally, the restaurant receives orders from wholesale food suppliers at least once a week. Chefs then use these ingredients to create their recipes and dishes.

How to Find Food Suppliers for a Restaurant

1. Search Online

Start your search by looking into an online marketplace, such as BlueCart. These sites provide a comprehensive list of wholesalers and food suppliers for restaurants. BlueCart offers an all-in-one solution for businesses looking to purchase food wholesale. It also provides subscription boxes and tools for B2C and B2B eCommerce. Make sure to do your due diligence by researching the suppliers and reading reviews before committing to a business partnership. This will help you ensure you get the best quality and service possible.

2. Contact Trade Organizations

Trade organizations such as the National Restaurant Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) are great resources for finding food suppliers for your restaurant. These organizations have access to a vast network of potential suppliers and can provide valuable information about the quality and reliability of different vendors. They can also help you connect with other restaurants and food service businesses that can offer referrals to reputable suppliers.

Additionally, trade organizations often host conferences and events where suppliers and restaurateurs can meet, network, and build relationships. By attending these events, you can make valuable connections with potential suppliers to help you find your restaurant’s best products.

3. Attend Trade Shows

Attending a trade show is an excellent way to find food suppliers for your restaurant. You can connect with leading food producers and distributors worldwide and source products for your business. Research online to find upcoming trade shows related to the food industry, and make sure you register in advance so that you can have access to the best deals. Don’t forget to bring business cards or flyers with your restaurant’s information, as you’ll want to start making connections and establish relationships with the food suppliers you meet.

4. Ask for Referrals

One of the best ways to find quality food suppliers is through referrals. Speak with your local restaurant owners and chefs to see whom they use for their food supply and ask for their opinion on the supplier’s quality and customer service. If you have friends in the restaurant or catering business, they can also provide valuable insight into their experiences with food suppliers. Don’t be afraid to tap into your network for referrals; you never know who may have a good lead.

5. Use Social Media

Social media is a great tool when searching for potential food suppliers. Use platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to connect with vendors in your area. Once connected, you can find out what products they offer and whether they are a good fit for your restaurant. You can also join industry-related groups and forums to get ideas from other restaurant owners who may have experience with particular food suppliers. Don’t forget to ask for recommendations and read reviews to ensure you’re making the right choice.

6. Attend Food-Related Events

Attending food-related events such as local farmer's markets, professional trade shows, and industry conferences can be a great way to discover potential suppliers. These events offer an opportunity to meet and network with farmers, producers, wholesalers, distributors, and other related professionals in the food industry. It can also be a great way to get an up-close and personal look at the products you want to purchase.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Restaurant Food Suppliers

When it comes to a successful restaurant, finding the right food suppliers is essential. Not only does this help ensure that your customers are satisfied, but it also helps you keep costs down and maintain quality standards. Here are some of the key factors to consider when choosing the best restaurant food suppliers:

1. Quality of Products

The quality of the products that the supplier provides should be the most important factor to consider. The supplier should have a reputation for providing high-quality, fresh ingredients that meet your restaurant's needs.

2. Food Safety

When selecting a food supplier for your restaurant, it is essential to ensure that they uphold the highest food safety standards. This means the food must be kept at appropriate temperatures, handled safely, and stored properly. A key indicator to consider is whether or not the supplier has implemented TCS (Time and Temperature Control for Safety) food safety protocols. TCS food safety protocols encompass the safe handling, preparation, storage, and cooking of perishable foods. A supplier that follows these protocols can provide the high-quality, safe food that your restaurant needs. It is also important to ask for proof of certification to verify that the supplier complies with these protocols.

3. Price and Value

While quality is crucial, you also want to ensure you get good value for your money. Look for a supplier that offers competitive prices and is willing to work with you to find ways to save money without sacrificing quality.

4. Delivery and Omni Channel Order Fulfillment

Delivery and omni channel order fulfillment are important factors to consider when choosing the best restaurant food suppliers. Restaurants need reliable suppliers that can efficiently handle their delivery and order fulfillment process. 

The supplier should have experience providing omnichannel solutions such as same-day delivery, online ordering and curbside pickup. It is important to have a supplier that understands the restaurant’s business objectives and can work with them to create an effective delivery and order fulfillment plan.

5. Customer Service

A good supplier should have excellent customer service. They should be responsive to your needs, be able to answer any questions you have and provide support if any issues arise.

6. Range of Products

Choose a supplier that offers a wide range of products to meet your restaurant's needs. Having a single supplier for all your food and supply needs can simplify your procurement process.

7. Flexibility

When selecting a restaurant food supplier, it is important to consider their flexibility. Flexibility can refer to the range and variety of products they offer, their delivery times, or the ability to switch up orders at short notice. The best restaurant food suppliers will be willing to accommodate any changes you may need and be flexible enough to cater to your needs.

8. Reputation and References

Do some research and check the supplier's reputation and reviews. Ask for references from other restaurants they work with and contact them for feedback on their experiences with the supplier.

9. Sustainability Practices

In addition to the factors mentioned above, it’s also important to consider the supplier’s sustainability practices. Consumers becoming more environmentally conscious are increasingly seeking out restaurants that prioritize sustainability in their supply chain. Look for suppliers prioritizing sustainable practices, such as using eco-friendly packaging, sourcing ingredients from local or organic farms, and minimizing food waste. By partnering with suppliers that share your commitment to sustainability, you can attract customers to your restaurant and retain customers who value environmentally friendly business practices.

By considering these factors, you can choose the best restaurant food suppliers for your specific needs, which will help ensure the success and growth of your restaurant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Food Suppliers

Running a successful restaurant requires more than just delicious food; it also requires reliable and cost-effective food suppliers. This FAQ section answers some of the most commonly asked questions about restaurant food suppliers to help you make informed decisions for your business.

Where Do Restaurants Get Their Food Supplies From?

Restaurants have several options when it comes to getting their food supplies. They can purchase food directly from farmers and producers or go through a supply chain such as a wholesaler or distributor. 

Farmers and producers are often the cheapest food source, but they may be limited in variety, quantity, and quality. Going through a supply chain of wholesalers or distributors gives restaurants access to a greater selection of already packaged and prepped food. Restaurants may also choose to source some ingredients from specialty stores, such as ethnic markets or specialty grocery stores.  

Who Are the Biggest Restaurant Suppliers?

The biggest restaurant suppliers in the United States include:

  • Sysco Corporation
  • US Foods
  • Shamrock Foods
  • Performance Food Service
  • Gordon Food Service

What Are Food Industry Suppliers?

Food industry suppliers are companies that provide raw materials, components, and services used by food and beverage manufacturers. Suppliers may offer ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products; packaging materials such as boxes and cans; production machinery such as ovens, mixers, and conveyor belts; or services such as transportation and warehousing

Suppliers play a key role in the food industry because they help ensure manufacturers have the resources to produce safe, high-quality products. They also help food manufacturers stay competitive by providing ingredients and services at a reasonable cost. By working with suppliers, food and beverage companies can focus on what they do best - producing delicious products that meet the needs of their customers.

Can You Order Food From Any Supplier for Your Restaurant?

It is possible to order food from any supplier for your restaurant in the United States. However, you must meet several regulatory requirements and industry standards to do so. For example, the FDA Food Code requires that all food products be from an approved source and meet specific standards for safety and quality. 

In addition, depending on the state you operate in, there may be additional requirements regarding food suppliers. Therefore, it is important to research and understand your state’s applicable regulations before ordering food from any supplier.

Why Are Suppliers Important for a Restaurant?

Suppliers are an essential element of a restaurant's operations. They provide the ingredients and materials that allow restaurants to serve customers. Restaurants need suppliers to provide various ingredients and materials, such as fresh produce, meats, dairy products, packaged goods, and cleaning supplies. Without reliable suppliers, restaurants could not serve quality food to their customers.