How to Find a Premium Food Distributor

Food Distributor

There are well over 650,000 restaurants in America. And honestly, that number might be on the low side of the actual situation if you account for food trucks and holes in the walls.

The one thing all these eateries have in common is the need to source food at affordable prices. That’s where a food distributor comes in; they offer quality food in bulk quantities cheaper than the supermarket.

Any good restaurant manager has a bunch of wholesale distributors on speed dial. But how do they settle on their preferred vendors? Read on to find out.

Food Distributor: A Definition

Before finding a food distributor, you need to know what they do.

They’re a wholesale business that supplies food to consumer-facing food businesses. They buy directly from the manufacturers in large quantities and, thus, get food for the cost price.

They serve companies and organizations like:

  • Supermarkets
  • Restaurants
  • Food trucks
  • Cafeterias
  • Retirement homes
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Jails

These businesses buy food from a distributor in bulk quantities at discounted prices.

Of course, not all distributors are made alike. Some specialize in imported premium food products, while others stock only low-quality convenience foods. Others again focus only on farm produce.

Understanding the Types of Food Distributors

As we noted above, there are different types of food distributors. A savvy restaurant or school cafeteria manager knows to have a handful of options to shop at.

National wholesale food suppliers have every staple product under the sun—but only in the largest sizes. Think 50 lb bags of flour, 5 lb tubs of sour cream, and cases of frozen hash browns. They also usually sell commercial-grade kitchen equipment and supplies. Organic suppliers offer similar items, but usually the premium versions—and, of course, all organically grown.

Another food distributor that should be on the radar of any good cook is the local farmer. Going direct to the farmer for vegetables, fruit, dairy, and meat means you get the price a wholesaler would pay for the goods. And if there’s a glut of, say, apples, farmers slash prices even further to move the product quickly.

You can also connect with farmers at local food markets.

Butchers are a great way for chefs to get higher-quality cuts of meat at more affordable prices. The benefit of working with a butcher is that they can work with your special menu requirements.

Finally, sommeliers and fine dining establishments will likely need to work with a beer and wine supplier for their beverage needs.

Food Company Search Strategies

Searching online is one of the best ways to find local suppliers. Go with the distributors that pop up on the first page since they’ll be the most popular.

You can also ask around food industry peers to find out who they use. Word-of-mouth recommendations are generally trustworthy. You can also research to find out who your competitors are using.

Trade shows and food expos offer opportunities to connect with more bespoke or obscure wholesalers face-to-face.

If You Find a Good Food Distributor, Keep Them Close

If you’re a food company selling to the public, you must have at least one quality food distributor on your radar. Without taking advantage of their bulk buying and lower prices, your business is unlikely to turn a profit.

Learn about the distributors in your area and diversify your sources where possible. And don’t be afraid to negotiate prices for oversized orders!

For more friendly food business advice, read the other articles on our website.