Rants

Why Big Foodservice Suppliers Suck And Why They Make Restaurants Suck

Here’s the deal. I just had a shitty meal at a restaurant that I wanted to like. Part of the reason it sucks, I think, is because many of these big broadline distributors want it to suck. They benefit from shitty restaurants who want to sell cheap food and make lots of money on it.

Allow me to explain.  Big foodservice reps walk into restaurants with product samples that their bosses want them to sell.  They pass these products off as time savers and convenience items that can save a restaurant time and money.  What types of products, you ask? Where to begin.  There is the pre-cooked, pre-cut bacon in a bag.  The ready to serve flank steak, pre-marinated and pre-grilled.  Just cut and heat in the microwave.  There are the green beans in a can.  The ranch dressing with MSG and preservatives.  The neon yellow cheese sauce in a can. Heat and serve soups in a bag. The list goes on and on.

The problem is that big foodservice presents these items as viable alternatives to real food, which they most certainly are not.  Look at the ingredients in that cheese sauce and you won’t find one thing closely related to the ingredients you use to make cheese.  These folks come in and tell a restaurateur that they can save time and money by switching to the cheaper product.  They don’t mention the quality, the preservatives, the fat, the general nastiness or the impact on the consumer.  And restaurant people, who are overworked and exhausted as is, see an alternative.  But, as I mentioned, its not an alternative.

Obviously, the restaurant people are to blame as well. They make the purchasing decisions.  But the influence comes from the peddlers at giant broadliners.  And if these broadliners took some of these shitty processed foods out of their lineup, you’d have a better quality product all around.  Restaurants would be tastier, the sun would shine brighter, Americans would be skinnier, and unicorns would roam the plains (whatever, part of that is true).

So, in short, I blame big foodservice companies.  I think they suck.  Their products suck, their decision-making sucks, their corporate structure (probably) sucks, and their crack peddling processed food bullshit sucks. Ask your favorite local restaurant if they use these folks and I bet they’ll tell you no.  Go somewhere that sucks and ask, you’ll probably get a yes.

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21 thoughts on “Why Big Foodservice Suppliers Suck And Why They Make Restaurants Suck

  1. You guys are still wrong and no amount of my explaining to you is going to change this. Just like the peopel who feel that WMD’s are in Iraq or that the large companies are evil. Logic does not dictate reason. So Newsweek named Sysco as one of the top 500 greenest compaines in the world.. The MSC, A division of the WWFund has partnered with Sysco to ensure a sustainable seafood supply. Sysco is one of the only broadliners with a QA staff of 182 (the nearest is in the single digits). If you think the USDA and FDA are inspecting at an appropiate level you are mistaken. NACUFS gave Sysco the sustainability award this past year. Local sourcing has saved many of our local farmers in this area… White MArble Farms (a sysco brand) must be grown in a small family owned farm in the mid west. All supppilers must adhere to MGMP and GAP practices.

    I appreciate that you think the “little guy” is giving you a great product but that is not always true.. Repacks, reboxing, and bad practices abound in their size as well as broadliners.. Understand that Sysco has partnered with some names that hold them accountable for their practices

    Here is one of Sysco’s largest customers in Columbus Ohio
    http://www.thenorthstarcafe.com/philosophy.html

  2. You are so wrong… the reason that companies such as Roth Kaase Cheese, Culinartes, Indian Harvest, and Coleman farms exist is because Sysco has supported them. Imagine a chain that only serves hormone free chicken yet doesn’t tout it like some of your “local” chefs. (that chain is panera and they are changing the marketplace). I talked to a chef the other day that told me he bought locally (wisconsin). Iasked him how he got away with not putting salt or peper in his food, not serving shrimp, not having coffee, tea, or chocolate for after dinner. Get off your horse and realize that Sysco is doing more to support the green intiative than an individual chef will ever be able to do. … by the way do you know who the keynote speaker was at the National Sustaiability Conference in Fond Du Lac .. the former president and ceo of Sysco. Look up the Saveur article and know what you are talking about. Look up Chef Ex, Local Crop, etc.

  3. This is a stupid, uninformed article from someone who is just supposing they know what they are talking about. If you want to slander a company, you should have more than just a “feeling” that a restaurant is using a particular product or buying from a certain company. Get some facts before you write garbage. Get over yourself.

    • You are correct! This writer has no idea what he is talking about. Sysco not only offers lower costing value added items but they also have all the raw ingredients. Its up to the purchaser on what they want to use. Dont blame it on Sysco. They are the leading food supplier in our nation for a reason! They supply Hospitals to the finest five star restaurants. They also work harder than anyone else out there to get new ideas, concepts and the freshest finest local products available. This whole Sysco bashing article really pisses me off! I have been buying from them for years and Sysco has helped consult and keep me in business.

  4. If you look at the restaurants that buy the canned or heat and serve items, what you would find ,is a customer that want’s despreatly to be in the reataurant business. The majority of those customers “should not be in the restaurant business”. They are people who lost their job or figure “since they can cook at home,the can run a successful restaurant”.They do not know how to cook for the masses ,which takes many years to learn.
    What sysco and other distrubitors are doing is “helping an idiot achive their dreams”.
    If you take a look at many of the most successful restaurants, they also but from Sysco. The difference is , they buy the raw ingredient’s from Sysco,and make everything from scratch.
    If a restaurant owner chooses to serve pre made food vs.to prepare, They should not be in the business. I do not work for Sysco or any other Distrubitors. I have been in the food service business for over 33 years. When i meet a customer you can tell they are new th the restaurant business, I ask them, ” what restaurant exprience they have” 95% say they have none,”but how hard can it be, I’m a good cook at home”. These are the restaurants that use “prepared food.

    • YOU ARE SO RIGHT,I HAVE BEEN IN THE SALES END FOR 35 YEARS,VERY FEW ARE ORIGANAL,ITS ALL PREPARED FOOD,,ITS ALL THE SAME,IF ONE WOULD WANT TO WORK HARD AND MAKE FOOD FROM SCRATCH THEN THEY WOULD SUCCEED,HOWEVER ITS HARD WORK.,BUT WILL PAY OFF

  5. I review restaurants for a number of national magazines. If I’m scoping out a restaurant for a review- I can tell pretty quickly what their food is like by their purveyor. If they are buying from the company in your article- it is not going to be Farm to Table.

    • Wow Warren you said you write for many national magazines and to make a comment like that I am dumbfounded. Many broadliners including SYSCO offer fresh local ingredients when they are in season. For instance my SYSCO company in Charlotte sources their tomatoes from Salsbury, NC just 10 minutes from their warehouse, cabbage, sweet potatoes, green and yellow squash, strawberries, blueberries, chicken, etc are all sourced from the carolinas…yes farm to table…A man who writes should do better research. I used to buy directly from the tomato guy who would deliver me tomatoes in the back of his old pick up truck. That is until I read an article in Savour Magazine entitled “The Greener Giant” which addressed the issue of SYSCO vs the “local guy” and how SYSCO had a smaller carbon foot print and that many of the local guys are getting their produce from the products that SYSCO, USF, PFG etc has rejected due to temperature abuse that affects the shelf life of the product. These broadliners preserve the cold chain where as the local guys deliver seafood, poultry etc out of the back of their truck…a severe HACCP violation.

  6. You may want to become more educated about Sysco prior slandering their name. Sysco does offer product options! It is the operators choice on what type of product they would like to use, and how to utilize it. You’ve failed to find that Sysco also offers raw materials and further options for customers. These options come in organic and sustainable varieties as well. Sysco offers processed products that are free of gluten, sugar, MSG, HVP, Nitrates, preservatives, flavorings and colors, etc. Did you know that Sysco offers freshly cut produce, protein, and fish sans chemicals, and/or hormones? Sysco itself is rated one of the top sustainable fortune 50 companies and has one of the best food safety programs in the United States.

    All The Best-

    • Hi Lux. Thanks for your response. The scope of my piece was not so much that Sysco doesn’t have better and more sustainable options, but that in the field, those items aren’t what are getting shown off and pushed most often. The products that I mentioned do exist in the Sysco portfolio and they are the bulk of what actually gets sold by Sysco. Every sales rep I’ve ever come across has started me out with some sort of pre-processed version of real food. And that was the intent of the piece.

      Thanks for your comment, lively debate is always encouraged.

      • Dave you must have the wrong rep… mine encourages me to make as many things as possible from scratch. He shows me the cost advatages of doing so if I have the skilled labor and/or the time. Their are some things I buy premade such as MSG free Ranch dressing…You cannot damn a whole company based on your experiences. Imagine if I deemed a entire restaurant conceot and based off of a few employees. I mean how many restaurants are actually training their staff in proper decorum? Very few. If your chef is buying premade stuff tell him to stop being lazy and tell your Sysco rep to listen to the chef and help him determine the cost/benifit analysis of his options…

      • Johnny, thanks for your comments. I don’t disagree with your comments about the people who make purchasing decisions in restaurants. As I mention in the post, the ultimate responsibility comes down to the person at the restaurant who places that order. But if the portfolio of broadline distributors raised the bar from top to bottom, instead of stocking a “green” line and a whole bunch of lines of unhealthy canned crap, people across the board would be able to make better decisions. There are many small distributors out there that feature only quality products across the board. They are varying levels of quality without a doubt, but the lowest of the low line of goods comes from the big broadliners and often the big broadliners only. And that is my point.

  7. Food processors need to get the message. People want more fresh, healthy, food. People do not want chemicals or hormones added.

  8. Just wanted to share Mexican food in the area that I’ve found satisfactory: Plaza Tapatia in Chestertown – I can’t speak to the other locations (this is a franchise), but I had always found fairly decent Tex-Mex from the C-town location. And some of the best south-of-the-border flavors in Southern Maryland (imho): Monterey Restaurant in Lexington Park – I think the family that owns it is Guatemalan if I remember (and if the Bimbo bread ads on the walls are any indication). Haven’t been there in a while, but in my college days this was always a fave. My husband is from Latin America so we’re quite picky. Unfortunately, Annapolis doesn’t seem to really be a hotspot… good luck in your search.

  9. Jim, I agree. It’s not just Sysco, but in the industry, they have a reputation as peddlers of some of the worst products on the market. And they’re so prevalent, which is why I chose to single them out. And I couldn’t agree more that we need to take a stand!

    Jay – how quickly a night out gets ruined by a poor meal, huh. I had a similar conversation with my wife just the other night. It’s constantly disappointing that your local mom and pop place doesn’t put the time or effort in to improve the quality of their product. I’m a believer that people will pay more if you give them a higher quality product. You can still get great value out of a meal if you need to pay $2 more, but people have to recognize its not just about coupons or marketing, its about quality! But, like in beer, its often the big money and big marketing that attracts the masses. Sad.

    • We went to brunch this weekend with my parents in Danville, PA. Not much going on in the area. A place like Perkins (sysco-ish) is packed from 11-1. We go to the Pine Barn Inn, which, maybe they use a service, but the food quality is much higher than that of many places around. There dinners are delicious, but have always been $4-5 more, so it was too much for people to eat at. My wife ordered a cheese omelet, it took up most of the plate, and had breakfast potatoes on the side. Cost: $3.50. How is that expensive?- I’ll never know, but 95% of the people in the area don’t go there because it is too expensive of a place to eat, i.e. they use table linens. Blows my mind. I can go on and on.

      • I know exactly what you mean. I see it all the time. You see it in Annapolis too when there is a line outside of Applebees and the local lunch and dinner spots are hurting for customers. I talk to people all the time who tell me they pick their dinner spots based on coupons only. I realize the economy isn’t great, but come on. If you don’t want to spend the money stay home and cook. When you’re ready to spend, go somewhere that deserves your support.

  10. It took me a couple years to convince my wife that there is good food in restaurants. Now we get disappointed when we go “back home” (where sysco runs the show at “mom and pop” restaurants) and eat a “home-cooked” meal. Even since leaving Baltimore, we have sought out the good food restaurants. Still blows my mind that AppleBees, Ruby Tuesdays and the like can be packed on a Friday and Saturday night, while some restaurants that have awesome food are mostly empty- who cares if it costs $2 more a meal, it is so much better.

  11. i have sold food for many years. Everything you say is correct. Companies do anything to make money. Our government allows this and turn a blind eye. At some point companies must be responsible for their products. It isn’t just companies like Sysco. It goes all the way to the top. It is “we the people” that must take a stand.

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