Product Distribution in Foodservice

Do you have an innovative product or idea and want to break into the commercial foodservice distribution market?

There are many factors in distributing your products in a commercial setting to the operator (restaurant or food away from home operation). There are many contact points, too: operator/owner, chef, food and beverage manager, DSR, buyer, category manager, merchandiser, distributor restaurant consultant, group purchasing organization, and more….

 Your path to success through broadline foodservice distribution, specialty distribution, or direct to operator can be complex.  We’ll cover a few points here.

  • How have you market tested your product? Have you engaged with chefs and restaurant owners, do you have strong retail or online support?
  • Do you have an existing relationship in the decision tree? In this connected world, there should be someone in your Social (Business) contacts who can provide feedback and guidance.
  • You may choose to work with the distributor, first, but will they want to work with you?  If you have a truly unique product and you find the right person at the distributor who believes in your magic, then you may have a trusted guide to help. Don’t be discouraged if you have difficulty getting to the right people at a distributor. Typically, they are hard working with full plates.
  • When I worked in distribution, a lot of companies presented ideas & they were not ready to go to market. Make sure you have your basics down, so the distributor doesn’t have to do your work for you!
  • If you choose to go to the operator, then you want to make sure you have your costs right & you have planned for future distribution expenses and you have proper margins considered in your pricing.
  • When approaching operators, think about it from the distributor’s point of view, too. By that, I mean know your logistical costs and distributor buying patterns. Sales and Profitability are key, you need to sell and generate enough profit to warrant a slot in the warehouse. 
  • We’ll add more, soon. Until then, what else would you consider.
  • from Rich Wolverton, Pam Panuccio, Scott Schmitz
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