Working Collaboratively to Help Independent Restaurants Grow their Business

At a time when independent restaurants are threatened by stagnation, distributors, vendors and purchasing groups

are putting their heads together to help their customers emerge successfully from the doldrums. Restaurateurs’ supply-chain partners are seeking answers to their pressing questions about “What’s new, what’s hot, how can I improve my menu, how can I get more people in my seats.”

At the recent Legacy Foodservice Alliance’s Marketplace in Richmond, we spoke with Steve Push, CEO, regarding his views about foodservice cooperation.

What was the upshot of the latest Marketplace organized by Legacy Foodservice Alliance for its distributor and vendor-members last month? What did you learn?

The Marketplace always reasserts to me the local marketplace resiliency of the Legacy distributor and supplier-members. With the away-from-home dining business growing at a glacial pace this year, our members continue to find ways to work together to show more than just nominal growth. It may sound trite, but that simply comes from working together, listening to, and supporting each other.

What are your distributor-members saying about foodservice business? Which segments are suffering and which ones are doing well?

For Legacy members, more than half of our sales are derived from sales to restaurants. It’s an exciting time in most cities, and many are seeing population growth again, and the cities are hotbeds for independent restaurants. Our distributor members are especially well placed to take advantage of this growth, and are doing well in these markets. We don’t really handle a great deal of multi-unit or quick serve restaurants, so I don’t really have a finger on that pulse.

What is the greatest supply-chain issue that distributors and vendors are dealing with today?

At this very moment, trucking is a huge issue at all levels. JIT delivery is difficult to achieve right now. Besides the ongoing and worsening shortage of drivers, the natural disasters that have impacted the country in the last few weeks has wreaked havoc on the trucking industry. In a tight supply situation, now a significant number of trucks have been needed to provide disaster relief supplies to the areas impacted by the recent hurricanes. Freight costs have greatly increased, and lead times have had to be lengthened.

When restaurant operators turn to their distributors for help, what is their number one concern beyond the price per carton? 

I still hear the sales teams say their customers continually look to them for new menu or product ideas: What’s new, what’s hot, how can I improve my menu, how can I get more people in my seats?

With non-traditional means of distributing foodservice products creeping into the supply chain, what can distributors and DSRs do to avoid becoming antiquated or losing marketshare?

Legacy actually has a couple of non-traditional distributor-members that are doing very well in the new reality. I think every distributor needs to figure out what his digital sales and fulfillment strategy can or should be, and if they can’t implement it, should look for a friendly partner to work with. If a distributor-member chooses not to implement a new fulfillment strategy, he can still win by out-servicing the customer. Strive for perfect orders, or (if necessary) correct your own mistakes immediately, and (most importantly) correct your competitors’ mistakes immediately. Make your company invaluable to your operator-customers, and critical to their success.

When distributors turn to Legacy Foodservice Alliance for advice on how they can best help their customers, what do you tell them?

Study and understand your customers’ businesses and their needs in detail. Ask lots of questions. Only when you understand their objectives and needs can you make competent suggestions on how to help them improve their businesses.

Legacy Foodservice Alliance is approaching its 10th anniversary in a couple of years. How many members to do you have, how have you positioned yourself along the foodservice supply chain to help them grow their businesses?

As we approach this milestone, we remain more excited than ever about the future of the organization, and the future of independent distributors in general. Our distributor membership right now numbers about 165, and we work with nearly 600 Supplier Members worldwide. It’s nice to see that despite all the industry consolidation, there are still more independent distributors than there were 20 years ago. I’ve always felt that the basic responsibility of the group is to help provide the tools, support, and educational resources just to help the distributor members be profitable enough to stay in business. So, we’re investing in improving our educational offerings, improving our digital capabilities where needed, and providing access to the products and services that will help distributor members stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment. We all have to be nimble at every point in the supply chain Alliance. Speed is critical.


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