Researching Restaurant Food Suppliers

Posted on: 13 April 2020

Have you daydreamed of starting your own restaurant, café, food truck business, food counter, street cart, or catering business — but you have no industry experience and you don't know where to start?  

You're going to be researching things like small business loans, restaurant equipment suppliers, insurance, payroll/accounting, and maybe real estate. However, the basis of your business is the food you provide, and that brings the question of how to find a food ingredients supplier.

If you're interested in supporting local producers, you can visit your local farmers' market and visit with the vendors there. If your menu will include eggs, meat, or dairy, look online for local farms that may sell to local businesses.  

If you're wanting to support free-range farming, in which the animals are not kept in small pens or cages, search online for free-range suppliers. Even if they're not local to you, they may provide wholesale deals to businesses. Sourcing ingredients from free-range farmers is a selling point for many of your potential customers.

You'll find that lots of ingredient distributor wholesalers have extensive information online to describe what they offer. Here are some basic questions to check for on their sites to get started:

  • Get prices and delivery times.
  • Ask where they source their products from.
  • Ask about food safety throughout their supply chain process.

The suppliers' websites should say if they're also organic ingredients distributors. Keep in mind that not all ingredients are necessarily 100 percent organic even if they have been verified by the FDA as organic.

One caveat to pay attention to is to not over-buy.  Find spreadsheet software that specifically helps you manage your food inventory so you can keep accurate track of you have. Without it, it's too easy to end up with hundreds of dollars of perishable food that goes bad before you are able to use it. 

Another valuable source of input is talking to experienced chefs and other restaurateurs. Ask what suppliers they've used and been happy with. Ask them what they've learned that they hadn't considered when they were just getting started in the business.

Knowledge is power. Research. Ask questions and take notes. Do more research, make phone calls to food distributors, and ask questions again.  Other successful restaurateurs have built their businesses from the ground up with no prior industry experience.

To learn more, contact a company that offers ingredient distribution services in your area.