As restaurants around the U.S. begin to reopen, demand for foodservice supplies is on the rise though not to the level it once was.
“The foodservice industry was hit hard and will continue with some serious uphill challenges,” says Tony Incaviglia of GR Fresh based in McAllen, Tex. “Many restaurants, schools, sporting events, expos, convention centers, etc. have yet to open.” Incaviglia notes that while the loss of foodservice was felt for distribution companies such as his, the initial increased demand for product at retail helped offset that loss.
“There are a lot of foodservice companies who are focused on restaurants and schools and other events and it’s going to be awhile until they make their way back,” Incaviglia says. “It’s a sad deal as many may not make it back depending on their infrastructure and how long they can hang on.”
That said, foodservice clients are often appreciated for their consistent business. “But I’m afraid it’s going to take time before it’s close to where they were before,” says Incaviglia. “Maybe we’ll get to 50 percent of the business by the end of the year, depending on how things open up. It’s been a slow process and I’m hoping by this time next year that things are back to normal.”
Photo: GR Fresh
Over at National Onion, Inc. based in Las Cruces, NM, Steve Smith says that while there is more demand for product for foodservice, it isn’t consistent. “Some days you get a lot of business and then it goes quiet for a few days and then it comes back,” he says. “People who used to buy a truckload a day are now buying one or two a week. So, it’s not back up to full pace yet.”
Like Incaviglia, Smith too notes that of course the demand for foodservice product is largely (but not solely) tied to how fast restaurants open back up throughout the U.S. But once opened, business will also look different. “There are a lot of cities where nobody is in the offices in town so those restaurants that had a lunch crowd don’t have that anymore for example. It’s hard to open up without that,” says Smith. “And where I live, the restaurants can only seat 50 percent of what they normally do. And then some people are still not going back to restaurants.”
Smith also notes that companies buying for foodservice supplies are more limited in their purchases currently. “They’re trying to buy to not have huge inventory on hand. Instead, it’s just what they need,” he says. “They’re keeping it tight because they say they don’t know how much the restaurants are going to buy.”