How to Find the Best Restaurant Supply Companies You Can Count On

With the many restaurants in operation nationwide, the restaurant supply industry is booming. Last year, restaurant equipment contributed to a $25 billion economy. The number of suppliers also grew, reaching a whopping 5,481.

Additionally, with economic growth and steady employment, these numbers are expected to increase over time.

As a restaurant owner or operator, this is excellent news for you. That means you have plenty of suppliers to choose from. But how do you know you’ve found the best restaurant supply company out there?

Restaurant equipment covers a broad range of necessities—from more significant considerations like food, cooking equipment, and coolers, to smaller items like napkins and soap. These things all come from a supplier. 

The best supplier will be a harmonious balance of quality and affordability. They’ll also be someone you can count on as the years go by.

Without further ado, we’ll help you narrow down your ever-growing choices and get your business hooked up with the best. Let’s get started!

Small Considerations

We’ll begin by offering you some food for thought.

Above, we mentioned finding a balance. This is perhaps one of the most important focuses in the choosing of your supplier.

As a new restaurant owner, you’ll want to make a great impression on guests and employees, purchasing high-grade equipment. Careful, however, not to go over your budget, as you may put your restaurant into debt before it’s had a chance to serve its first guest. You may not need to go with the most expensive option at this stage in your business. 

On the other hand, if you go with a low-quality supplier that offers insanely low prices, you could suffer there, too. If your employees and guests recognize a lack of quality, they’ll be turned away. This goes for food, utensils, design, and more.

Hence, it’s crucial to find a supplier that’s genuine and affordable, plus also offers high-caliber products. Only you can determine where this balance is, based on your budget. 

Understand Your Restaurant’s Needs

As you start shopping around for the best restaurant supply company, you’ll benefit from having a clearly outlined list of your restaurant’s needs. This is determined by the type of restaurant (for example, fine dining vs. fast-casual), size of the restaurant, and other factors. Keeping an equipment list will allow you to stay organized and check everything off—ensuring you’re fully prepared for day one.

For larger, one-time purchases, you’ll need to find a supplier that offers a fantastic warranty or guarantee, in the event that something unexpected happens. For smaller, more regular purchases (like towels, rugs, toiletries, etc.), you’ll need to find a consistent, reliable supplier that offers you winning customer service.

Keeping this in mind, we’ll cover some basic restaurant equipment needs:

  • Storage containers, storage racks, and shelving
  • Serving ware (cutlery, plate ware, bowls, glasses, cups, etc.)
  • Cooking equipment (pots, pans, spoons)
  • Walk-in coolers, freezers, refrigerators 
  • Safety equipment (first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, etc.)
  • Everything involved in food preparation, like cutting boards
  • Counters
  • Slicers, mixers, and processors
  • Ovens
  • Sinks
  • Kitchen ranges and ventilation
  • POS (point of sale) systems

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it covers the basics. Alter your equipment list to fit your restaurant’s needs and know that most of these categories overlap—meaning you can potentially get much of this equipment from one or two suppliers. If you group items into categories, you can cut back on the number of suppliers you’ll need to interview, making your job that much easier.

Interview Multiple Suppliers

You know the old adage—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Let this phrase apply to your hunt for the best suppliers. If they’re offering prices that are too good to be true, it may mean a compromise in quality.

The best way to determine if you’re getting a smart deal is by comparing multiple suppliers. This is an essential step because although you can change suppliers if necessary, the process could be harrowing. It could cause delays in production, shipments, and in operations.

For example, when looking for a food co-packer, be sure to consider some essential questions, such as:

  • What do you pack or not pack?
  • What do you supply? What do I need to provide?
  • Are there additional costs for distance?
  • How large or small are your batches?
  • Do you offer additional services?

This is only one scenario of many. Have a pre-set list of questions you can take to all your suppliers, from food to equipment and beyond. It’s perfectly standard to ask questions and receive more than one quote.

Be sure to review the supplier online, looking for client testimonials and reviews. Check out their prices, guarantees, contracts, and the like. Also, never hesitate to visit local suppliers in person, where you can gather an accurate impression of their practices.

Once you’ve received this information from one potential supplier, use it for comparison during your meeting with another.

Find the Best Restaurant Supply Company Today

As we mentioned, the best supplier for you will vary based on your restaurant’s goals and vision. If you’re a small, farm-to-table restaurant, you could benefit more from local, small business suppliers. If you’re running a chain or franchise, you may seek out larger suppliers that serve nationwide.

The best restaurant supply company will provide you with answers to all your questions, offer reliable, genuine customer service, and be an asset to your business for years to come.

Good luck with your new endeavor! If you have any more concerns about your business, be sure to check out the rest of our site. We answer a wide range of business questions, free of charge.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.