What is Quality Anyway - Groceries?

The first premise that you must always keep on mind is that nothing is free. When you see a difference in distributor prices between like items there are only a few possibilities. If you are a “street account*" (no program) the difference in price may be sales person manipulation. However, for program accounts*, that price difference could be pack size, “further processing”, grade or product size.
Like it or not getting the “best price” needs your time and effort. Every product category has its own set of rules. For instance, canned green beans. Most operators think that a #10 can of green beans is a #10 can of green beans. Most distributors have up to four levels of “quality”. Some use a color scale, green, blue, yellow pack etc. Sysco uses Reliant, Classic, Supreme and Imperial. Some operators say that they would never buy Reliant because it must be garbage. Other say that they only buy the best so they buy Supreme or Imperial (if that product is available in Imperial).  Here are a few products and the rules that they play by.
Green Beans – Reliant vs. Classic. Both grades us the same #2 sieve Blue Lake Green beans. The major difference is consistency in size. The Reliant will have small, medium and large pieces. Classic will have a more consistent medium to large size. So, plate presentation is the key here. These is a large steak chain that buys the lowest label beans and then prepares them with bacon and a great spice profile. My wife loves them. That actually convinces us to make the decision to go THERE to have a steak.
Mayonnaise – Reliant vs. Classic. Egg content is the key to this item. You may want to taste test Classic vs. Hellman’s. Most feel that they a truly comparable. Reliant has a thinner consistency and is less eggy. I had one smart chef that would buy both. He would use the Classic for items where the mayonnaise is more prominent like on sandwiches. But would use the Reliant as an ingredient in tarter sauces, chicken salad etc.
Potatoes – When it comes to a bake potato, using an Idaho, in my opinion, is worth the spec. Whether you use an 80ct or smaller is your choice. However, when you are using an item that has “potato” as one of the ingredients a #2 Utility potato can save you big bucks. I did a small consulting job for a very large well know chain. During my initial interview, this arrogant buyer looked down at me and said… “you say that you are get a better price for our produce? I only pay $X per case over cost. You think that you can do better?” What he did not know that while I was waiting for this bozo, I scrutinized his menu. So, I asked him two questions. 1. What size potato do you buy for Bake Potato on your menu? He said an 80ct Idaho. 2. I asked, do you use that same potato for the potato casserole as well? He said yes. I suggested that he buy the #2 utility for the casserole. He had his produce price list with him. He looked at the cost difference and, in his head, realized how much money he would save. The meeting ended and I never got paid. Bozo.
Processed Product – This issue is a judgment call but it takes spending the time doing the analysis. For those operators that use a ton of shredded lettuce have the choice of buying a 24ct Iceberg Lettuce, a 24ct “cleaned and cored” Iceberg, and bags of shredded lettuce.  The same goes for sliced yellow onions, fresh hash browns, sliced potatoes etc. The point is, the more that a natural product is touched and processed, the more is costs per ounce. However, the cost of your staff labor, the risk of workman comps from cuts during prep and processing and the possibility of actually eliminating one staff person saving training costs and payroll costs need to be considered.
Coffee – This one is simple. The biggest mistake that most operators make is listening to the salesperson. Every pitch that I ever got for coffee was based on cost per pound. I LOVE coffee at the end of my meal. Coffee is a mystery beverage due to the many types of beans that are available worldwide. It also is based on that particular roasters blends of maybe a few to many different beans in their blend. Simply – ask for the cost per pot. Then you need to taste test the products that they are offering. The decision will now be based on the taste of the product and the cost that you want to pay.

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