Our Take

Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Distributors’ Value Goes Beyond Price of a Product

Sep 29 2017

Changing consumer lifestyles and operator needs have forced customer-oriented foodservice distributors to step up to the plate to help their end users deal with more than merely the price of a No. 10 can of corn.

Suzanne Rajczi, longtime executive at Ginsberg’s Foods Inc., Hudson, NY, who was named ceo last January, observed that heading the list of concerns that broadliners and restaurateurs are facing is where are patrons eating – at home or their favorite restaurants.

Contrary a few years ago when dining out captured nearly half of consumers’ disposable money, today they’re more likely to be eating at home, Rajczi said.

“Consumers feel that they can eat better at home, and the meals are healthier and more nutritious,” said told The Food Connector. “Consumers are buying and consuming food differently than they used to.”

Grocery stores are feeling the benefit of this, she said, while “disruptors,” as she called companies such as Fresh Direct, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Amazon and Uber, are providing diners with satisfying meals that they’re consuming in the pleasant environment of the homes.

Dining out has also been impacted by consumers working from homes, which doesn’t require a traditional lunch break. Rajczi noted that the lunch daypart is suffering because consumers are eating leftovers or meals they bought the same day.

“The meals are not from traditional restaurants. Retail grocery has shifted dramatically to be more convenient, finished and gourmet, and healthier than eating away from home,” she said.

To help restaurants overcome this loss of business, Rajczi said she has trained her DSRs to talk to their customers about dayparts rather than dining out. By focusing the conversation on a grilled chicken and Caesars salad dinner for four, prepared and packaged in a colorful container that reads “healthy and delicious,” restaurateurs can capture sales in this new dining experience. She brought into this culinary revolution her packaging and paper vendor-partners to round out a unique presentation that can be delivered to the home.

Despite initial resistance, Rajczi said operators have come around to understanding the benefit of what she calls catering dayparts.

In this new foodservice world, DSRs have to be retrained to think beyond price and cases because many questions, including technology and social media, are challenging operators. “Sales reps that are technology dinosaurs will not prevail,” she cautioned.

Traditional distributor food shows are becoming obsolete, Rajczi indicated. As a result, Ginsberg’s, a Unipro Foodservice Inc. member that services independent operators in six states, now focuses on what she called “inspire conferences.” Recently, some 380 local operators spent six hours catching up on the latest in social media, hashtags, health, nutrition, basic accounting, improving Yelp reviews, responding to bad reviews, taxes, insurance, local products, and other topics they need to know to stay in business.

“We’re trying to be that alternative resource that operators need to help themselves and their businesses,” Rajczi explained.

The third major foodservice crisis is labor. Attracting skilled workers to work in the region that is some 120 miles north of New York City is challenging, she said. So the distributor has been offering incentives and benefits to attract candidates as well as free healthcare for single people.

“We need workers and there’s not a pool of workers out here,” she said.

Tasked with such a tough situation, Rajczi, who is active in the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), said she considers this as an opportunity to reinvent herself and her relationships with operators.

“You can’t rest on your laurels if you’ve been successful doing one thing. It’s not sustainable. There’s a new dynamic in the marketplace today,” she said.

For more information contact Ginsberg’s – http://www.ginsbergs.com/