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Tips for Selecting the Right Food Distributor

February 15 2017 by Dan Pecha

selecting-distributor.jpgHave you ever ordered at a restaurant only to be repeatedly told that the menu options you selected weren’t available? Chances are, that was the last time you visited that dining establishment.

Whether a family pizzeria or large commercial kitchen, owners, general managers, and chefs rely on food distributors to reliably deliver high-quality ingredients for their menus in order to provide consistent service to their customers. Even a small pizzeria with access to locally sourced foods may need to supplement their shelves and coolers with products offered by a wholesale specialty distributor.

Reliable access to ingredients is the lifeblood of any food service provider. A good distributor will do more than fill an order though; they’ll strategize with you to help set you apart with unique offerings. Your distributor rep will also keep you updated on new food trends and products, provide ideas and recommendations on your product line, and ultimately care about the success of your business as much as you do.

Finding the right food distributor

There are many food distributors out there, and knowing which one to partner with can be confusing. Here are some tips for finding the best one for you:

Gather information

Check with local restaurant associations or other restaurants in the area to get their feedback and discuss service and pricing. Do a simple Internet search, visit, or attend trade shows.

Ask questions

Consider how your establishment operates and whether the distributor can accommodate your needs and schedule. Perhaps delivering on the weekends and holidays is necessary or carrying items directly into the walk-in is important to you. What are their terms of credit? How quickly can they turn around an order after it’s placed? Do they offer seasonal options?

Determine products

Ask if the distributor carries the majority of your product needs, including core and specialty items. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the size of a distributor—focus on the food items you need to fulfill your menu, keep your offerings current and meet your patrons’ expectations. If you need customized products, make sure to seek out a specialty distributor that can fill that niche and offer their expertise. In fact, some distributors specialize in pizzerias and/or Italian restaurants, so they know the latest trends in the industry and can pass that knowledge on to you.


Set expectations up front and make sure your partnership is a win-win. Work with a rep who is committed to a long-term relationship and doesn’t put your account on auto-pilot once the contract is signed.

Consider Multiple Distributor Options

Most distributors are not one-size-fits-all, and your business will likely need to rely on multiple providers to get exactly what you need. While the staples of most kitchens can come from larger distributors, you may need a specialty distributor for niche items.

For example, have you built your business and reputation on a secret family recipe for your Sicilian pizza, yet you need to cut labor costs and prep time? A specialty distributor can connect you with pizza sauce and crust manufacturers like Alive & Kickin’ who can scale up your very own sauce and custom pizza crust recipes to provide the same great quality, taste and consistency good enough to fool even the most discerning “nonna.”

Distributors are on the front lines of the food industry and can inform you about new products, benchmarks and best practices. When evaluating your existing distributor relationship or seeking new options for your pizzeria, select one that matches the criteria and products you need to be successful.

Now that you have determined how to select a distributor, gain some additional insights on how to develop and get the most from that relationship by downloading our Tips for Pizzeria Operators: Working with Food Distributors.

Working with Food Distributors Tip Sheet

Categories: General Operations

Dan Pecha

Written by Dan Pecha

Pizzeria Consultant
Dan is a hugely important slice of Alive & Kickin’ (see what we did there?). He started in the pizza business when he was just 14 and eventually opened his own chain of restaurants, supplying his own dough balls for each of them. He expanded to supplying dough products to other operations, then founded the Dough Shop®. Alive & Kickin’ was thrilled to acquire the Dough Shop® in 2015.