Operators talk deli

Three top purchasers share their buying smarts.

Matt Riddleberger, director of purchasing, Firehouse Subs, Jacksonville, Florida

Signature: Hook and Ladder—smoked turkey breast and Virginia honey ham topped with melted Monterey jack cheese, complete with mayo, mustard lettuce, tomato. onion and a dill pickle spear

Buying strategies

The major issues I face are consistency of product, ability to customize and fluctuations in pricing. To meet the first two challenges, we use one manufacturer to provide and custom label all our meat. Our deli meats have signature flavor profiles and our breads are also custom formulated, plus we use one vendor for our pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and Italian dressing to maintain consistency.

We work primarily with two broadline distributors out of five distribution centers. This keeps products moving, assures freshness and guards against extreme price increases. Negotiating minimum orders and long-term contracts with our broadliners—anywhere from three months to one year—also keeps prices under control. Most Firehouse locations get two deliveries a week. To take control of their inventory, each location uses our POS system to place orders directly at the broadliner’s Website.

Smaller vendors also help us with our customization program. For example, we offer 50 different hot sauces so customers can personalize their sandwiches. Some are created exclusively for us and we take the distributor out of the negotiating process so minimum volumes are not a problem.

Geoffrey Rhode, corporate executive chef, Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes, New Orleans, Louisiana

Signature: The Dagwood—hard salami, pepperoni, cappicola, mortadella, deli ham, cotto salami, cheddar, provolone, red onion, green leaf lettuce, tomato, fresh and roasted red bell peppers, mayo, mustard, Italian olive salad on three slices of firm, Pullman-style bread

Buying strategies

I focus on the strength of sandwich ingredients, rather than masking the filling with seasoned sauces and flavored breads. A successful deli sandwich concept starts with good bread, so we source from six different companies to meet our specs. We did a lot of research to find authentic breads for our regional sandwiches; the killer French bread for our Roast Beef Po’ Boy comes from a 100-year-old plant in New Orleans, for example, and a small bakery in Tampa makes unbelievable Cuban bread for our Hot Pressed Cuban. Before signing these suppliers on, I made sure they could keep up with our growth as we added units. (Dagwood’s launched in May, 2006, and currently operates one fast-casual restaurant with many more contracted for development.)

In the deli meat category, we worked with manufacturers to get the exact products we wanted, such as true Genoa salami and rare, oven-roasted top round beef. In some cases, we were able to use a product already in the line, while other meats had to be customized to our specs. Our meat comes from five or six different suppliers, all distributed through one broadliner, with twice-weekly deliveries to our restaurant.

Every product—down to the mustard and mayo—is thoroughly evaluated in our R&D test kitchen. To find the right pickle for our Cuban, we searched for one that added snap and cleansed the palate. We must have tasted dozens—from awful to unbelievable—and had an intense “pickle conversation” before we chose the winner.

David Locke, executive chef, New York NY Fresh Deli, Mesa, Arizona

Signature: Roast Beef and Blue Cheese—roast beef, blue cheese, roasted red pepper, red onion, romaine, tomato and herb mayonnaise on 9-grain wheat bread

Buying strategies

I purchase from processors who have been reliable in providing us with high quality products, especially meats. We slice them ourselves at each location and portion the meat between paper so it’s ready to go as soon as a customer orders a sandwich. Although I take a look at custom products manufacturers are offering (special rubs and flavor profiles), we do most of our development on-premise, giving the base meats a twist with a house-made condiment, such as artichoke or olive spread. This seems to appeal to our sophisticated, fast-casual patrons

Our delivery schedule has changed over the past couple of years because delivery costs have gone way up. We try to keep it down to two to three deliveries per week and put more inventory into each; our meats have a long enough shelf life. I also try not to lock in prices with suppliers; staying on the open market gives me more flexibility with price fluctuations. It seems that as soon as fresh meat prices increase, processed meats follow. And anything from the snowstorms in the Midwest this winter to an E.coli scare can quickly boost those prices.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
nacufs award

Ohio University Director of Culinary Services Rich Neumann was on Wednesday evening awarded NACUFS’ 49th annual Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest honor.

Neumann’s foodservice career began as an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. After his first day as a student cook, he says, his production manager wanted to fire him because he was striving for perfection, not—as she put it—“now and fast.” But he kept with it, eventually moving up to student manager. “If I had quit, I would not be here today,” he says.

During...

Sponsored Content
iced coffee foodservice

From International Delight ® Iced Coffee and STOK Cold Brew.

As temperatures soar, consumers look for any way they can to cool down. Much of the time, that means sipping on a cold beverage. And for the many patrons looking for a pick-me-up, iced coffee is a go-to choice, as it wakes them up and cools them down.

It’s no surprise, then, that iced coffee is a growing opportunity for operators. In Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report, 59% of consumers say they ordered iced coffee at least once in the past month from foodservice locations. With demand continuing to...

Industry News & Opinion

Oxnard Union High School District in Oxnard, Calif., is ending its meatless Mondays initiative due to cost and a lack of participation, the Camarillo Acorn reports.

Meatless Monday , which was offered on Fridays during the most recent school year, was the least popular lunch day during the week, according to school officials. The district hopes that the menu change will encourage more students to purchase school meals and help eliminate the $2 million deficit in its nutrition budget.

While 61% of students in the district qualify for free meals, only around half eat at the...

Ideas and Innovation
hc dining large

When students at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia return from summer break in August, they will be greeted with a revamped dining option located in the university’s Hill College House. Along with having air conditioning for the first time ever, the updated 300-seat eatery will include expanded hours, flexible menu offerings and a new method of managing waste. Here’s an inside look.

Expanded options

Hill House’s new dining hall will feature several self-contained stations, including a Mongolian grill, a pizza and pasta concept called The Grotto, a chefs’ table, a...

FSD Resources