Food Vendors / Rant

Sysco is a major supplier for restaurants, and so prior to our opening, we had called them to get a rep to contact us.

After our initial contact, our rep went out of his way to get us food samples and literature on product. Yet after we opened, it was a whole different story.

We’d order food, and it wouldn’t arrive. Twice, he said he was too busy to get the order in… and we’d scramble to buy what we needed at our two local grocery stores.

We’d order food and he’d send something else, telling us that it was a better product or value. We were so busy with our opening that we had to depend on him to get us the best price on the best products without second-guessing everything. We were paying top-dollar for Dole Pineapple, Lindsay Olives, and other brand-name items without questions, because he’d tell us that it was the best value.

When our rep was on a business trip, another rep sent us the olives that he had claimed tasted “metallic”. We did a side-by-side comparison with everyone in the kitchen, and everyone preferred the cheaper brand. So we immediately ordered the generic brand of other items, and go figure – we had been buying the top-of-the-line for no apparent reason. The price difference was astounding! Literally half-price on many items.

I spent two days away from the restaurant to go to the Sysco food show in Boise, and found items that I had been asking our rep about that he had previously been unable to get me information on. I ordered over a thousand dollars worth of product while I was there. To date, all I’ve received are a pair of tongs. To me, that’s two days and two tanks of gas wasted, plus the payroll to cover the fact that I wasn’t able to work.

Our communications with our rep became strained. We had received a bag of Gorgonzola that tasted exactly like feta (must have been mis-labeled), and I tried to return it. He argued with me that I had ordered feta. I’d have to spend time explaining that No, I ordered Gorgonzola, it tastes like feta, and here’s the original email with the order to prove it. I saved the remaining cheese for him to take back to his “Specialists” to “test” as if I were trying to scam him out of the price of a bag of cheese. Same with our yeast – we received yeast that was so different in consistency and was killing our dough. He argued that it’s the same yeast we were buying elsewhere, so we’d have to physically show him the difference.

We’d order something at a certain price, and it would be on “back order”, arriving weeks later at twice the original price. I’d ask for a price-adjustment, and he’d balk that I knew perfectly well what price it was. Again with the printing out of old emails to prove that No, I ordered it a helluva lot cheaper. We’d get a flimsy apology and a “what can I do to make it up to you?” response via email.

Just bullshit things, you know?

We had been told that because we were buying 99% of our products from Sysco, that we were on a “special” program whereas we received the best rates. The only thing that Sysco wasn’t able to provide were our 24″ pizza boxes. He gave us a quote on the 18″ boxes, and they were 50 cents more than the competitor that we were currently going through.

It made us wonder – what else would the competitor be able to provide at a cheaper price?

Food Services of America had been stopping in and offering to do a quote for us, so I took him up on it. I gave him my list of everything that we were buying through Sysco, only without the prices.

While this was going on, we had our final straw with Sysco. A delivery came in and was put away as normal. When our kitchen manager went to make the sauce, she noticed that the consistency of the paste was different. Sure enough, she checked the other cans that were on the rack and it was almost the same label, the only difference being “XHEAVY”. It ruined our sauce recipe. I called our Sysco rep to let him know that we received the wrong paste, and was told that we had liked that paste back in June (months before we opened). Yes, I replied, but you weren’t able to get it in after we opened and so we had to change our entire recipe, which we are now very happy with.

That’s when he admitted that they were no longer carrying it, so he had substituted the paste without letting us know. I told him that we needed to return the remaining cans of paste, and figure out a way to get the paste we had been using.

No can do, he replied. You’ve already removed the cans from the box.

Food Services of America happened to stop in right after I got off the phone with Sysco, and so I asked him if they carried our original paste. Yep, he replied, I’ll get you a case in 3 hours.

He called someone at his office in Idaho who found someone heading our direction, and we had our product in 2 hours.

Then, the kicker.

The FSA rep and his manager came in with the quote, and it showed that we would save over $900 a WEEK by switching to FSA. A WEEK! It was difficult to keep my face straight, as the shock rocked me to the core.

4oz. of Sysco’s basil for twice the price of 8oz. through FSA.

The same smoked salmon for a third of the price.

Flour – FLOUR! at almost $4 less a bag. We go through so much flour – $4 a bag is a big deal.

I felt angry, and stupid, for having trusted someone with something so important as our food costs. I asked FSA if the prices were good even if I ordered one item from them. No problem, he replied.

Not only that, he offered to link my laptop with their warehouse so that I could always see what the price of items were, what was in stock, or browse other items to see if I wanted to sample something. I could do my own orders.

Spending 45 minutes twice a week doing our orders with our Sysco rep, or punching in the order myself via the internet? There’s no question what was easier.

Our Sysco rep had told us that they didn’t have an online ordering system, and so we had to call him whenever we wanted to place an order, or if we had a question regarding new products. The FSA online ordering system shows inventory, price, our history, and even a way to figure out our food cost on various menu items.

I couldn’t believe how easy it was! We immediately began ordering the majority of our items from FSA, and saw a huge decline in our food costs. Huge? Let’s talk numbers…. THOUSANDS of dollars in the first month. Amazing.

When another rep from Sysco came in a couple of weeks later, we asked about switching reps. We felt like our previous rep just wasn’t working in our best interest, and that maybe he would do a better job. We explained all of the problems that we had, and he agreed to see about switching accounts.

We now have a new rep, and he’s been nothing but professional. Then, lo and behold, he offers to do a price quote on all of our menu items that we had switched over to FSA. He even offers to

load my laptop with the software to do ONLINE ORDERING!

What?

Whitey and I explained that we were told that Sysco doesn’t offer online ordering, and that we had specifically requested having this system and told by our previous rep that it didn’t exist. Our new rep was shocked. Nope, he said. It was created by the same guy that did the FSA software.

We were lied to.

Sysco not only offers an online ordering system, they also offer items that we were told they didn’t have substitutes for. I know. I immediately searched their database and found cheaper versions of numerous items I had previously asked about. Nope, I was told, We don’t carry another brand.

Riiiiiight.

I felt like an even bigger fool, and Whitey said to shake it off — that we had been taught a valuable lesson.

Lesson my ass! That’s thousands of dollars a month and hours of our time placing overpriced orders!!!

I worked in commission sales for 13 years. I would never, EVER screw over a customer like that.

From now on, I will be much more vigilant to be sure that I double check prices — especially if the person works on commission. Snake oil, anyone?

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5 Responses to Food Vendors / Rant

  1. Matt says:

    Thinking maybe his supervisor may want to know about this…?!

  2. Duncan McGeary says:

    When we started, we bought stationary and business cards from a local printer. Found out later he had overcharged us by a phenomenal amount. Never went back. One of the local radio station sold us advertising, and I found out later when we were offered a ‘deal’ that we’d paid the highest rates possible.

    Never went to either place again. The printer is long gone, the radio station has been sold several times but I still won’t advertise there.

    Apparently, there are business who chose the screw newcomers.

    Interesting tack, but if it’s true that half of all businesses are gone in two years, you can sold of see the reasoning.

    I’ve always found that there is almost always an alternative. Never put up with a bad rep for long.

    I’ve also found that there is almost always a very competent, helpful supplier that isn’t the first one you’ll come across…the one you’ve heard about does the most outreach and advertising, and they are also the most expensive.

    Second place really does try harder some times: better service, just as good quality. Look for that second guy.

  3. gottabkd says:

    Oye vey…
    Thank goodness for the internet… today if anyone tells me “your getting the best deal” leads me straight to the computer for a better one…
    There is always someone somewhere who want/needs/would love to do biz with you… and any big company that does not have a website… is well out of touch with consumers… Cysco would have been the first site to check for and then fire the rep!!
    His boss definetly should be told…

  4. Pingback: The Great Cheese Debacle « Untrained Professional with OCD

  5. Pingback: COGS / Food Costs « Untrained Professional with OCD

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