Trends come and go in the restaurant business, but ensuring profitability never goes out of style. But in a competitive landscape and an industry where 25 percent of restaurants close after their first year in business, ensuring profitability can be a tricky thing.
“What we see as the real topic of discussion – separate from the big consumer trends like sustainability and local – is food cost management,” explains Eric Cronert, vice president of marketing and communications at Reinhart Foodservice. “Our clients are looking for ways to better manage their food costs so they can better manage their overall operations and stay competitive in the landscape. Our clients have a great passion for food and they know good food. Our support is through helping them navigate new trends and getting new items on their menu, all while staying on top of rising commodity costs.”
Reinhart developed a proprietary online system called TRACS® Direct to help its clients streamline various tasks, such as product order entry and tracking, recipe management, budget forecasting, and custom reports and analysis of purchase history. By using this tool, the chains, independent restaurants and institutions Reinhart serves can tailor their menus to address local needs while leveraging Reinhart’s national scale.
Serving a Diverse Base
Reinhart was founded 40 years ago and has grown through acquisition and build-outs to 31 distribution centers today. The family owned company has a deep focus in the Midwest and East Coast. It is the fourth-largest broadline foodservice distributor in the nation and carries an average of 10,000 items in its distribution centers.
“We carry a broad assortment of products,” Cronert says. “It ranges from fresh products, such as produce and center-of-plate meats, to basic pantry items, like canned goods and condiments. We do specialty business, as well, in gourmet and imported foods. We carry foods across all the different temperature zones of fresh and frozen. We also carry equipment and supply – glasswares, freezers, coolers.”
Reinhart’s wide product assortment allows it to serve a diverse customer base – from a national chain to an independent seafood restaurant to a hospital cafeteria. The company continues to evaluate and add items in response to customer demands, and that includes developing private-label items, as well.
“Doing private-label is a great opportunity for us to use our brand as a distributor in the marketplace,” Cronert says. “But the main reason we do private-label is because it’s important that we offer choices to the customer. We always carry national and local brands along with our private-label, so we aren’t pushing one or the other. It’s always the customer’s choice.”
Incorporating private-label products also allows Reinhart’s clients to better mitigate food costs. “Some of our clients look at their menus and they know which brands are integral to their business and cannot be switched,” Cronert says. “But then they have those non-core items where they can look at innovation to source better products and better value.”
Reinhart has created 30 private-label brands that cover food and non-food items. Its most recent private-label launch is Good Roots produce, which was introduced to the market last summer with a limited assortment. The company is building it into a full line. Cronert says the private-label brands play into Reinhart’s overall strategy to be more than just a supplier to its clients. Reinhart leverages the dollars, logistics and distribution of a $7 billion company while offering customers choices that fit within their markets rather than operating as if one size fits all.
“If we don’t help our operators compete in the marketplace and drive innovation on their menus, then we are not maximizing our relationship with our operators,” Cronert says. “Everyone on our sales team is a sales consultant. We emphasize that building that relationship with the customer is key. As they grow and prosper, so do we.”