Wholesale Distribution: Comprehensive Guide to Get Started

September 6, 2022
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Retail food and beverage industry businesses such as hospitality businesses, and restaurant businesses all depend on wholesale food distribution to be successful-even when working with seasonality in business. To keep their operations running, businesses in these industries rely on a consistent flow of fresh wholesale foods.

Key Takeaway - Starting a wholesale distribution company necessitates maintaining a connection with businesses that serve consumers and food producers. You may run a B2B eCommerce model, a DTC food model, or an O2O business model depending on the type of wholesale company you run.

Knowing where to get wholesale restaurant supplies is crucial before you open your restaurant. These supplies now extend beyond just food and drink items. The term "restaurant supplies" also refers to non-perishable things including kitchenware, bar counter equipment, and restaurant supplies. It's everything you could need for great customer service, bought in large quantities for long term success.

In this guide, we’ll be discussing top wholesale restaurant supplies that restaurants buy from food distributors and the best places to get these supplies. If you are looking to start a wholesale distribution business, we’ll review some expert tips to get you started, and the best wholesale distribution software to keep you in business.

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Let’s get started with the best restaurant supplies for any restaurant business. From business to business needs to brick and mortar supply support to buying products in bulk, when you buy products from manufacturers, we've got you covered in this guide.

Wholesale Restaurant Supply

Before we discuss the best wholesale distribution software and tips to get started with a wholesale business, let’s review some wholesale supplies restaurant businesses cannot do without.

This list will serve a dual purpose. One, for new restaurant owners looking for the best practices for getting restaurant supplies for selling directly to customers. Two, for wholesale food distributors looking to work with businesses in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

Whichever option you fall under, you’ll find this piece enlightening and the recommendations helpful. Let’s get to it then.

Restaurant Wholesale Food Products Supplies

So, how do restaurants buy food in bulk? For restaurants that do not operate farm-to-table models, wholesale food vendors are critical to the success of their operations.

Before selecting a restaurant food wholesaler, it is necessary to do some research. Researching any potential wholesale food suppliers will help you set your budget. 

It is important that the food suppliers on your checklist can supply what you need for your menu items. They must be able to deliver on quality and time. Wholesale food is one thing your restaurant should never run out of.

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Here are some general food items you need to purchase from wholesale vendors:

  • Wholesale meat and proteins
  • Wholesale seafood
  • Herbs, spices, and oils
  • Pasta and grains
  • Veggies and fruits
  • Rice and grains
  • Sweeteners, such as sugar
  • Simple syrup
  • Ingredients for dessert selections

How Do Restaurants Look For Food Suppliers?

  • Wholesale dairy supply: Most reputable dairy wholesale suppliers are transparent about the dairy farming conditions, animal health, and storage temperature. You need to look into these before making your final decision, and a higher price may well be worth the right supply for you.
  • Wholesale meat supply: Work directly with a local farm or large-scale meat processing companies for your poultry, pork, beef, and other meat products. You can build close relationships with the local farm and get the freshest meat at affordable prices.
  • Wholesale seafood supply: Most wholesale seafood vendors supply fresh and locally sourced bulk fish and seafood. Restaurants usually work with multiple seafood wholesalers to meet up with their requirements. 
  • Wholesale beverage supply: You can source wholesale alcohol, wines, and beers from local suppliers. Another way to find wholesale beverage supplies is by going straight to large suppliers and companies.

Restaurant Wholesale Equipment and Furniture Supplies

Food storage and work surfaces: 

  • Storage areas: cold food tables, steam tables, prep tables, walk-in refrigerators, and freezers.
  • Utensils: knives, spatulas, tongs, storage containers, microwave-safe containers, brushes, ladles, and serving spoons.

Kitchen appliances:

  • Cooking utensils such as stoves, ovens, microwaves, grills, griddles, fryers, pasta cookers, immersion cookers, steamers, and broilers.
  • Kitchen appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, condensation hoods, heat lamps, soda fountains, espresso machines, and ice makers.

Front-of-house furnishings and equipment:

  • Furniture such as tables, chairs, booths, bar furniture, and a host stand. 
  • Decorative elements such as paint, wallpaper, carpeting, and window coverings.
  • Equipment such as wine aerator, wine purifier, and wine decanter.

Restaurant Point of Sale (POS) System: A restaurant POS system provides various restaurant management features. These features include intelligent reporting and analytics, loyalty program management, inventory management, and customer relationship management.

If you are restaurant owner, the question you’d probably ask is ‘how do I find a wholesale food distributor?’ Let’s find out.

How to Find Wholesale Food Distributors In 5 Steps

Restaurant companies, food wholesalers, and food retailers need to be aware that the process flow for the food distribution business is unique compared to that of other niche markets or industries. The wholesale food B2B industry must run smoothly and efficiently.

With the use of restaurant technologies and high-performance wholesale distribution software, wholesale food distributors supply wholesale produce. Every channel in the food distribution industry must be coordinated for food distribution to be successful.

Finding the best wholesale food suppliers can help you avoid a lot of stress as a business owner in the food sector. Consider a restaurant that, as a result of an unreliable supplier or distributors of food manufacturers, is unable to fill orders with the menu items on hand.

Finding Food Distribution Wholesalers

Food distribution businesses need to be able to deliver on time and consistently if they want to succeed. While purchasing food and ingredients in bulk directly from manufacturers is an option, doing so can be more expensive and most manufacturers have minimum order requirements (MOQs) that are far higher than your carrying capacity.

Utilizing wholesale food distributors is your greatest chance for obtaining fresh restaurant supplies and food items. If you don't know where to look, it might be difficult to find reputable food distributors.

Wholesale food distributors provide food service providers and enterprises in the food and beverage industry with a variety of benefits in addition to bridging the gap between food manufacturers and customers.

So, what is food distribution? Let’s find out.

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What Is Food Distribution? Food Distribution Definition

Food distribution encompasses the various processes involved in moving wholesale foods from the producer and manufacturer to consumer-facing businesses. Restaurants, bars, neighborhood grocers, shops, small-business owners, supermarkets, chains, dollar stores, foodservice outlets, and websites selling food online are some of these establishments.

Usually, the food distribution chain extends beyond the food wholesaler. Large-scale food producers, farmers, restaurants, local vendors, grocery stores, and consumers are all part of the food distribution industry.

Food wholesale distributors, however, are solely in charge of making wholesale food accessible to consumers. Most of the expenses associated with holding inventory and storing wholesale foods in warehouses, larger distribution centers, big box shops, and food distribution centers are borne by wholesale food distributors.

3 Benefits of a Wholesale Food Distributor

Most of the expenses associated with holding inventory and storing wholesale foods in warehouses, larger distribution centers, big box stores, and food distribution centers are handled by wholesale food distributors.

A food wholesaler may opt to keep their bulk supplies of food at a sizable fulfillment facility or a food distribution hub. The size of your food wholesale distributorship firm and which warehouse management system is compatible with your current software and warehouse management process flow will determine the sort of warehouse you utilize.

Besides bridging the gap between food producers and consumers, wholesale food distributors offer food service companies and businesses in the food and beverage industry loads of benefits.

So what are the benefits of a wholesale food distributor? Let's check.

Here are three benefits of a wholesale distributor:

  1. Wholesale food distributors offer wholesale prices for goods and help you reduce the inventory carrying costs associated with keeping lots of manufacturing inventory. 
  2. Wholesale food distributors usually have a large network of retailers and other businesses they sell products to. 
  3. Wholesale food distributors use a wholesale distribution management system like BlueCart to streamline the ordering process.

Here’s five places to find the best food distributors that will help you meet the challenging demands of the food service industry:

  1. An Online Search
  2. Your Local Wholesale Directory
  3. Trade Fairs and Industry Events
  4. Farmers’ Markets
  5. Word of Mouth

Starting Wholesale Foods Distribution Business

One of the most vital sectors of the global economy is the wholesale food and beverage sector. 

The global food delivery system, is experiencing a number of issues. Understanding how distribution functions in the food sector will help you overcome obstacles like warehouse management issues and bulk delivery of fresh food abroad.

This guide will teach you the steps to take before starting your food business. Let's review how to start a wholesale foods distribution business.

How to Start a Wholesale Foods Business: 6 Things to Consider Before Launching Your Food Business

Getting into the food distribution business can be quite profitable. However, there are a few things that need to be in place before you launch your wholesale food distribution firm.

Here are six things you should consider before you launch your wholesale foods distribution business: 

  1. Wholesale Food and Warehouse Inventory Management: You need to choose the type of wholesale foods you want to distribute and determine the appropriate warehouse facilities for the the food.
  2. Logistics and Overhead Costs: It helps if you also consider the most likely logistics disruptions you will face, including your plan for last mile delivery. Using a wholesale distribution management software like BlueCart will streamline your operations and the costs of running your business.
  1. Shipping Food and Order Fulfillment: Shipping food and order fulfillment is another crucial thing to consider when launching your wholesale food business
  2. Package Design and Shipping Labels: If you plan to operate private label brands for your wholesale food distribution business, you must consider your package design and product marketing ideas.
  3. Unique Selling Proposition: Creating your unique selling proposition is essential to marketing your product to your target audience. 
  4. Marketing Plan: Writing an eCommerce marketing plan will help you build your brand and expand your business.

Since you now know what to think about before starting your business, let's talk about eleven starting point ideas.

How to Start a Wholesale Foods Business: 11 Tips to Get Started

Here are eleven tips to get started with your wholesale food distribution business:

  1. Write a business plan and create a wholesale distribution process flow
  2. Select the best business bank
  3. Integrating the best payment gateway into your business
  4. Wholesale license and legal permits
  5. Choose your food distribution business model
  6. Design your catalog and food packaging
  7. Partner with a large-scale food producer
  8. Set your wholesale price
  9. Find your customers
  10. Pick Your Team
  11. Get Your resources ready

Here's a list of tools and resources you need for your business:

  • Warehouse management tools
  • Inventory management tools
  • Vendor management tools
  • Payment processing tools
  • Order processing tools

What Is Wholesale Distribution Software? 4 Best Software Programs

Wholesale distribution software is a wholesale management computer program that simplifies the complex processes of running a wholesale business. The software optimizes and streamlines distribution workflows like bulk shipping management, inventory management, and payment processing.

Running a wholesale company involves many different operations. Wholesale distributors must manage their supply chains, optimize delivery routes, and maintain good customer relations while sourcing wholesale produce from the available manufacturing inventory in their specialized market.

The majority of wholesale distributors frequently run their operations using various software systems. But you no longer need to keep track of various programs or have a ton of browser tabs open thanks to wholesale distribution software.

Most wholesale distribution solutions include features similar or identical to those of the best ERP systems. This makes it possible to have a centralized hub for managing business process flows.

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Here’s a list of top wholesale distribution software features to look for:

Top Wholesale Distribution Management Software Features

Best Wholesale Distribution Software: Top 4 Selections

The best wholesale distribution software must be able to streamline your wholesale processes and operations. Here are the 5 best wholesale software programs for businesses.

  1. BlueCart: The food, restaurant, and hotel industries' B2B wholesalers can use BlueCart as an all-inclusive eCommerce solution. Wholesalers and B2B eCommerce businesses may streamline their whole wholesale operation with BlueCart software.

BlueCart Platform Feature Highlights:

  1. QuickBooks: QuickBooks is a solution for managing wholesale operations. QuickBooks Commerce is a cloud-based distribution tool used by small and medium-sized wholesale and eCommerce companies.

QuickBooks Features:

  • Order fulfillment
  • Multichannel inventory management
  • Customer relationship management
  • Accounting and report management
  1. SYSPRO ERP: Businesses with sizable manufacturing or distribution components may find it beneficial to streamline their wholesale distribution with the aid of SYSPRO ERP. You  can create a program to suit your business needs using the modular solution provided by SYSPRO ERP.

Syspro Features:

  • Order management
  • Lean inventory management
  • Product information management
  1. NetSuite: A system for managing wholesale operations, NetSuite serves a variety of specialty markets for online retailers. To automate and streamline important business processes, the platform centralizes a number of tasks. It is simpler to manage invoices because to the order and billing management features of NetSuite, which consolidate finances, sales, and fulfillment.

NetSuite Features:

  • Order management
  • Vendor management
  • Customer relationship management
  • Warehouse management

You can position your restaurant business for success from the get-go. With a good business model, great food, and the right restaurant wholesalers for your wholesale restaurant supply, your business will be ready to tackle any challenge.

Streamline order management, grow your bottom line, and get back hours of your time with BlueCart. Schedule a demo now:
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