Like most restaurant operators and chefs, Bill Van Gilder, owner of Jubilee Restaurant in Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania, is always on the hunt for ways to maximize efficiency. For Van Gilder, taking to the Web for sauces, supplies, and equipment has been a substantial time- and cost-saver.
“It allows me to work at off times, like after my daughter has gone to bed,” says Van Gilder. “I can place orders and do quite a bit of research because spec sheets are all online.” Plus, he says that sourcing products online has reduced costs by 10 percent on average.
WebstaurantStore is one online source Van Gilder turns to for supplies and equipment. The e-tailer launched its site in 2004 and offers more than 130,000 items, from bamboo plates to combi ovens. To meet the increasing demand for mobile functionality, the company recently added a scan-to-order feature on its mobile site. With three distribution centers throughout the country, and two more slated for this year, WebstaurantStore president Dave Groff says the company can reach 99 percent of the U.S. population within one or two days.
Online restaurant supplier Food Service Warehouse differentiates itself by offering a slew of educational resources, including videos, how-to articles, and buying guides. The detailed information not only helps restaurant owners make better purchasing decisions, it also offers insights into how to successfully start and operate restaurants—from how to calibrate a probe thermometer to kitchen safety to selecting a table setting. Operators can find it all at the site’s online library, which is organized and easy to navigate.
Like WebstaurantStore, Food Service Warehouse makes it clear to customers when a product is in stock and how quickly it will ship. Both also provide customers with a dedicated customer service representative.
“Even though I’m placing orders online, [WebstaurantStore] monitors my purchases and follows up after every order,” says Van Gilder of Jubilee Restaurant. “Other sites I’ve used may offer some great deals, but I’m assigned a different rep for each order.”
That sort of high-touch customer service may be even more critical when it comes to ordering fresh produce online. CEO Rod Smith of Green PolkaDot Box, an online supplier of organic and non-GMO frozen and refrigerated foods at wholesale prices, says the company will launch a line of living produce this summer that will be specifically targeted at full-service restaurants. Clients will be able to choose from a large variety of herbs, leafy greens, and exotics that will be grown to order and packaged and shipped overnight with roots intact. “They’ll last seven to 10 days in the refrigerator, which cuts down on waste,” says Smith. Service will initially launch in the Western states.