Foodservice Equipment Reports

The Diversity Of Dealers

As Emma, Rich and I have been making our sales calls this fall, I’ve been reminded of just how diverse the landscape of foodservice equipment and supplies distribution really is.

Three weeks ago, we met with Ursula Vermillion at The Wasserstrom Co. And I had a conversation with Jerry Hyman, CEO of TriMark USA. A couple of weeks ago, Emma and I visited Paul and Norma Gustafson at Ace Mart Restaurant Supply headquarters in San Antonio while we were attending the Food Service Design Boot Camp, of which Foodservice Equipment Reports was the exclusive media sponsor. One of the key topics at the Boot Camp was how to work with dealers that bid on big consultant-specified projects. Rich, meanwhile, was making calls in Tennessee, including a visit with Franke Foodservice Systems.

Then last week, Emma headed to New York, where she travelled with the reps at PBAC. She visited E&A Supply, the New Jersey-based dealer, and went on a tour of the Bowery with its vibrant array of dealerships.

I, in the meantime, was playing golf at the annual Rosati Cup E&S industry golf outing at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. It’s the home club of Bill Wolfe of Hotel & Restaurant Supply, who was on hand, as usual. Also playing for fame and glory were Fred Clark of Clark & Associates; Paul Gustafson, who was captain of the victorious Makers Mart team; and buying group executives Jeff Rhodenbaugh of NexGen Procurement Group and Scott Hunter of NISSCO.

So there on the golf couse, we had representation from the nation’s largest cash-and-carry dealer—Ace Mart; the nation’s largest online dealer as well as the nation’s second largest cash-and-carry dealer and lots more—Clark; and a large full-service dealer—Hotel & Restaurant Supply. Plus, buying groups representing the largest and some of the smallest dealers were also in attendance. All we were missing was a broadline distributor and a so-called hybrid. But then my friend Bobby Watson, now a rep, helped sell his family’s dealership to White Swan (now part of US Foods), and Rosati Cup regular Harold Gernsbacher, my favorite hybrid distributor, would have been there if his charity activities didn’t prevent it. My partner Ken Gill, who has been a dealer in every way imaginable, was also absent in person, but there in spirit.

The point of all of this is simple: There is no one way to sell E&S to operators. Ken used to tell me that anyone with two customers, a garage and a Suburban could be a dealer. In the land of Edward Don & Co., TriMark, Sysco,  Wasserstrom, Duray/Baring, Clark and Ace Mart, it’s harder to do that these days. There is no question that the big guys with their ties to the chains, superior search-engine optimization and big bid work have an advantage.

But it’s still a people-and-service business, and there is room for hundreds and hundreds of dealers. As you attend your buying group meetings this fall, enjoy the interchanges with your colleagues, competitors and suppliers. And figure out your advantage. You have one.


Robin Ashton


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