Results are in and, overall, 2018 was another year of strong growth for foodservice equipment-and-supplies dealers. The 52 verifying U.S. dealers in Foodservice Equipment Reports‘ Top Dealers Report 2019 showed a 9.7% combined sales increase with revenues reaching $8.6 billion. For comparison, in the 2018 report, 55 verifying U.S. dealers showed a 10% combined sales increase. (Keep in mind, each list features a slightly different mix of dealers.)
“These top dealers are healthier and growing more than the foodservice industry at large,” says Barry Friends, partner at Pentallect Inc., a food industry consulting firm in Chicago. He adds that consolidation plays a key role in the nominal growth rates.
Pull out the two largest dealers in the ranking-TriMark USA, which experienced a 10.9% sales gain, and Clark Associates, up by 21.2%-and the remaining 50 verifying U.S. dealers saw a combined 6.6% sales growth in 2018.
Six U.S. dealers experienced organic growth of more than 20%; Ware- house Restaurant Supply reported the highest organic growth at 31%. At the same time, as many as 17 of the verifying U.S. dealers reported revenue declines in 2018, compared with 13 dealers the year before.
Coincidentally, mergers and acquisitions in 2018 sported an almost identical pace as the previous year. It started with one big acquisition announcement-Edward Don & Co. purchasing Smith & Greene Co.-and ended with another when Singer Equipment bought EVI, announced Jan. 3, 2019. TriMark USA buying Chefs’ Toys was a highlight too. M&A activity in 2016 moved at the most furious pace in the history of this report.
Top M&A Deals
Created in 2011, FER‘s Top Dealers Report is a snapshot of the foodservice equipment-and-supplies dealer landscape. It helps operators assess the scale and offerings of individual distributors to determine which capabilities match their needs. The report’s numbers are real; dealers must provide a letter or signature from a certified public accountant or other independent accountant. Dealers that decide not to provide verified numbers are not included in this ranking. (Note dealers have a host of legitimate reasons for choosing not to verify or report.)
Singer Equipment, reporting $381 million in sales revenue, breaks into the top five dealers in the 2019 report after spending years as No. 6. Fred Singer, president and CEO of the Elverson, Pa., dealership, says an acceleration of acquisitions and organic growth made it a strong year. In late 2017, Singer purchased Ash- land Equipment-adding interior design to its offerings-and Facilities Services, along with EVI in 2019. Expect more acquisitions in the future, Singer says.
“We are becoming more of a national supplier by rapidly expanding our footprint and our ability to provide meaningful solutions to our customers,” Singer says. He adds that growth through acquisition presents exciting challenges, including finding talent to supply and support the progress.
Steve Don, CEO and president of Edward Don, ranking third with more than $1 billion sales revenue, agrees that recruiting and retaining employees in a full employment market isn’t easy. He says Edward Don, headquartered in Woodridge, Ill., plans to continue as a consolidator. In May 2019, it purchased Myers Restaurant Supply, which will fuel its design-build services across the U.S.
To attract talent, the dealership is “looking at forming relationships with local universities and community colleges,” says Don, adding that the driver shortage is real. “We found that if we can hire people, bring them up to speed and then keep them happy, we can usually retain them. Millennials tend to be more eager to move up; if you don’t, they find opportunity somewhere else.”
Digital but Personal
A running theme during the FEDA annual conference in April was how dealers, like operators, are facing the is- sue of how to balance personalized, high-quality service against modern demand for quick, easy, accurate digital transactions.
“It’s a balance as many of our clients are moving their business online; many clients still want a more personalized approach,” says Brad Wasserstrom, president of the Wasserstrom Co. “We don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach for this reason. We work with them to find ways to alleviate their pain points, whether in terms of product selection, ordering methods, shipping invoices or other ways.” The Columbus, Ohio-based dealership ranks fourth in the 2019 report with $673 million in sales revenue.
Working to find the right balance, Singer Equipment made developing its client-facing technology a priority in 2018. Singer says the company introduced a business-to-consumer website and revamped its business-to-business website. At the same time, it continues to support customers with account managers who are knowledgeable about the products and bring new ideas. For example, Singer continues to invest in LMT, its brand of globally sourced tabletop items, aimed at helping customers create unique, exciting ways to serve and merchandise food and beverages in this Instagram age.
Amundsen Commercial Kitchens, No. 32 in the report and one of the six dealerships that had more than 20% organic growth, debuted its e-commerce website EateryWorx.com in early 2018.
“We waited before putting a website together, and then the cost for building a good, functional site dropped so dramatically it was easy to move forward,” says Cary Amundsen, president. “We see nice traction online with our high-end used and rebuilt foodservice equipment.”
Amundsen says the race to the bottom on the Internet is tough. “There are so many different prices out there on just about every piece of equipment,” he says. “The quality level could be dramatically different and the buying public doesn’t totally know. So, it’s a little tougher to get the chance to explain to them the difference between a 1?2-in. griddle and 1-in. griddle, for example.”
To meet the challenge, Amundsen offers a variety of price points on EateryWorx.com to at- tract as many customers as possible but backs it up with a knowledgeable sales team skilled at equipping customers with the right equipment for their applications. The dealership maintains its old-school attitude too. “We still sell products, deliver them and install them,” Amundsen says. “We have in-house crews that install everything from refrigeration to exhaust hoods.”
In the Field
Along with acquisitions and online services, other factors that led to revenue growth in 2018 for top dealers included expanding into different territories, big projects and adding amenities such as same-day delivery. Amundsen, for example, opened a Dallas office, the result of landing a $4 million multi-restaurant, multi-bar project called Texas Live in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas also marks the home of one of two new Stafford-Smith Inc. offices; the other office opened in Atlanta. The Kalamazoo, Mich.-based dealership ranks ninth in the report with a sales revenue of $220 million.
“Last year was a positive year, and we worked hard and benefited from it,” says David Stafford, president/CEO. “We’re constantly looking for the opportunity to grow and flourish. We now have 18 locations across the U.S. We don’t sit back and wait for the phone to ring.”
Kittredge Equipment Co. expanded its footprint as well. The Agawam, Mass.-based dealership serving greater New England and New York opened a fourth retail store last fall. Kittredge places 26th with $57 million sales revenue.
“National and local Woman Owned Business Enterprise certifications and our quality of work help set us apart,” says Jeffrey Mackey, executive vice president and COO. “Our largest project in 2018 was a 62,000-sq. ft. culinary and nutrition center to feed 30,000 Springfield Public Schools students. We also have been seeking sales opportunities outside our territory where our certification can help projects meet or exceed their minority requirements.”
Other recent enhancements at Kittredge include the introduction of online order portals customized for each customer; consistent weekly delivery routes between its four stores so customers can anticipate deliveries; and scaled-down showrooms to allow for more warehouse space, enabling larger stock levels of core items to better fulfill orders. It also now offers same-day delivery for clients within a certain radius.
Looking for- ward, operators can expect traditional foodservice equipment-and-supplies dealers to continue to up their game to attract and retain their business, so they won’t be tempted by the prices and convenience of online shop- ping through e-commerce giants. They’ll continue to offer more, better consultative services, which Friends says, “is obviously the backbone of the dealer industry.”
Jan Ashton, Kelly Killian and Christine Palmer contributed research for this article.
About The Rankings
FER's Top Dealers Report is a ranking of dealers who have provided independent verification of their revenues, either in the form of a letter or signature by a certified public accountant. Fifty-two U.S. dealers verified their revenue figures this year; the ranking also includes three Canadian dealers that provided verified sales volumes. Year-to-year changes should not be considered a measure of performance, as a wide variety of factors can affect dealer volume in any given year.
|Rank||Company||Headquarters||2018 Revenue||2017 Revenue|
|1||TriMark USA||South Attleboro, Mass.||$1,970,000,000||$1,776,000,000|
|2||Clark Associates||Lancaster, Pa.||$1,376,178,000||$1,135,620,154|
|3||Edward Don||Woodridge, Ill.||$1,027,000,000||$854,836,000|
|4||Wasserstrom Co.||Colombus, Ohio||$673,000,000||$697,000,000|
|5||Singer Equipment||Elverson, Pa.||$381,459,365||$325,686,035|
|6||The Boelter Cos.||Waukesha, Wis.||$346,000,000||$358,000,000|
|7||Bargreen Ellingson||Tacoma, Wash.||$274,000,000||$271,000,000|
|8||Russell Hendrix Foodservice Equipment||Vancouver, British Columbia||$240,021,211||$250,676,996|
|10||Hubert Co.||Harrison, Ohio||$154,140,000||$161,100,000|
|11||Katom Restaurant Supply||Kodak, Tenn.||$152,271,421||$127,179,266|
|12||Central Restaurant Products||Indianapolis||$137,000,000||$132,000,000|
|13||Ace Mart Restaurant Supply||San Antonio||$130,240,136||$124,598,211|
|14||Mission Restaurant Supply||San Antonio||$128,000,000||$132,300,000|
|15||Johnson-Lancaster and Associates||Clearwater, Fla.||$116,000,000||$126,200,000|
|16||C&T Design & Equipment Co.||Indianapolis||$107,230,949||$108,009,692|
|17||BJ Beltram Holdings dba Innovative Foodservice||Tampa, Fla.||$101,100,000||$68,130,000|
|18||Action Sales||Monterey Park, Calif.||$96,000,000||$92,500,000|
|19||Hotel and Restaurant Supply||Meridian, Miss.||$94,068,999||$88,910,385|
|20||The Sam Tell Cos.||Farmingdale, N.Y.||$88,520,000||$84,294,054|
|21||Doyon Després||Brossard, Quebec||$82,000,000||$77,300,000|
|22||Tundra Restaurant Supply||Boulder, Colo.||$80,697,238||$82,291,000|
|23||Culinary Depot||Monsey, N.Y.||$70,000,000||$63,000,000|
|24||Aydelott Equipment Inc.||Centerville, Ohio||$67,600,000||$71,000,000|
|25||Mobile Fixture and Equipment||Mobile, Ala.||$63,615,844||$60,752,205|
|26||Kittredge Equipment||Agawam, Mass.||$57,228,000||$52,700,000|
|27||Myers Restaurant Supply||Santa Rosa, Calif.||$49,100,750||$48,611,195|
|28||State Restaurant Equipment||Las Vegas||$41,022,572||$35,712,470|
|29||Avanti||Costa Mesa, Calif.||$36,610,260||$30,944,247|
|30||Thompson & Little Inc.||Fayetteville, N.C.||$33,624,831||$25,361,945|
|31||Birmingham Restaurant Supply (BRESCO)||Birmingham, Ala.||$33,070,754||$33,413,866|
|32||Amundsen Commercial Kitchens||Oklahoma City, Okla.||$33,000,000||$27,000,000|
|33||B&G Restaurant Supply||Pittsfield, Mass.||$31,718,378||$27,650,000|
|34||Curtis Restaurant Equipment||Springfield, Ore.||$29,896,000||$27,890,000|
|35||Boston Showcase||Newton, Mass.||$29,500,000||$29,400,000|
|36||W. West Equipment & Furnishings||Denver||$29,250,203||$33,671,917|
|37||Warehouse Restaurant Supply||Waterbury, Conn.||$27,844,000||$21,300,000|
|38||Rapids Contract and Design||Marion, Iowa||$27,676,000||$25,250,000|
|39||Burkett Restaurant Equipment||Perrysburg, Ohio||$27,575,195||$21,390,000|
|40||Manning Brothers Food Service Equipment||Athens, Ga.||$23,181,107||$26,982,302|
|41||Alto-Hartley Inc.||Alexandria, Va.||$23,010,314||$18,920,419|
|42||Culinex (Plexus Co.)||Fargo, N.D.||$22,500,000||$22,500,000|
|43||Oswalt Restaurant Supply||Oklahoma City, Okla.||$21,053,000||$21,328,000|
|44||Bezac Equipment||Youngstown, Ohio||$20,804,171||$17,938,172|
|45||Crest Foodservice Equipment Co.||Virginia Beach, Va.||$18,746,312||$19,876,561|
|46||Breckenridge Kitchen Equipment and Design||Huron, Ohio||$17,829,551||$18,910,741|
|47||L&M Foodservice||Bullhead City, Ariz.||$17,800,678||$18,876,833|
|48||E. Friedman Associates||Brooklyn, N.Y.||$17,200,000||$17,000,000|
|49||Curtis Restaurant Supply||Tulsa, Okla.||$16,729,000||$16,602,000|
|50||Williams Food Equipment||Windsor, Ontairo||$15,080,000||$15,000,000|
|51||Atlas Restaurant Supply||South Bend, Ind.||$15,008,056||$14,760,000|
|52||United Restaurant Supply||Colorado Springs, Colo.||$14,069,266||$14,300,889|
|53||*IS Restaurant Design Equipment & Supply||Sioux Falls, S.D.||$13,835,000||$12,265,000|
|55||*Carnegie Foodservice Equipment||Altoona, Pa.||$9,380,725||$9,182,419|
*Dealers verifying for the first time this year.
Dealers: Volumes Reported, But Not Verified
This alphabetical listing includes dealers that reported volumes to FER, but did not provide independent verification. We urge dealers choosing not to verify to report volumes anyway. Bear in mind that these dealers have a host of legitimate reasons for choosing not to verify.
|Company||Headquarters||2017 Revenue||2016 Revenue|
|Kirby Restaurant & Chemical Supply||Longview, Texas||$42,000,000||$41,000,000|
|Restaurant Equipment World||Orlando, Fla.||$24,900,000||$21,850,000|
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