Local restaurants suffer from cuts and delays in food distribution | Local

Restaurant owners report disruptions in food distribution services caused by spikes in demand and labor shortages.

From mislabeled products to delayed, half-filled and canceled deliveries, restaurants in the valley sell products and waste money paying employees to work while the food they are paid to prepare does. has not arrived.

“We used to have everything like clockwork, and then for a few months now it’s not like clockwork,” said Jason Azarpour, director of Whistling Grizzly Food and Beverage.

Azarpour said products purchased by the restaurant often arrive late or incomplete.

“When we invite the staff to prepare the food for the next day, they stay up because the product is not there,” he said.

Some of these problems, restaurant owners and managers told News & Guide, stemmed from US Foods cutting accounts in the Valley, forcing those restaurants to find other businesses to fill the void.

“Like many in the industry, distributors face workforce issues,” a spokesperson for US Foods said in a written statement.

US Foods did not explicitly respond to a question asking if they had cut accounts in Teton County, saying only, “We can add a new customer, leave or renew some relationships for a variety of reasons.”

Kendra Alessandro, director of communications for the Fine Dining Restaurant Group, said US Foods has cut some of the restaurant group’s small accounts. Other vendors have filled the void, she said.

But for many restaurants in town, food distributors from KeHE and UNFI at Sysco are no longer reliable.

“We hardly ever get an order with everything we’ve ordered,” said Sky Garnick, owner of Cultivate Cafe, a restaurant specializing in organic and vegetarian food and drink.

Garnick’s food distribution problems began when Charlie’s Produce stopped coming to Jackson earlier this year after Whole Foods acquired Jackson Whole Grocer, which was Charlie’s Produce’s biggest account. The food distribution company tried to find more accounts to justify the route to Jackson, but couldn’t, according to Charlie’s Produce general manager Matt Fuxan.

Garnick tried to fill the void by purchasing the restaurant’s organic produce from KeHE, UNFI and Grasmick Produce, but each of those distributors botched or delayed orders, Garnick said.

For example, KeHE alerted Garnick two weeks ago that one of their delivery drivers had quit, Garnick said, delaying the restaurant’s order for three days.

Garnick said that Grasmick Produce often leaves orders partially unfulfilled.

UNFI frequently labels products incorrectly, Garnick said, which means coffee has to do without the necessary ingredients. In one case, Garnick said he had previously received yogurt labeled whole milk.

“When [food distributors] just don’t bring things, unfortunately we have to go to grocery stores to buy things, ”he said.

Garnick relies on Sysco, one of the nation’s leading food suppliers, to provide paper and take out items. But Sysco was also lacking. Over the past few weeks, Garnick said, Sysco hasn’t delivered the products Garnick needs to package their take-out meals and drinks.

“For about a week or so, we haven’t had take-out cups for our cold drinks,” he said. “So we have to serve things without lids or serve things in separate cups.”

It is not known whether Sysco is affected by the labor shortage or other factors – the company did not respond to requests for comment. Whatever the cause, the lack of consistency affects local restaurants, including Garnick’s.

“We’re really struggling because we make a lot of smoothies and juices,” he said. “We must serve [cold] drinks in hot cups, which are more expensive and worse for the environment.

There is no shortage of hassles in food distribution, Oscar Ortega, owner of Atelier Ortega and master chocolate maker, intervened 18 months ago to create a specialized food distribution company.

“I created my own distribution company because the deficit is huge,” Ortega said. “We are struggling to get pretty much everything we want. “

Ortega’s food distribution company, Frozen & Sweet Solutions, began with its struggles for ingredients like invert sugar, more than a dozen kinds of couverture chocolate, and glucose syrup.

“I’ve always had distribution issues in Jackson because the types of ingredients I use are not the typical ingredients you would use in any other normal kitchen,” he said.

Even more standard ingredients like cake flour and granulated sugar have become more difficult to obtain from US Foods and Sysco, Ortega said.

Sourcing its own produce, Frozen & Sweet Solutions now supplies the premium ingredients that Ortega and other restaurants were struggling to source.

“When one of our previous suppliers that provided specialty baking products stopped shipping to Jackson last year,” said Alessandro, “Oscar Ortega started sourcing these items and we started sourcing them. He has since become our supplier for some of those more difficult to find specialty ingredients for our Fine Dining Restaurant Group baking program.

Ortega said her client list includes Cream & Sugar, the Four Seasons, Snake River Grill, the White Buffalo Club restaurant and private chefs.

Although Ortega supplies local restaurants with ingredients that large distributors often cannot supply, he still relies on companies such as Sysco for more ubiquitous ingredients.

“No one can beat Sysco prices. It is one of the largest companies in the United States, ”he said.

That doesn’t mean that the company’s service has been smooth for him, however.

“I have a huge list of items from Sysco that are out of stock,” he said.

Just last week, Sysco only provided 63 cases of food after Ortega placed an order for 85 cases, he said. Two weeks ago, he said, Sysco showed up more than nine hours late for a delivery, forcing one of Ortega’s dishwashers to stay late to wait for the food truck.

While Ortega and other restaurateurs struggle to stock up on food, Ortega knows that Jackson’s location in the mountains and distance from major cities makes distribution difficult for large companies, and that is something he says Teton County restaurateurs, including him, have to contend with.

“At the end of the day, we live in the mountains, and we have to aspire and keep trying to serve our customers.”

“We almost never receive an order that contains everything we’ve ordered. »- Sky Garnick grows coffee

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