Blog - Native Maine Produce

Supplementing Your Broad Line Distributor with a New England Based Food Service Wholesaler


Foodservice directors have their hands full. On a day-to-day basis, they’re almost single-handedly responsible for managing multiple operations within a given dining establishment. This can mean overseeing staffing, training, and other hiring decisions, or it can mean managing a food and beverage program, and sometimes it can mean dealing with budgeting and marketing.

Regardless, food service directors are required to wear a number of hats, and as a result, sometimes need all the help they can get. This is where broadline distributors can come in handy, as their “one-stop-shop” approach for food and produce distribution means directors can order a large shipment of a large variety of products.

However, as useful as broadline distributors are to busy food service directors, they can’t always deliver on their promises of being a universal one-stop-shop for all your food and high quality produce needs. While their assortment of products can be a lifesaver, they can’t always deliver those products exactly when you need them. And on top of that, these broadline distributors often lack certain “specialty” products, especially when it comes to the locally sourced items that can go a long way toward elevating a restaurant’s appeal.

The answer, as it often is, involves balance. Yes, take advantage of a broadline distributor and their wide variety of product, but don’t settle there. When you supplement your broadline distributor with a local food service wholesaler, you’ll not only outfit your menu with more diverse items that will appeal to locals and visitors alike, but you’ll also be able to stock your inventory with the best products for the best prices.

Table of Contents:


The Pros and Cons of Broadline Distributors

A Local Solution

The Benefits of Balance

The Pros and Cons of Broadline Distributors

fruit in boxes

At first glance, broadline distributors can seem like a one-stop-shop for anyone in in the foodservice industry who is looking to purchase items for their business. Broadliners have large inventories of stock, consistent delivery systems, and a general air of convenience. However, first glances can be deceiving.

Broadline distributors have their uses, but if they’re your only source of produce distribution, you may find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation. While large inventories are appealing, their size often comes at the cost of specialization and freshness.

Consistent delivery routines are nice in theory, but in the unpredictability of the foodservice industry, sometimes you’re going to need a delivery of a certain product. In those situations, broadliners are often unable to help you, as their deliveries are kept to a rigid structure.

Thankfully, with a local foodservice wholesaler on your side, you can supplement your broadline distributor with a local, personable, and flexible partner who is uniquely equipped to provide you with the services a broadliner cannot. Here are some of the pros and cons broadline distributors can offer you and how a local wholesaler can be an indispensable addition to your distribution needs.

  • Buying in Bulk Isn’t Always Better

Like many features of broadline distribution, buying in bulk often sounds better than it may actually be. Broadliners offer thousands of products to their customer, but the sheer size of their inventory means that they can’t offer the kind of freshness that local wholesalers can.

While there are some ingredients that are universal enough that buying them in bulk at a lower cost is a good decision, when it comes to produce, wholesale meat, or any specialty food items, broadsiders just can’t provide you with the level of quality you want to impress your customers with.

In addition, since broadsiders have so many customers, their deliveries are pre-scheduled and rigid, meaning that they’re often unable to deliver anything less than a substantial order. When you need to buy products in bulk, then great! Broadsiders are a helpful option. But when you need a few specific items, then going through a broadsider can be more expensive, more delayed, and ultimately, less convenient.

  • Routine vs. Flexibility

Broadline distributors are popular because they’re consistent. Their inventory is consistently large, their deliveries on-time, and their prices as close to static as possible. This level predictability is comforting, but rigid, and in the chaos of the foodservice industry, rigidity is rarely the answer.

If you find yourself running dangerously low on a certain specialty item, and your next broadside delivery isn’t until the following week, then you’re stuck in a bad place. However, if you supplement your broadsider with the flexibility of a local wholesaler you can be confident that, regardless of the chaos you encounter, you’ll still be able to get the products you need.

Since local wholesalers are local, they’re more able to work directly with farmers and bring you the freshest in-season products possible. Also, this localization means more delivery trucks in your immediate area, allowing for more frequent deliveries so you don’t have to rely solely on just a single bulk-order.

A Local Solution

man handing an apple to a woman

When it comes down to it, broadline distributors have their value, but that value has limits. The foodservice industry is unpredictable as they come, and you need access to a system that can be flexible to your changing needs.

This is where local food service wholesalers can make a difference. With their specialized service, local products, and easier flexibility, local wholesalers can become your ally in a way broadliners often can’t. As a food service director, working with a local wholesaler will allow you to build meaningful relationships with industry peers, seek out the very best products to highlight on your menus, and capitalize on the charm, health, and environmental benefits that come from locally sourced products.

Here are some of the best reasons to work with a local food service wholesalers:

  • Specialty Products

One of the best things a local food service director can do is to capitalize on local cuisine and ingredients. Both visitors and locals love eating food they know came from their backyard, and the more locally sourced specialty items you can stock, the more “charm” your business will be able to find in the eyes of its customers.

For example, if you’re a New England restaurant, try investing in a local seafood distributor. This way, you can tell your customers exactly where the fish you serve came from. This adds an extra level of specialty to your menu’s offerings and allows you to better target your audience by marketing your restaurant as a “local delight” that has products no one else does.

On top of that, there are few things customer appreciate more than knowing the exact farm their sirloin steak came from, and that’s information only a local wholesaler can provide you with. Working with local distributors and wholesalers allows you to trace the products you purchase back to their source, which means you’ll know for sure that you’re only serving the freshest and most local items to your customers.

  • Healthier Options

Purchasing local produce can have a multitude of benefits on a community. Whether it’s helping create new economic opportunities, reducing environmental impact, connecting a community to itself, or even providing a myriad of health benefits, locally sourced food can improve the lives of just about anyone.

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Here are just a few of the major health benefits stocking your inventory with local food products can provide:

  • Most local food producers use organic and natural pest repellants, meaning their products are pesticide free.  

  • Since it doesn’t need to be transported over long distances, local food is also free of preservatives.

  • Due to its lack of chemicals and overall freshness, local food can help provide you with higher nutrition and flavor that ensures you eat food that is grown in its natural season.

  • Locally grown food is ideal for people with food sensitivities, as it can help accommodate a number of digestion issues that individuals with food allergies will often experience.

  • Instead of putting processed and packaged foods on your menu, local proteins, fruits, vegetables, and grains can help encourage a well-balanced diet.

  • Where imported food will often be passed between a number of hands, local food does not, meaning that it has a far lower risk of contamination.

Ultimately, the closer the food you buy is to the place where you’ll be using it, the healthier—and potentially more flavorful—it’ll likely be.

  • Local Charm

Pretty much every community across the country has its own history, traditions, cultures, and quirks. And most of the time, these histories are preserved and exemplified by local businesses. This is especially relevant to businesses in the foodservice industry, as taking advantage of a region’s unique products can be a great way to ensure your customers get to have an experience they literally cannot have anywhere else.

When you partner with local food service wholesalers you’re aligning yourself with the ingrained traditions, values, and in this case, flavors that make up your community’s storied history. It also helps keep the local economy afloat, as the more local businesses that support each other, the better off they’ll all be.

The Benefits of Balance

potato scale

While both broadline distributors and local wholesalers have their pros and cons, the ideal situation is one where food service directors can take advantage of them both. By supplementing their larger distributors with locally specialized wholesalers, directors of the foodservice industry can get the best of both worlds.

  • Diverse Menus

By pairing the large inventory selection of a broadline distributor with the specialized, locally-sourced items from a nearby wholesaler, food service directors can make sure that their food offerings are diverse, fresh, and perhaps most importantly, affordable. The universal products can be easily purchased in bulk from broadsiders, while the unique centerpieces can come from a local wholesaler.

For example, consider that your chef wants to have a weekend special of a local piece of New England seafood with a side of jasmine rice topped with a homemade sauce. Instead of sourcing all the ingredients from either a local wholesaler or broadside distributor, mix and match the two.

Use your New England based food service wholesaler to provide you with some fresh, local seafood, and then rely on the broadside distributor to make sure you have more than enough rice to meet the demands of the weekend. Even the homemade sauce can make use of this strategy, and you can use a combination of local flavors and general ingredients from large distributors to create something new and unique.

  • Build Industry Relations

For better or for worse, businesses will often live-or-die depending on the quality of their industry connections and relationships. You want your business to be a staple in your local community, but you don’t want it to be so exclusive that your profit margins reach their peak and then flatline.

To ensure your continued growth, you’re going to want to build valuable and mutually beneficial relationships with both large-scale broadside distributors and local wholesalers. This can mean staying in touch with your broadside distributor account manager so you can build a repertoire and sense of trust with them, and it can also mean calling on a local New England wholesaler to fill a gap in your inventory at the last minute.

People want to feel needed, and that applies to both customers and distributors. You want your customers to know you want and value their business, and you also want your produce distributors to know that you value and appreciate them.

Business relationships built on trust, familiarity, and personalized service are relationships that won’t only lead to good business for both parties, but can also lead to the development of new networks and contacts. It’s a cycle of interaction, relationship, and growth that continually changes, and the sooner your business can plug into that cycle, the sooner it’ll be able to build meaningful industry relations.

  • Customer Satisfaction

In the end, your customers want to know that they’re getting the best food for the best price, and supplementing your broadline distribution with a local New England foodservice wholesaler like Native Maine can do just that.

With unique flavors exclusive to your region and the high-quality, diverse ingredients accessible via broadside distributors you can concoct incredible dishes and products that will delight your local community and entice visitors to come and see what the hype is all about. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, so what are you waiting for?

If you want to start supplementing your broadline distributor with a New England wholesaler, then get in touch with Native Maine today! As one of New England’s leading produce wholesale distributors, we have over 3,000 quality items in stock that include everything local, regional, and hard-to-find specialty items that we can have delivered to you. Give us a call at (207) 856-1100 and start enjoying the Local You Know.

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