In today’s climate, operators and distributors should strive to build lasting, trusting relationships based on sharing knowledge and transparency, says Paul Desena, sales manager for Yancey’s, an independent broadliner founded in 1939. Desena instructs his 17 DSRs to act as if they’re owners rather than salesmen. When they act like restaurateurs, “DSRs search for solutions that are truly in the best interest of their customers,” Desena adds. Sharing knowledge about menu trends, waitstaff training, the market and prices is a distributor’s greatest offering to independent operators, who lack time and resources.
To help control costs, Yancey’s gets involved in all aspects of an operation. At delivery, DSRs advise customers on the proper “first-in, first-out” rotation system that ensures freshness. “A large part of increased food costs comes from mis-rotated product. We offer charts that alert customers to proper placement for longest shelf life,” Desena explains. Operators can also reduce costs by reducing the number of troublesome drops; this cuts distributors’ expenses and the savings can be passed along.
Desena says focusing on attracting patrons should be a shared goal. “So often the operator worries about the cost of goods coming in the back door but doesn’t pay attention to the front of the house. If he loses focus on getting patrons in seats and coming back, it’s irrelevant what he’s spending on food,” he believes. His DSRs discuss the top 10 or 20 menu items that have the greatest impact on the bottom line and review proper costing techniques, ensuring that current prices and yields are up to date. “We encourage our customers to remove items that either cannot contribute favorably or that require too many inventory items that can’t be cross-utilized,” says Desena.
Enhancing a menu can mean making a simple adjustment. One of Yancey’s DSRs recently helped a Chipotle-type operator boost revenues with a promotion dubbed “Fat Tuesday.” He developed a potato burrito and small beverage combo that sold for $3.99; the restaurant’s sales doubled on that day.
“The DSR’s role is to help operators understand all the costs that affect profitability. The cost of the food that enters the back door is just one part of their success,” Desena notes.
ID ranking: 42 on ID Top 50
Accounts: 1,550 accounts in northern Colorado, western Nebraska and southern Wyoming
2007 sales: $130 million