Skip to main content

Foodservice 101: The Basics

Once operators have selected programs they can successfully execute at every store on a daily basis — typically utilizing thaw-and-heat, easily assembled menu items and/or grab-and-go programs — they can build their procurement strategy and processes.


From a cost and complexity standpoint, operators at this level can typically fulfill most of their procurement needs through convenience store distributors (such as McLane, Eby-Brown and Core-Mark), direct-store delivery (DSD) manufacturers and commissaries. As foodservice programs grow and become more complex, the strategic sourcing plan should be continuously reviewed and expanded to achieve optimum quality, pricing and delivery frequency.

There are many manufacturers and distributors that can help with product selection, production and execution, as well as training and food safety support. It's important to determine first what your customers want and like to eat and build the procurement plan from there. It's inadvisable to build a menu plan based on what is easiest to buy and sell, experts advise. Research the specific items your markets are demanding and speak to manufacturers and distributor representatives that offer that product assortment.


While a variety of foodservice distributors — including broadline foodservice distributors such as Sysco or U.S. Foods (formerly U.S. Foodservice) — will become an important part of the procurement mix for more-advanced convenience store foodservice operators, most experts recommend not using them at the beginning stages.

The reason is broadline foodservice distributors require a $500 to $1,000 minimum per drop (depending on volume, chain size, regional store density and other factors) and may not meet a c-store operator's frequency and pack size requirements. As operators build volume with their programs, broadline foodservice distributors will likely become an important partner.

One way to save money and resources is to fully integrate and link foodservice procurement with the rest of the company, and leverage all key internal assets and competencies. Experts recommend hiring someone who knows the distribution side of the business. As much as distributors can be important stakeholders in your foodservice business, it is vital for the convenience store company to lead the relationship with experienced personnel.


  • The menu drives everything, especially the distributors and manufacturers you select, not vice versa.
  • Operators at this level can typically fulfill most of their procurement needs through convenience store distributors, DSD manufacturers and commissaries.
  • At the early stages, avoid broadline foodservice distributors whose costs and minimum-drop requirements can be out of reach.
  • Work hard to build strategic, collaborative relationships with foodservice suppliers and share your foodservice strategic plan with them on a regular basis.
  • Hire someone who knows the distribution side of the business to help leverage all internal competencies and external resources.

CSNews' How To Do World-Class Foodservice report is researched and written by Maureen Azzato, a freelance content developer and editor with more than 20 years of business publishing experience, with a primary focus on foodservice and retailing Previously she was the founding publisher and editorial director of On-the-Go Foodservice, a publication for cross-channel retail foodservice executives, and publisher and editorial director of Convenience Store News, where she worked for 17 years.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds