Food For Thought

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Food purchasing is something you do over time and on a schedule — sometimes to the extent that it becomes monotonous. You see it as a necessity, not exciting. But when it comes to big food purchasing solutions, don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you can and will be more efficient. Keep these tactics in mind to save money:


Bigger is always better, whether you’re going big with your own approach or partnering with other groups to combine orders and maximize savings. Seek out ways to increase your buying power for regular orders rather than getting outpaced by local or national vendors.


Just like ancient Grecians, Greek houses tend to unify as they go into battle — the battle of feeding hundreds of college students, that is. Don’t give in to groupthink; use it to your advantage. While the average Greek house spends about $60,000 per year on food alone, you may feel like you don’t have much room to negotiate reduced costs. But just like you wouldn’t buy a car or home just because your friends got one for a certain price, it’s important to shop around for the best deal.


Your food distributor should treat you like a national account, no matter the size of your chapter. Many distributors have preconceived notions about Greek organizations and will automatically inflate the price. In that same vein, never be afraid to talk a distributor rep down. If you’re buying a large quantity of a certain food item, ask for a discount based on the increased demand you generate. The distributor will still make money and keep your business, and you’ll pay less in the long run. She has the power to get you the price you deserve if she values your business. If not, find someone else.


Ask your food distributor about her national program, and you’ll set the stage for a consistent pricing model that avoids the soaring prices charged by other reps. If you’re a customer of Sysco Corp. or US Foods and join the national program now, those cost savings will still apply after the merger. However, this option won’t be available once the companies join forces. So, act now if this sounds like a good solution for your organization. If you work with a food service management company, ask whether it’s already taking advantage of a national program. The discounted pricing should inevitably trickle down and lower food costs for your organization.


You can — and should — reach out to your national headquarters for guidance in purchasing decisions. Your headquarters was developed to support its chapters, so it might have a preferred partner or access to a discount program. That said, keep in mind that prices vary by region and sales representative, so your chapter might not get the same deal as other chapters. Don’t feel obligated to choose the distributor your national headquarters recommends if it isn’t a cost-effective option.

Whether your needs lie in food or non-food supplies, it’s important to do an audit and understand where you’re losing more than you need to. Assess where waste is coming from, and determine whether this needs to be addressed through staff training, procedure shifts, or other operational needs. By taking the time to understand your food costs and relationships, your agency will come out ahead.

As long as your organization maintains a sense of what you need and when you’ll need it, you’ll stay in business. Your partners will be able to aggregate your experience so both corporate and food purchasing needs can be met while qualifying for lower prices through the group’s volume privileges. You’ll streamline the process by pulling multiple purchasing categories together under one group or supplier.