It’s not just the customer-facing part of the food service industry that’s finding itself disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food service distribution companies — those one-stop suppliers that sell everything from food and beverages to paper goods, cleaning supplies, and small equipment – are being equally stressed.

With restaurants as well as retail food service locations in business, industry, and education either shutting down or drastically downsizing, food service distributors are experiencing substantial drops in revenue and profit.

The three major players in the distribution industry – Sysco, Performance Food Group, and US Foods – have all reported significant declines in sales, and several smaller firms have already shut down for good.

Chain restaurants, especially those with well-developed drive-through and curbside pickup programs, have been able to maintain business volume better than independent restaurants, but those multi-unit operations are often supplied through in-house subsidiaries rather than traditional distributors.

Independent restaurants are thus the bread-and-butter of the food service distribution industry. Not having the purchasing leverage of large chains, independents typically pay full list price for wholesale food and supplies, making them the most profitable of customers.

As independents have shut down – some permanently – distributors have been consequently taking revenue and profit hits. Add to that the business lost from closed-up school lunchrooms and college dining halls, and the impact on the distribution business is adding up.

Industry observers predict that the ultimate result of this crunch will be consolidation, with the major distribution firms acquiring financially-weakened smaller wholesalers.

For restaurants that’s likely to result in fewer supplier choices and higher wholesale costs that they, in turn, will have to pass on in their menu prices.

Bistro Les Gras in Northampton has expanded their “to go” options by announcing an a la carte menu that will be available on Thursday and Friday evenings beginning at 4 p.m. The menu will be revised weekly.

“Hot and ready to eat” options available will include choices such as crab toast with avocado, herb roasted chicken, Parisienne gnocchi with mushrooms and asparagus, and salmon finished with an arugula and sorrel pesto.

Pre-ordered “Family Meals” continue to be available; these require early-week preorders at the restaurant’s website,

Max Burger in Longmeadow has, effective May 15, begun to accept lunch to go orders

The restaurant is additionally offering weekend BBQ Packages sized for two or four diners. Available for pickup on Fridays and Saturdays, the BBQ packs include baby back ribs, pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, mac & cheese, potato rolls, and assorted cookies.

The BBQ bundle components are packed cold for at-home reheating Orders must be called in by 4 p.m. on Friday.

Max Burger answers at (413) 798-0101.

MAX Restaurant Group locations in Connecticut that have patio seating are now providing outdoor dining Wednesday through Sunday, weather permitting. Check for more information; individual locations in Connecticut should be contacted for advance reservations.

Chez Josef in Agawam is prepared to assist with small group outdoor get-togethers; it’s “Chez2Go” program provides two options to spice up weekend plans.

Chez2Go’s “Build Your Own Barbecue,” which is designed for two, includes entree selections, three sides, and two beverages as well as dessert. Main course options include ribs, pulled pork salmon, and lemon thyme chicken.

A “Grill ‘N’ Chill Experience” can be sized to accommodate four, eight, or more. Two starter selections are included in the package along with four sides, three desserts, and two fruit-infused beverages that can double as cocktail bases. Grill-ready main dish selections range from black bean veggie burgers and pesto shrimp skewer to salmon fillet, BBQ ribs, and tri-tip steak.

Orders must be placed 24 hours in advance and are available for curbside pickup or delivery within a 30-mile radius.

Call (413) 355-5393 or go to for online ordering information.

The Federal in Agawam is offering “Federal Family Packages” on Tuesday through Saturday evenings.

The packages, which are sized to serve five, include a choices of salad, an entree such as chicken Bolognese, truffled mac and cheese, rosemary roasted chicken, or red wine braised beef short ribs. A dessert selection from among such temptations as vanilla poppy-seed cake, warm Nutella crepes, and pecan caramel cheesecake is also included.

A significant subset of the restaurant’s regular menu is additionally available for take-out, including such favorites as “a bucket of balls,” seared sea scallops, and Federal fra diavolo.

Individual-portion takeout can be ordered on line at, but family package orders can only be placed by phone at (413) 789-1267. Delivery is available to Agawam, Feeding Hills, and Suffield addresses.

Stay-at-home and lockdown orders have changed the way America lives, with independent restaurants and major chains alike consequently forced to rethink the way they do business.

In a recent interview with Nation’s Restaurant News, which reports on trends in the food service industry, Scott Murphy, the president of Dunkin’, described the shifts in business one of the country’s largest “coffee-and” chains has experienced over the past several months.

Instead of coping with peak traffic levels as people commuted to work, Dunkin’ is now instead seeing a late morning drive-through uptick in business as at-home workers take a break by getting out of the house for a bit.

Pre-boxed assortments of donuts to-go have replaced the pick-and-choose ritual of the past, and the chain is now providing a curbside pickup option.

Murphy also revealed that Dunkin’ is in no rush to re-open inside seating, and he speculated about whether doing so would even make sense under social distancing protocols. Current company plans call for testing inside seating in a few locations, then evaluating its overall impact on operations before making any decision on a chainwide move in that direction.

The entire article can be read online at

Figaro Restaurant in Enfield continues its family meal takeout specials, offering both customer favorites like chicken francese and rigatoni Bolognese as well as the likes of baked ham with mashed potato and scrod Florentine with ziti and spinach. All family meal specials are sized to serve five and come with salad and bread.

The restaurant is also offering jumbo chicken wings with a choice of ranch dressing or homemade blue cheese dip.

Consistent with Connecticut’s guidance on reopening restaurants, Figaro Restaurant plans to offer outside dining on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening, with tables available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Contact Figaro at (860) 745-2414 for more information or to order from the take-out menu.

The Duck in Sturbridge is welcoming the unofficial start of summer with a “Build a BBQ” program of pre-portioned and grill-ready items and prepared side dishes.

The array of choices is extensive, from frenched pork chops and NY sirloin steaks to house-made knockwurst, jerk chicken, and vegetable kabobs.

Sides include Caesar salad, pasta salad, and marinated mushrooms to a variety of sauces.

Orders can be placed online at Same day pickup after 2 p.m. is available for order placed before 11 a.m.

The Duck is also offering a separate to-go menu; call (508) 347-2321 for more details.

The shift to online food ordering has not been lost on PepsiCo Inc, which produces soft drinks and snack foods under the Frito-Lay brand.

PepsiCo has launched two new web sites, and, each of which offers bundled selections of food and beverage products., for instance, features family pack assortments of items containing the likes of Smartfood popcorn, Life cereal, and Quaker Oat granola bars, while allows online shoppers to customize a bundle of snack foods from FritoLay’s extensive brand lineup.

Shipping is free with a minimum $15 order.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at

Off The Menu: Food service distribution companies feel COVID-19 impact

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