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Where restaurants get their foods

I sure hope I've never paid $10 for a chicken dish that was actually this: http://www.sysco.com/products/product...

Or, at a restaurant, order a breaded fried chicken with cream sodium phosphates, sorbic acid preservative, oleoresin in tumeric:

I might as well have bought it in a supermarket myself and heat it up at home.

Have you ever noticed restaurant foods you've ordered that might have actually been ordered in mass, defrosted, heated in the microwave/oven, and served you -- and you're paying quadruple its actual worth? Perhaps restaurant owners/chefs know more about this, but this just leaves eating out..distasteful.

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  1. That is the type product most - NOT all chains serve. Many people are not willing to pay for quality products as restaurant or consumer. I recently switched my fryolater grease to a non transfat product. It costs me $12 - $18 more a JUG!!! However - there is no room in my market to charge more to offset this increase. I believe in my food and want it to be healthy and as good for you as I can make it - that is not what my average consumer is willing to pay for.
    I really don't think people realize how many restaurants fail - and that the ones that don't - don't have really great profit margins ( in general ) unless they are serving that type of food.
    We as consumers need to demand more - and be ready to pay for it.

    5 Replies
    1. re: coastie

      Most fryolater greases/shortenings were transfat to begin with, but certain food companies (whom I won't name but are mentioned here) are adding the exact amount you mention to your bill to take advantage of the situation. Just FYI. And the price to your customers would have to go up eventually, in any event.
      I'm glad I live in a place where Sysco isn't the only game in town. We have plenty of choices of purveyors, from broadline to just produce, just meat, just specialty etc. You can get whatever you want; I find the places that buy these pre-made items to be: nursing care and schools, concessions, chains, delis for their hot meals. Not actual restaurants, except for employee meals.

      1. re: coll

        do you mean non-transfat to be begin with.....
        I did a lot of research on this - I think you should clarify because that is certainly not what I found - and the repeated application of heat causes changes that mimic transfats n oils that don't start out that way....
        I'm in an area where transfat is not being controled( which I like)
        As other restaurants make the switch the market will bear more fluctuation.

        1. re: coastie

          I know that regular (ie cheap )"creamy" and "clear" fry oils were non transfat to begin with, with no reformulation, and of course soy oil was always that way also. There are new oils coming out that make a big deal about being non transfat (with names like ZTF etc), but they're all $30 plus per tub, and maybe they're better for some other reason like longevity. What bothers me is that some distributors are trying to take advantage of the situation abd double their money, especially here in NYC. Let me get more info tomorrow and update what I'm telling you.

      2. re: coastie

        I noticed online that a local restaurant now offers macademia oil as an option, at $2/oz. For salads but also some wok items - not sure about deep fryer items. I don't know if this is a new trendy oil for some reason (I vaguely recall some trendy diet may have featured it?) or if they are trying to give a non-transfat, cost-transparent, option.


        1. re: julesrules

          I started hearing about macadamia oil several years ago, the ad had a doctor in it so it had some health benefit but I don't think it was transfat, something more like anti oxidents. I bought some and thought it tasted terrible myself, and the price was ridiculous.

      3. Why does this bother you?

        And, if you sit down and think about it for a moment, it really shouldn't come as a surprise.

        Restaurants are in the BUSINESS of making money, not feeding you well. The latter is only a happy coincidence of the former.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I know, but I think it was reading the ingredients and the description that turned me off. I guess when I'm hungry and the food smells and looks edible, I don't give a thought to it. But, it does make me appreciate more the restaurants like Josie and LaCachette that use market fresh ingredients. It certainly takes much more effort and devotion to the food itself - from the raw to final plating - to keep that up.

          1. re: chica

            Yeah, hence the $$$ for places like Josie and La Cachette ...

            Also, "Sysco" is the Jeopardy answer for the question "How does Hometown Buffet stay in the business with its incredibly low buffet prices?"

        2. Yes, restaurants -- from high-end to hole-in-the-wall and everything in between -- get all manner of foods, processed and otherwise, from Sysco.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Neely_Ohara

            Yep, I understand that, but I hope I never eat a dish that promotes itself as a chicken steak, when it's a bunch of chicken pounded together...:) Perhaps that's a norm, but I never knew that!

          2. We must be in the business of making money!! But that doesn't have to mean processed foods. You get what you pay for. Sysco is merely a purveyor. Some of the products they carry are fresh whole foods.
            I believe we need to eat better - fresher foods that are more natural. As a chef, as a food lover I can not divorce myself from the want to feed people well. Hopefully, it makes me money.So far that philoshopy has worked for me. As a person handling peoples food I feel obligated to provide the freshest product for the best value.
            It doesn't bother me that these products exist - but that people don't realize they are there because the market demands it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coastie

              I totally understand the need for such suppliers. It's a system that works. I was just a little bothered by some of the foods I saw, like that pounded-up meat taken for an entire piece of actual bird. I guess that sort of dish makeup is well-known when ordered - my lesson of the week!

            2. There are many people who think that just because a Sysco truck is in your parking lot, that you are using subpar, frozen entrees....cleaning supplies, dried spices, canned tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil, sugar,flour, etc...has to come from somewhere...as food providers, it is where we choose to purchase the vegies, meat, dairy...that makes the difference. (And how we treat them once we get them)

              1 Reply
              1. re: nyfoodjoe

                Without FSA ( same as Sysco) I would be sunk. People don't realize those great products mentioned originally are chain food and instituitional food ( generalization of course) - its what we feed our kids , our sick, and our elderly.....

              2. It goes to knowing something about the places we eat.....eat at a chain operation...expect what was pictured in the Sysco catalog

                1 Reply
                1. re: nyfoodjoe

                  I'm just curious -- say, if the menu describes the catfish as _freshly_ fried, am I to assume that is not necessarily true? In other words, is it okay for restaurants to describe the dishes they 'cook' as fresh by them, but are really derived directly from Sysco bags, heated and topped with tartar sauce?

                2. unforthunatley I think the key here is freshly fried versus fresh caught or fresh frozen. I would read that as tricky advertising meaning they fry it there ..........

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: coastie

                    Freshly Fried would definitely mean to me that they just fried it, not just caught it. Same as pies being Home Baked rather that Home Made, difference being they bought a frozen raw pie and baked it themselves.

                    1. re: coll

                      It's like the neon sign at Subway - "Fresh Baked" They don't mention that the bread comes pre-packed and is who knows how old. Maybe that's why it takes a bit like plastic...

                  2. Well, this was an education for you then, wasn't it? Know where you shop/eat, and vote with your wallet. Not all restaurants (despite your title) buy from Sysco. And guess what? Those restaurants are likely to be more expensive because they source products locally and actually care about the quality of the food served, and don't cheap out with Sysco.

                    And despite what some others have offered here, no, not all restaurants buy from Sysco. But all of them buy from some sort of distributor, that can't be helped.

                    1. sysco sells 1000s of products, including cleaning supplies, paper goods and equipment. they also carry a wide range of different quality foods. do you think every chef makes ketchup and mayo from scratch everyday? i've worked for 3 james beard award winners and heinz and hellman's were in every kitchen. where do you think that stuff comes from? they bought chicken fingers too. for staff meals. restaurants run on very slim margins and purchase 100s of items a week. just like a behemoth like wal-mart can buy in huge lots and save money, same thing with companies like sysco. a chef isn't going to spend extra money on garbage bags just to support the little guy.

                      all that being said, i'm seriously hoping you'd be able to tell real chicken from that 1st link you posted.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I hope so, too, being that it has "the appearance, taste and texture of a whole chicken breast." :-T

                      2. Although I don't know for sure where a lot of the places around here get their supplies from, there are usually signs (for example, most places will have salt/pepper packets or other condiment packets with the distributor's name on them. I know the cafeterias at work use FSA for most items, but also get produce from a local supplier. I also know that a lot of the smaller local places shop at Cash & Carry (also known as Smart & Final), which is basically a supermarket for foodservice, that sells everything in institutional sizes (but is still open to the public.) It's actually an interesting place to browse around and see what's available (things like whole cryovaced beef primals and 25-pound packages of ground beef, syrups for soda fountains, and a lot of stuff in bulk quantities even Costco can't come close to) but it's wildly impractical to do much shopping there if you're not in foodservice. It's a great place to go if you find yourself needing 50 pounds of pancake mix or 15 pounds of bacon though.

                        1. Sysco's breaded pork tenderloins were actually pretty good.

                          I don't like saying that, but it was true.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: therealbigtasty

                            I know, there's plenty of decent pre-made stuff out there. And time is money.
                            I don't feel the horror for prepared foods that others seem to feel, maybe because I've been to the factories and have seen the food being prepared. What's wrong with pounded meat, how does that change the nutritional value? It's still solid chicken in the end. At least you know exactly where it comes from and that there won't be any problem with sanitation. Companies like Tyson and General Mills are aware that nowadays consumers want healthier food, the market drives their R&D, and believe me the products are not full of poisons if that's what you think. A lot of these chemicals you see listed are actually naturally occuring. They ARE higher in sodium, but that's because the public demands it, not for some nefarious reason. That being said, yes, I refuse to order anything off a menu that I know they probably didn't make, like chicken fingers, buffalo wings, mozz sticks, poppers, even hamburgers. You can always find something that is from scratch if you look hard enough.

                          2. If you do the math you will find you can make the same quality and amount of food at home for 25% of what a restaurant will charge, of course the restaurant has fixed costs they must cover along with making a profit.

                            1. The Pleasantville (NY) Diner has on its menu Stouffers' Macaroni and Cheese, and it costs $12. I like that they say exactly whose it is, but I can't believe anyone actually orders it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: marmite

                                Same when I see Honey Dipt Chicken on a menu, I guess some people think it's a sign of quality (or maybe dependability).

                                1. re: marmite

                                  It's obvious Sysco is the food supplier giant for the restaurant industry. Yah, there bulk items consist of some very decent bread to some very low end processed foodstuffs. But another key issue we all tend to dismiss is the fact that Sysco is not responsible for putting the food on the plate right before it is served. Why can't we talk more about the labor issues restaurants face and this country's obsession with 8 page menus!! Who are we fooling besides the masses who consume the #33's with no onions because they happen to be alergic that second. There arn't too many superheros in today's many ordinary 'kitchens'. I've always thought of kitchens as places to cook in.

                                2. I wouldnt be afraid of seeing a Sysco truck at all.

                                  When I was a purchasing director for a hotel in the Hyatt chain we used Sysco for items like rice, beans, spices, condiments, canned goods, napkins,cleanins supplies, etc. The basic items used in running a kitchen, and hotel. For any specialized item we used local suppliers.

                                  I purchased our produce from a local purveyor, our fresh poultry from a local purveyor, our seafood from 2 different local fish houses, our meat from 3 or 4 different local meat purveyors, etc, our cheese from a local cheese distirbutor, our imported cheeses, olive oils, etc from local import houses, and our wild game from a local distributor.

                                  Luckily the hotel I bought for was in the Chicago area so we had access to some of the best items available daily.

                                  1. I think the big "issue" with Sysco are restaurants that are on their "program" where they purchase 100% of their food / cleaning / papper goods from Sysco. I agree that Heinz is Heinz, but had to laugh at Honey Dipt (or the infamous "Honey Stung" description). I think a good restaurant purchases the same way a consumer that cares about food does: Use the big supermarket/wholesale clubs in conjunction with specialty stores (seafoood, bakery, meats, produce, etc.). Your stomach will thank you !

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      Honey Dipt is Tyson and Honey Stung is Pierce (or Pilgrims Pride). The war on which is best has been going on between them for ages!

                                      1. re: coll

                                        Ah yes, the differences are the subject of many debates !