Where Do Restaurants Buy Their Food?

 A plate of enchiladas surrounded by various Mexican accouterments.

One of the most common questions in the restaurant industry is: where do restaurants buy their food? Generally, this would be from wholesalers or retailers who sell solely to food and catering businesses.

Restaurants can also buy food from specialist suppliers that offer specific food products. This article closely examines where restaurants purchase food, and how often they should place orders. 

Where Restaurants Buy Their Food

Restaurants buy their food from the following sources:

National Wholesale Food Suppliers

National wholesale food suppliers offer a variety of food options. You can buy meat, dry goods, dairy, desserts, and other produce from this source. National wholesalers and food suppliers work with a vast network of farmers, so you can get different ingredients from them without searching for other sources. 

As a result, you save time and have access to more discounts and bulk sales. However, there are downsides to buying from national wholesale suppliers. First, their ingredients are not specialized and may not be as fresh as buying from farmers. Also, since national wholesale food suppliers cater to a large clientele, you cannot build a close relationship with them.


Restaurants that are uncompromising about using fresh produce buy directly from farmers or a farming co-operative, especially if they have a personal relationship with them. Alternatively, you can buy from large farms with an established distribution network within or outside your city. 

The significant advantage of buying food from farmers is that you’ll always have fresh ingredients. Also, purchasing directly from farmers will help you build your seasonal menu, and if you become a regular customer, you can get discounts. 

However, buying from farmers has its downsides. You will pay higher prices and can only purchase local ingredients. Also, you may need to order from more than one farmer because most farmers grow only one crop.

Local Food Markets 

Another place restaurants buy their food is the local food market. Usually, restaurants go to these markets to source local ingredients. So, local food markets are a great option if you’d rather not buy directly from farmers. 

Also, you can buy different ingredients in one trip instead of making several trips to various farms to get what you need. In some cases, the sellers at the market can act as an intermediary between you and the farmers and deliver the ingredients to your restaurant. However, ingredients at local food markets are expensive because most sellers buy from farmers and resell. 

Organic Suppliers 

Organic suppliers come in different forms; they could be national wholesalers or local farmers. Organic suppliers cater to environmentally conscious restaurants whose customers want to eat chemical-free food. As such, these restaurants buy from organic farmers who use little or no chemical fertilizers to grow their crops. 

Also, livestock reared by organic farmers are free of antibiotics and kept in environments that seem like natural habitats. One key advantage of buying from organic farmers is that you’ll always get fresh ingredients. However, organic produce may have a lower shelf life, have higher prices, and be subject to seasonal limitations. 


Restaurants also buy from butchers, particularly steak and barbecue businesses. You can purchase fresh meat cuts from the local butcher and find out if the livestock was raised organically or inorganically. You can also work with the butcher to get the specific type of meat and cuts your restaurant serves. 

Beer Suppliers 

Aside from food, restaurants also patronize beer suppliers. This could be locally-brewed beer to national products, and the beer you buy depends on the type of restaurant you have. So, suppose you offer a craft beer selection. 

Then, you will buy from different breweries to offer various choices to your customers. If you run a family restaurant, you only need two types of beers, and you can buy from national brands. Local breweries will cost more than national brands because their products are specialized for a small market. 

Why Do Restaurants Buy Their Food From Wholesale Suppliers?

Restaurants don’t always cook each meal from scratch. Most chefs spend days preparing different parts of a meal and complete it when a customer orders. Also, they make the same meal with similar ingredients multiple times. 

As a result, restaurants must have enough food. Therefore, restaurant owners often make bulk orders for different ingredients that will last them for a day or two. The best people to supply large orders are national wholesale food suppliers. Wholesale suppliers have different ingredients in stock, but ensure you buy from a supplier that specializes in your restaurant type. 

How Often Should Restaurants Buy Food?

The answer to this question is subjective. It all depends on how fast you go through your ingredients. So, while a restaurant can buy food daily, another restaurant may keep their purchase to twice a week or more. 

However, it is recommended that you place orders twice or thrice a week to take advantage of shipping discounts. What’s important is ensuring you have enough food to serve your customers without running out. But ensure you don’t buy more than you need; if you do, you will waste food, and it will affect your restaurant finances in the long run. 

How Do Restaurants Find Who to Buy Food From?

Reviews can make or break a restaurant, depending on whether it is positive or negative. Therefore, restaurants cannot afford to buy food from unvetted suppliers. This is because if you buy and use low quality ingredients, it will affect your sales and review.

So, how do you know who to buy food from, especially if you are just starting? 

Ask other restaurant owners serving the same type of food. Some suppliers offer referral discounts, so restaurateurs looking for price cuts will refer you to their suppliers. But if they don’t, you can check online and read reviews before choosing.

Get the Food Your Restaurant Needs From Carolina Food Service 

At Carolina Food Service, we understand how essential quality ingredients and timely delivery is to restaurants. Therefore, we offer top-notch food distribution services to Hispanic and Latino restaurants throughout the Carolinas. You can buy food from us at competitive prices, and we will deliver on time. 

Become a customer; contact us now!

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