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Replenishing food inventory is an integral part of running a well-oiled restaurant kitchen. Knowing where to shop for cheap ingredients entails improved profit margins for the business. Therefore, most restaurateurs and chefs have trusted wholesale sellers, director distributors, and local farms who supply their demands. The primary function of these sellers is to offer supplies at the lowest possible price.

But many establishments also rely on multiple vendors to ensure stock availability. When selecting suppliers, restaurants should consider cost, delivery schedules, order requirements (minimum number, lead time, etc.), and the quality of goods. Although many purveyors claim to be a one-stop shop, the truth is that there is no single supplier that can cater to a restaurant's entire inventory. Don't believe this? Two chefs share their top picks for the best places to shop for cheap ingredients in the Philippines. 

Benefits of Partnering With Restaurant Suppliers

1. Cost-effective solutions

A person hands a bill as payment for fresh fruits

Restaurant suppliers offer businesses the best deals. Food-service vendors, farms, and direct distributors can provide ingredients at a lower cost and discounted food items more than chain groceries. Price stability is the biggest benefit of buying food-service items from direct distributors.

2. Improved efficiency

Kitchen staff checking restaurant inventory

In any food establishment, improper allocation of resources results in higher production costs. A restaurant focusing on inventory management can smartly achieve efficiency in its operations. These steps encourage and add value to overall business performance. It also ensures the dining hall's flow is hassle-free and streamlined.

3. Increased output

Restaurant waitstaff serving freshly cooked pizza to diners

Procuring fresh ingredients and ready-to-use food-service solutions helps facilitate faster kitchen turnover. This means increased output without adding strain on your staff. Premade sauces like Knorr Gravy Mix, Demi Glaze Sauce Mix, or Knorr Teriyaki Sauce cut down prep work, allowing for faster turnover. Ultimately, it leads to a healthy working environment and satisfied customers.

4. Higher profit margins

A man and two women load crates of fresh vegetables onto the back of a truck

One of the best ways to boost profit is to keep costs low without compromising food quality. Having reliable suppliers with pricing that fits your budget will also keep menu items affordable for diners.

5. Product and service consistency

A person inspects the quality of fresh salmon fillet from a vendor’s stall

Buying from reliable suppliers ensures consistency in the restaurant's menu items. This way, businesses are not easily affected by ingredient shortages.

A premade quality product like Lady's Choice Real Mayonnaise eliminates the need to stock up on supplies like eggs, oil, garlic, etc. It also reduces the need for kitchen staff to prepare mayo from scratch every time. Use the mayo when making recipes like spinach and artichoke dip or a six-ingredient kani crab dip

6. Many options for substitutions

A supplier warehouse filled with various ingredients and restaurant supplies

Buying from groceries or marketplaces can limit supply options. Regular suppliers offer a wide range of items, including products that also work as excellent substitutes. For instance, Knorr Potato Flakes can take the place of fresh tubers in a potato bread recipe, mashed potatoes to pair with bbq beef ribs, or a plant-based cottage pie. Are you having difficulty sourcing ingredients due to supply shortages? Turn to stock bases, broth cubes, and soup mixes for fuss-free food preparation.

Chefs Share Top Food Suppliers in the Philippines

Who better to ask where to shop for cheap ingredients than culinary experts? Two Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) chefs share their tips for sourcing food supplies. Brando Santos, who has been in the industry for over two decades and is currently working as a UFS senior sous chef, and Pipo Aluning, who has been a culinary professional for nearly 15 years, reveal their secrets.

1. Head to nearby groceries for emergency supply runs.

The dairy section of the grocery with shelves filled with milk

It’s not uncommon to run out of an ingredient or two, especially during holidays when restaurants are packed. Chef Brando suggests buying small, cheap ingredients, like cream, butter, or milk, from groceries. While chef Pipo also recommends wet markets for fresh produce you need in a pinch.

2. Find imported ingredients at retailers.

Different types of cold cuts and sausages in a delicatessen

Specialty stores carry a selection of hard-to-find imported ingredients. Though some retailers aren’t known for cost-effective pricing, you can still benefit from occasional discounted food items. Chef Brando likes to visit Santis for quality proteins, cold cuts, and cheeses for charcuterie boards and international recipes. For Asian ingredients, sauces, and spices, chef Pipo heads to Binondo.

3. Locate reputable restaurant suppliers in the Philippines.

A worker unloads boxes from a delivery truck

Despite the convenience of supermarkets, their 20-30% markup on products affects food costs. Buying directly from suppliers is still the best option for low prices, free delivery, and shelf-stable items. Plus, they can provide quality and consistent goods with exclusive payment terms. Werdenberg International Corporation, Hightower Inc., Alternatives Food Corp., and Santini Foods are go-to options for both chefs.

4. Build strong bonds with suppliers.

Two businessmen shaking hands firmly

Partnering and building strong bonds with suppliers is beneficial to any business. Food distributors can offer wholesale prices, which is excellent for budgeting. Make sure you regularly order and pay on time to fortify relationships. Restaurateurs and pro chefs rely on suppliers like Alternatives, Fresh Options, or Hightower for The Vegetarian Butcher and other imported products.

5. Take advantage of available payment terms.

A woman ordering supplies on her laptop and paying with her credit card

Knowing where to shop for cheap ingredients isn’t just about outright savings. Business operators can take advantage of multiple payment terms from legitimate suppliers. Retail shopping requires up-front payment, while established partnerships allow consignment options, price-pegged contracts, and regular discounts.

6. Shop shelf-stable items in bulk.

Numerous sacks of rice stacked neatly in a storge room

Stock up on shelf-stable ingredients in bulk to limit the effects of inflation. Chef Pipo recommends these staples: rice, sugar, Knorr Liquid Seasoning, Knorr Aromat, and other flavorings. He also suggests skipping seasonal ingredients for your menu to avoid shortages. For everyday dishes, use food items that are available year-round.

7. Maximize and manage your inventory list.

Prepared ingredients in containers line a restaurant kitchen shelf

Streamline your inventory to maximize your ingredients. With an efficient market list, you can cross-utilize food items and get more value. A trimmed inventory also gives you better control of purchases. Chefs Brando and Pipo agree that it helps to forecast your required supplies for easier budgeting.

Choosing Restaurant Suppliers in the Philippines

A fish market with the day’s fresh catch laying on mats on the floor on display

There is no shortage of restaurant suppliers in the Philippines. The challenge is finding the best one for your business. Here are three things to consider when selecting food product suppliers:

  • Determine your needs. What type of food supplies do you need, how many, and how often do you need them delivered?
  • Check which food distributors operate in your area. Ensure logistics will not be a problem due to location. Have a directory of food-service operators, local farms, and markets ready.
  • Don’t hesitate to shop from more than one supplier. Compare prices, quality of goods, delivery schedules, and other factors that could impact the business. Many dining establishments set up accounts with several partners depending on their needs.

Food businesses, big or small, benefit from knowing where to shop for cheap ingredients. And although there are some advantages to shopping at retail stores, you have more to gain from purchasing food supplies from reputable distributors. Finding direct purveyors and web shops offers convenience, product availability, and, more importantly, huge savings.