Businesses that were able to survive the pandemic did so by adapting and presenting their value to customers in new ways. That has been something Merchants Sales Company has been able to do not just through the course of the pandemic but through their fifty years of serving the restaurant and foodservice industry.
“Through the pandemic we have not had a lot to celebrate. We’ve been trying to find things to celebrate, and we believe that this is certainly worthy” said Merchants Sales President, Frank Roughgarden. “Sometimes people celebrate accomplishments that are only important to people within their company. We have two manufacturer partners, Anchor Packaging and Rofson, that we have represented since day one. That’s 50 years of marching shoulder to shoulder into the market. Together we’ve been through a lot of great times; we’ve been through a lot of lean times, but the overall success is something we are very proud of and want to celebrate.”
As for how Merchants Sales Company has succeeded and grown during its fifty years of existence, Roughgarden attributes it to the company’s ability to grow their brand and uphold their high standards. “I was fortunate to come on board with the company in 1979, when the company was eight years old,” said Roughgarden. “My brother was involved with the company three years prior to that and is responsible for me joining. Merchants Sales then began to grow with the next generation of ownership and expanded into Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. That geographic area was where we really focused for 15 to 20 years, until one of our manufacturers came to us and told us that our methods would translate well in the New York Metro market. We then took three years to build an entrance plan into that market, because this is our brand and something that we are very careful with. We had to do it right.”
As to how Merchants Sales has stayed successful in their field for fifty years, it is due to the connections they have made and the advice they give to their customers. “We work with operators to help build their off-premise business,” said Roughgarden. “This can be done utilizing high quality packaging, and putting effort into developing a strong packaging platform that conveys to the customer that you care about them and appreciate their business.”
“It’s all about reinforcing that value, which in the end, is the essence of a positive guest experience,” Roughgarden explained. “Before the pandemic, takeout and delivery was maybe five percent of an operator’s profits, at times throughout the past two years it may have shifted to being as high as one hundred percent. Even though dining rooms are open, operators should not want to give back those hard earned to go revenue streams. They need to continue to focus on takeout and delivery, because people who two years ago did not order takeout or use third party delivery systems now include these in their weekly dining rotation.”
Roughgarden continued, “operators can affect the experience of anyone in the dining room. If a customer has a bad experience, a manager can address it, and work to fix the situation and satisfy the customer. When the carry out bag crosses the threshold of the restaurant door, the operator has lost their ability to affect the guest experience. If everything isn’t ready to go in the bag, if the bag is not set up correctly or the packaging is flawed, the customer may not return to the restaurant. So, packaging has to be absolutely right to ensure that a guest has a positive takeout experience.”
As for how Merchants Sales looks to succeed in the future, Roughgarden says it’s about continuing to help their clients be successful. “I continually stress to our new reps that one thing is not going to change: if a picture is worth a thousand words, a sample is worth a million,” said Roughgarden.
“Getting a sample into someone’s hands is a physical act. Somebody has to be present to do it. Operators need to plate their food in the container to see how it presents to their guest. That is something you cannot do online,” Roughgarden concluded. “There is a pent-up desire from operators to see vendors and reps in person. As long as we can keep getting in front of our end users and operators, showing them value and innovation, we will be well positioned for continued success.”
More information on Merchants Sales Company’s 50th Anniversary as well as their services can be found online at their website