Brad Silverman likes to compare Restaurant City – his family’s brand of restaurant supply stores – to Costco.
“It’s aspirational, I know”, Silverman says, aware that there’s a big gap between three Restaurant City stores (in CT, RI, and now South Hackensack, NJ) and the Fortune 500 Warehouse Club. Regardless, he refers back to the analogy often, whenever he needs to clarify the type of customer experience that he’s hoping to provide:
“Restaurant City is different than other restaurant supply stores. We want to hear an audible ‘wow’ the first time a foodservice person walks into our store. And we do hear it, all the time. We heard it a lot when we opened this [South Hackensack, New Jersey] store in November. I don’t think NJ had ever seen a store like this,” said Silverman.
Why the Costco analogy specifically?
“Well, we don’t have memberships like Costco does, so that’s one big difference. But everything else… our stores are big, with tons of inventory, well-organized, with clean bright aisles, and most importantly, everything is priced right.”
“Very few equipment dealers are like this,” Silverman continued. “Most are showrooms with limited inventory, or sales offices with no inventory (where everything is on a computer screen and 2-4 week lead time), or warehouses filled with random used equipment. I go to a lot of other restaurant supply stores. Truthfully, I find most of them depressing. Restaurateurs should enjoy going to their restaurant supply store as much as diners like going to their restaurants. I like going to Costco. I think most people do. I want to make sure people feel the same about our stores.”
“A big part of customer experience is great pricing. We are very cognizant of market prices on every item and product line in our inventory. We only bring products into stock when we know we will be the lowest or near the lowest price. We put our resources into our stores and our product selection and pricing. So when you walk into our stores, you don’t need to fear overpaying. It takes a few shopping trips to achieve that level of comfort from a customer, but we almost always do.”
“Our salespeople are great – the best – but we don’t let them offer some of the full services that other dealers do: Design work, on-site meetings, consultation, special ordering, etc. Instead, we let our product selection, our pricing, and our blunt honesty satisfy the middle 90% of the bell curve that just wants good products in stock at good prices, with helpful service and a hassle-free shopping experience. There’s no negotiating over price here. Some customers do enjoy negotiating, but overall we find more people are satisfied by getting the right price at the beginning and not needing to worry about it.”
“We stock the middle 90% of core products that foodservice operators need, across every conceivable area of foodservice. So when someone needs the other 10% of product – the 33.5” worktable, the designer pasta bowls with the green band, etc. – we are happy to let another dealer swoop in for the special order. We don’t like special ordering!”
When you walk into Restaurant City, the first thing you notice is the sheer amount of inventory: hundreds of refrigerators; hundreds of fryers; convection ovens, sinks, worktables, wire shelving, plumbing supplies, and aisle after aisle of smallwares. After the initial shock wears off, you start to notice a lot of equipment with signs that say ‘Factory Overstock’ or ‘Factory Scratch-and-Dent’.
“Yes, this is the other core element of our stores. While most dealers are trying to shed overhead, we use it to our advantage. Very few dealers can buy like we do. This [New Jersey] store is 40,000 square feet. Our store in Connecticut is twice the size. Our store in Providence is almost as large too. We brought in a load of overstock refrigerators last month that would have, by itself, filled most dealers’ entire showrooms.”
When it comes to these specials, Restaurant City salespeople have their sales pitch down to a science: if it has a factory special sign on it, they will tell you to Google the model number to find the “normal” price.
Imagine you Google a specific model of a two-door refrigerator, and you find twenty online dealers with approximately the same price. Then you look down at the Factory Overstock sign and see Restaurant City selling it for $650 less. That’s a happy shopping experience. This is a daily occurrence at Restaurant City, according to Silverman, and nothing makes him and his staff happier than saving a customer a lot of money like that. “We are competitive [price-wise] on everything, but when we save a customer $500+ on the exact unit they needed, it also buys us a lot of goodwill with that customer. We’re confident we’ll be their first call next time they need anything.”
Asking him for his final thoughts on his stores, the industry, and the greater New York City area, Silverman pauses for a few seconds, trying to tie some loose threads together:
“I love our concept, I’ve made that clear. I think we just have a lot of confidence in these stores to work anywhere. New Jersey is a tough market for dealers! That won’t surprise any of your readers, I’m sure. But it’s also a market where foodservice means a lot, and people are passionate about it, and we’re so happy to be here. We love it here.”
New Jerseyans, likewise, are happy that Restaurant City found a home in South Hackensack.
To learn more about Restaurant City, visit their website.