Restaurant Food Purchasing Process

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

You can have a really successful restaurant if you learn the ins and outs of food purchasing. When you purchase the right food at the right price, you'll be able to keep a profitable restaurant.

Food Purchasing

Imagine that you are the owner of your very own little Italian restaurant. You serve the freshest pastas and salads to your customers and they keep coming back to you because they love your fresh food. One of the tasks that you do on a daily basis to keep your restaurant successful is your food purchasing process. A restaurant food purchasing process is how a restaurant decides where to buy their food from, what kinds of food to buy, and how to store the food properly.

Restaurant owners pick the right foods to purchase to make dishes like these
restaurant food purchasing

Let's look into your little Italian restaurant and see what your restaurant food purchasing process is like.

The Right Product

First and foremost, the most important part of the food purchasing process is that of choosing the right product for your restaurant and your clients. For example, for your restaurant to be successful, you can't just get any tomato. The type of tomato you get will change the flavor of your food and if your customers come to your restaurant looking for a particular flavor and your tomato is different, then your customers will be disappointed and they may stop coming.


For many food items, including fruits and vegetables, you can choose from organic or non-organic. Your customers may prefer one over the other, so if it is important to your customers, then you want to be sure you advertise. Many customers are drawn to words like organic, farm-raised, or non-GMO. While these items are more expensive, if your clientele are willing to pay for it, you want to be sure to let them know you are careful in purchasing products like these.

Where you get your meat is also important. If your customers care about the welfare of all animals, then you'll want to purchase your meat from farmers who are known to take good care of their animals and who treat them humanely at all times.

Farm Fresh

In addition you will have to decide if the right food for you is grown from local farmers or shipped in from large international food companies. Locally grown food is generally fresher than food that is shipped in, but again can be more expensive.

Food Products and Vendors

You also have to take into account the different kinds of food products you need and how often you need them. You need your fresh perishable foods like your fruits, vegetables, and meats. Then you have your staples that can store for a longer period of time such as flour, rice, and beans. You also have to choose between fresh and frozen foods. Frozen foods can keep longer in a freezer while fresh foods have to be used within a relatively short period of time. If buying fresh, you might be shopping daily or weekly. For non-perishable and frozen foods, you might be on a monthly buying schedule.

Some food vendors accept contracts from restaurant businesses, which takes out some of the guesswork for when and how much to buy. Whatever food items you put on contract with these vendors will be restocked on a regular basis. So, you'll need to figure out which foods you use up on a regular basis and how much you use up during that period. But once you have figured it out once, you won't have to do it every week or month.

Cost versus Quality

Once you've chosen the right type of food, you need to consider the quality of your food versus the cost of your food. Higher quality foods usually mean higher prices. Organic foods generally cost more than non-organic foods. The same is true for meat.

For example, when buying meat, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) requires certain meats such as beef and chicken to be inspected prior to making it for sale. Other meats such as rabbit and venison are not required to be inspected by the USDA but can be voluntary inspected by the farmer for a cost. The USDA also offers a voluntary program for farmers who want their meats graded by quality. There is USDA Select meat that is lean and has some marbling. Then you have USDA Choice meat, which is higher quality with more marbling. At the top of the quality ladder, you have USDA Prime meat with abundant marbling. In terms of price, USDA Prime meats are the most expensive.

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