Montgomery Business Journal

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US Foods Massive Operation Supplies Restaurants, Other Food Service Organizations

Summer 2014

By Melissa George Bowman   

Photography by Robert Fouts

Anyone traveling Selma Highway will eventually see planes flying to and from Montgomery Regional Airport. In fact, most of us associate that locale with catching flights. However, just a short distance away is another busy travel hub. Selma Highway is also home to US Foods. There, a constant flow of trucks travel back and forth making deliveries and shipping products to the company’s long list of clients.

You may not know it, but you’re probably a US Foods consumer. You’ve likely eaten at a restaurant that serves its products. The company is one of the country’s top food service distributors to restaurants as well as hospitals, educational institutions and a number of other facilities.

“Any place where food is consumed onsite is our customer,” said Quenten Wentworth, division president of US Foods Montgomery. Providing those customers with the food and supplies they need is no small task. Nearly 13,000 different products are housed in US Foods’ massive warehouse. With manufacturers’ items constantly coming in and customer orders constantly going out, the company’s 600-plus employees must perform a well-choreographed routine to ensure clients have exactly what they need.

“We’re a real full-service distributor, so any item you want we can provide,” Wentworth said. “We have a tremendous track record for on-time service and having the right products in place at the right time.”

US Foods’ 400,000-square-foot warehouse resembles a gigantic grocery store. A seemingly unending supply of food rests on shelves stacked from floor to ceiling. The warehouse is divided into three sections for dry goods, refrigerated products and frozen items. The frozen area is kept so cold that even on the hottest Alabama days workers wear heavy winter clothing. Their attire also prepares them for the occasional snow flurries that appear if any humidity is in the air.  

Having so many products to choose from could be overwhelming to customers, but US Foods has developed a cutting-edge and very user-friendly online ordering process. Clients can customize the system to meet their needs, making navigation simpler.

“We have the best in class food service online technology, and we are actually the second largest online distributor in the United States after Amazon,” Wentworth said.

US Foods may be a modern company in terms of technology and innovation, but it also has a long history with Montgomery. The company traces its roots to 1871 when Leopold Schloss and Maurice Kahn opened a grocery and commission house on Commerce Street. The company was bound for food service distribution as part of its business included servicing covered wagons going to the West. The business grew over time and moved to several different buildings downtown before settling in its current location. As it began to specialize in food service distribution, it also developed its Sunday Dinner brand. Wentworth says some long-time customers still refer to US Foods as Sunday Dinner. Eventually, after a series of buyouts, Chicago-based US Foods purchased the company.

Both in the beginning with Schloss and Kahn and today as US Foods, the key to the company’s success has been customer service. US Foods goes beyond simply processing orders and offers clients information that can help their businesses thrive. For example, The Scoop is a publication customers receive that highlights the latest food trends and offers ideas for serving these products. This is especially beneficial to smaller restaurants as it “helps them stay on the front end of innovation,” Wentworth said.

While serving customers is important to US Foods, serving the community is also a high priority. The Montgomery Area Food Bank is among the local nonprofits US Foods supports. The company was also a title sponsor of this year’s Walk of Life benefitting the Joy to Life Foundation. US Foods and several of its restaurant clients not only provided food at the event, they also joined forces to raise $15,000 for the charity.

US Foods future plans include even more community outreach. The company has also taken on several other projects including its recent partnership with Alabama Gulf Seafood. Fish caught in Alabama waters are shipped to US Foods’ warehouse. Staff members then prepare the fish according to client specifications, which may include deboning or cutting into steaks or fillets. The prepared fish are then transported to restaurants where they are served “as Alabama-homegrown seafood,” Wentworth said. He added that because “farm to fork is now a major trend” the company has made efforts to work with more Alabama farmers and manufacturers.

“We can then turn to our customers and say we’re all helping each other, and it’s local and it’s fresh and it’s good for you,” he said.

Helping their customers and helping the community drive the people of US Foods. Although much of their work is behind the scenes, the company’s reach extends far beyond its warehouse walls. So the next time you’re enjoying a meal at a local restaurant just remember that a US Foods truck probably helped get it to your table.

 

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