Foodservice business relationships change over time as the executive chef or buyer gets to know the foodservice distributor and suppliers' sales representatives. This leads to a better understanding of expectations and performance capabilities. 

One difficulty, from an ethical standpoint, is taking favors or gifts, starting with an exchange of pricing information about a competitor's product to more egregious and illegal practices. Nearly any favor carried to an extreme will create dependence between the buyer and sell, raising ethical concerns.

On the other hand, there are certain practices the buyer must avoid or they will wind up abusing their responsibility to their employer and profession. 

Caveat Emptor (let the “buyer” beware!)

  1. Expensive trips paid by the distributor or seller
  2. Lavish entertainment at the expense of the vendor
  3. Cash or frequent gifts valued at more than $50 from suppliers
  4. Misuse of the exchange of information
  5. Conflicts of interest
  6. Unfair buying decisions or bids
  7. Misuse of the foodservice organization's buying power
  8. Disclosure of company confidential information 


Every Buyer Is Tested

From the junior buyer to corporate CPO (Chief Procurement Officer), being offered gifts is the most common and most troublesome aspect of my profession.  During my time managing food purchasing for Fortune 200 companies we always had a strict no-gift policy because it prevents most salesmen's attempts to influence the buyers.  

I can still vividly recall my first week as an assistant buyer for American Airlines in NYC. I had just been promoted into food purchasing, and moved from the Long Island offices to the company’s headquarters.  But the longer commute and job promotion wasn't to be my only new experience. I was about to face a decision that would forever impact my foodservice-purchasing career.

Ted, the print salesman, had been “working” the account for years. It turns out that he had invited every new buyer to lunch at the infamous Gaslight Club on the upper-east side. During my own inaugural luncheon, the dining room was very dim (or maybe it was the atmosphere of the club's speakeasy heritage), and the all-female wait staff served just about everything rare.  

Somewhere between my first drink and the last of my veal osso-bucco Milanese, I went to the restroom. Upon my return, I found placed neatly under a fresh Bucardi and Coke four crisp C-Notes. In a way, my buying career flashed before my eyes: “Will this place me under obligation? Do I have to return this favor, and if so, how am I supposed to do it?” I sat silently with these thoughts for a moment, and then slowly pushed the hundred dollar bills to the middle of the table. Ted appeared almost as bewildered as I felt, hesitated but finally took the money off the table. Lunch was finished cordially.

My solitary cab ride back to the office in the Continental Can Building on Third Avenue seemed longer and slower than usual. But as I stepped onto the elevator, I checked my wallet - just the $14 that was supposed to stretch until payday. 

After sitting at my desk for about 40 minutes trying to analyze what happened at lunch, I made the decision to discuss it with my boss. "Jack, Ted took me to lunch today. He offered me cash. What should I do?" Slightly to my surprise, Jack's response was calm and casual. "Nothing to do," he shrugged. “He offers everyone money.”  

So I was introduced to this “business as usual” practice, but how I decided to handle it has influenced the rest of my 35-year career. Past rookies had kept silent; some perhaps even kept the money. I had mentioned this dark practice and by bringing it into the light, was given recognition and respect for doing so.

I never did make it back to the Gaslight Club, which is too bad … the food was pretty good.

To Higher Profits!  



Fred Favole is Founder & President of Strategic Purchasing Services (SPS) a firm specializing in purchasing supply-chain outsourcing, new product development and distribution program warehouse audits. His contact info:  p: 912.634.0030 email: Follow his blog at

Views: 25


You need to be a member of FohBoh to add comments!

Join FohBoh




Social Wine Club for Craft Wineries


QSRs squeeze into unconventional locations

Nontraditonal quickservice units are popping up wherever people are, moving beyond street-side and mall locations to military -More

Optimize efficiency with an applicant tracking system

Businesses increasingly are turning to software programs that make applicant tracking more efficient.  -More

Read the NRA statement on NLRB's joint employer decision


All-new pasta dish features Grand Cru® Alpine-style cheese
Roth® Grand Cru® cheeses have a complex and full-bodied flavor that's crafted to achieve excellence in your menu applications. Try it in Manicotti en Croute with Brandied Fig Dipping Sauce. This elegant and inventive dish recently won our recipe contest for postsecondary culinary students, and is perfect as a sophisticated appetizer, passed hors d'oeuvre or savory dessert.


Posting a job or finding a job starts here at FohBoh. Call us about special $50 posting packages to syndicate across all major jobs boards.

National News

Darden Announces Leadership Succession Plan

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) announced that Clarence Otis is stepping down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company. Darden's Board of Directors has appointed the Company's current Independent Lead Director, Charles A. Ledsinger, Jr., as Independent Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, effective immediately. The Company also announced that it has amended its corporate governance policies to provide for the separation of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer roles.

National Restaurant Association Statement on NLRB Joint Employer Decision

Today the National Restaurant Association issued the following statement regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision asserting McDonald’s Corporation is a joint employer of its franchisees:

National Restaurant Association Issues Support for Clearer ACA Definition of Seasonal Employment

The bipartisan legislation will align the definitions of seasonal employment in the Affordable Care Act and streamline the applicable large employer determination process.

Rising India, Inc. Announces Acquisition Strategy Toward a Sizable Slice of the QSR Pizza Pie

Rising India, Inc. (OTC: RSII), announces today it will immediately begin work toward the acquisition of up to 5 profitable stores in the popular Quick Serve Pizza Restaurant segment. Current targets are currently earning about $450,000 in revenues per year, per store. Acquisition of targets would provide immediate cash flow identified from profitable longstanding, absentee owner operations with proven model success.

Panera Bread Company Reports Q2 2014 Diluted EPS of $1.82

Q2 2014 Revenue increased 7% to $631 million - Q2 2014 Company-owned comparable net bakery-cafe transactions up 0.4%


If you are looking for capital to start or grow your restaurant, create the next 501c3, develop and launch the next app for the restaurant industry,or want to help your peers in some meaningful way, we want to know about it.


TED: Ze Frank: Are you human? - Ze Frank (2014)

Have you ever wondered: Am I a human being? Ze Frank suggests a series of simple questions that will determine this. Please relax and follow the prompts. Let's begin …

TED: Heather Barnett: What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime - Heather Barnett (2014)

Inspired by biological design and self-organizing systems, artist Heather Barnett co-creates with physarum polycephalum, a eukaryotic microorganism that lives in cool, moist areas. What can people learn from the semi-intelligent slime mold? Watch this talk to find out.

TED: Shih Chieh Huang: Sculptures that’d be at home in the deep sea - Shih Chieh Huang (2014)

When he was young, artist Shih Chieh Huang loved taking toys apart and perusing the aisles of night markets in Taiwan for unexpected objects. Today, this TED Fellow creates madcap sculptures that seem to have a life of their own—with eyes that blink, tentacles that unfurl and parts that light up like bioluminescent sea creatures.

TED: Nikolai Begg: A tool to fix one of the most dangerous moments in surgery - Nikolai Begg (2013)

Surgeons are required every day to puncture human skin before procedures — with the risk of damaging what's on the other side. In a fascinating talk, find out how mechanical engineer Nikolai Begg is using physics to update an important medical device, called the trocar, and improve one of the most dangerous moments in many common surgeries.

© 2014   Created by FohBoh.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service