In awe of the restaurant supply store

If there is any shopping experience that I enjoy as much as browsing through a cookbook store it is wandering the aisles of a restaurant supply store. Not all of these establishments are willing to sell to the public, but I’ve found that at the very least they won’t kick you out for wandering through the space – and what a space it is. 

restaurant supplies

Much like shopping for books through Amazon gets the job done but in no way resembles the experience of browsing through the stacks in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, the online shops like cannot compete with the experience of a real life restaurant supply shop. The sheer volume of goods is staggering. Stacks of baking pans tower almost to the ceiling, racks of whisks in sizes too large to comprehend hang from the walls, and every type of utensil, serving tray, storage tub, and condiment dispenser line row after row of shelves. 

Then there is the equipment. Seeing a large Robot Coupe (with an equally large price tag) next to a massive Hobart mixer makes my heart skip a beat. I do not have much use for a 20 quart mixer, but I get excited anyway. Then there are the massive stoves, steam kettles, and other intriguing large items displayed next to more pedestrian fare like hot dog rollers and nacho cheese dispensers. It’s everything you can imagine and more. 

There are deals to be had as well – as long as you have some storage space. It is much less expensive per sheet to purchase a 1000-count box of half-sheet pan parchment than to buy anything online or through a retail establishment. Items like the clear plastic Cambro storage containers (so useful for proofing dough) are cheaper too. Disposable aluminum pans, cardboard cake rounds, and other consumable items are a fraction of what you pay at retail shops. 

The only problem you may encounter when trying to snag these deals is the store’s reluctance to sell to an individual. This varies by store; many are fine with selling to walk-in customers but others have a firm ‘industry-only’ policy. There are ways around this dilemma, however. I have said I was a caterer just starting out and that has worked. Or if you have a friend in the business, you can piggyback on a restaurant account. The prices are often lower this way too – some stores have discounts for larger or more established customers. But even if you don’t actually purchase anything, walking through the aisles can be inspiring – and there is always the internet if you spy something you just can’t live without. 

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  • sir_ken_g  on  June 12, 2019

    Larger Asia towns often have such a store targeting Asian restaurants.
    Need a monster wok?

  • Vanessa  on  June 13, 2019

    We have two restaurant supply stores in town that sell food items primarily. They sell mostly to restaurants but one also sells to the public and the other sells to anyone who can provide a business license. Hoo boy, are those fun places to shop. Their cooler rooms are so cold (and huge) that you have to bring a coat (they are also provided at the doors to those rooms), and so cold that the perishables (meat etc) can just lay out. The meat is sold in ginormous cuts (I bought one once and then had to hit YouTube to figure out how to break it down, which was a job that was immensely satisfying when completed). Other things just come in huge packages (a three-pound can of piquillo peppers, anyone? well yes, I bought one, but had to portion and freeze most of it once I'd opened it). I love those places!

  • dtremit  on  June 16, 2019

    One possible solution to the "business only" problem is apparently to join a barbecue society. If you join the Kansas City BBQ Society, you can apparently get one-day passes to Restaurant Depot as a member.

    I haven't done it yet; I've mostly just ordered from WebstaurantStore online, which I've found to have reasonable prices for goods and shipping. But obviously not great for perishables.

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