Who’s Feeding the Chicago Restaurant Industry? A Closer Look at the Food & Supply Landscape

Who’s Feeding the Chicago Restaurant Industry? A Closer Look at the Food & Supply Landscape

Ever wonder how many tomatoes go into all of those signature Chicago deep dish pizzas in each year?

We’ve got your answer right here. (It’s 113 million pounds per year!)

With over 21,000 restaurants and $16 billion in sales annually, getting all of those supplies to Chicago restaurants is an enormous task. We were wondering: Who is feeding the restaurants in the Windy City? How are they getting this monumental job done?

So we looked into a number of suppliers in the Chicagoland area that restaurateurs respect for the quality of their service. From deep dish to bratwurst and Hyde Park to Rogers Park, we mapped over a dozen major restaurant supply players and looked at their methods.

Before we get into our list, here’s a peek at some eye-popping numbers we crunched about the Chicago food scene. Here’s what we came up with:

chicago restaurant scene by the numbers

The Restaurant Supply Landscape in Chicago

A quick note on how we pulled this data together:  We used “Food Availability”--a measure of the supply side of the market--which  is generally used to approximate consumption. We calculated our approximations by using the national per capita food availability, multiplied by the population of Chicago (city boundaries, not full metro area) and multiplied that by the percentage of food expenditure that occurs outside of the home in Chicago (44% according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data).

That’s a lot of deliveries and many mouths to feed.

There’s no doubt that local Chicagoland suppliers are getting the job done.

What you see above is the result of restaurant owners making one of the most important choices that impact their businesses: the choice of which suppliers to deliver their ingredients.

But choosing a food supplier for your restaurant isn’t as simple as looking at price, alone. Next we dive into the obstacles that restaurateurs face when considering which suppliers to trust.

The Challenge of Selecting the Right Food Supply Company

If you’re running a restaurant in the Chicago area, what should you look out for when selecting a supplier?

It’s not a simple choice. It’s also an incredibly important consideration for the success of your restaurant. Your decision should go beyond the personality of the sales rep and their pricing.

When considering a supplier, be sure to consider the following criteria:

The Challenge of Selecting the Right Food Supply Company

Once you’ve considered multiple suppliers according to these criteria, begin building relationships with them centered around open communication and solving problems together. With that initial trust secured, you can focus on important factors like food safety, on-time delivery, and reducing food waste together.

The best way to ensure that you’re finding the right supplier for your restaurant?

Find and work with the top suppliers in the Chicagoland area. Maybe even join a network that gives you and your restaurant access to reliable, quality suppliers all while saving you time and money.

restaurant food supply chain

ChefHero helps local food suppliers and restaurants get connected, reduce food waste, and make supply procurement so much easier. With a network of highly-vetted suppliers, most of the work has already been done for you!

13 Restaurant Supply Companies Shaping the Chicago Food Scene

13 Restaurant Supply Companies Shaping the Chicago Food Scene

Fortune Fish & Gourmet

Founded in 2001, Fortune Fish & Gourmet is the leading seafood and specialty foods distributor in the midwest; proudly sourcing the finest fresh fish, seafood and gourmet specialty products. They are dedicated to providing customers with the high quality products and impeccable customer service.

Dalmares Produce

Founded in 1956, Dalmares pride itself on distributing produce to a number of businesses, including multi-chain restaurants in Chicago. Their goal as a company is to provide customers with superior products and service throughout Northern Illinois and Wisconsin.

Purely Meat Co.

For over 80 years, the Musillami family has provided the highest quality hand cut meat and old-world butchery from their small family butcher shop on Taylor Street. With a large emphasis on their values of family, friends and community involvement, Purely Meat Co. is dedicated to preserving the traditions that made Chicago famous - high quality meats, expert butchery and exceptional customer service.

Passion House Coffee Roasters

Passion House offers nuanced, complex and clean coffee. They have built strong relationships with farms globally that are rooted in understanding, knowledge, skill, service and mutual respect. They roast their coffees by hand with minimal involvement of technology; they control temperature, airflow, and time to draw out as much flavor as possible from each coffee.

Four Star Foods

Four Star Foods opened its doors in 1992. Its ownership is in it’s third generation in the meat wholesaling business within the upper Midwest.  Being a family business, Four Star Foods understands the value in customer relationships and truly respects the individual customer. They have a unique specialization within the Hispanic market and have a sales team that’s bilingual, speaking English and Spanish.

Natural Direct

Since 2005, Natural Direct has been forming relationships with the Midwest’s top producers of local, organic and clean foods for Chicagoland’s finest retailers and foodservice operations. They travel through Illinois and Wisconsin every week to bring fresh dairy, eggs and meats with true flavour to their customers. They currently deliver products from 39 local producers and continue to work as partners with family farms and small products to provide healthy and high-quality foods to the Chicagoland areas.

Christ Panos Foods

Christ Panos Foods Corp. supplies sit-down and fast-casual eateries in Chicagoland, Wisconsin and Indiana with meat, potatoes, dairy, baked goods and other prepared food items.

Highland Baking

Highland Baking Co. is family-owned and operated. Founded in 1984 by Jim and Gail Rosen, Highland works closely with companies in the foodservice industry–large and small, independent and chain–to deliver the freshest-tasting and highest quality breads, buns and rolls.

Publican Quality Bread

The Publican Quality Bread team explore how whole grains and thoughtful fermentation can yield ridiculously good bread. The team creates new breads that fit with each restaurant's distinct menu. Additionally, Publican Quality Bread has a burgeoning wholesale division that currently supplies to over 50 restaurants across Chicago.

Local Foods

Local Foods helps bring farm-to-table to life by connecting small providers with shoppers all across Chicago. Their focus is on locally-sourced and locally-processed products, as well as products from outside the region sourced from a single suppliers and ethical producers.

Joong Boo Market

Founded in 1992, Joong Boo Market has always prided ourselves on offering authentic Korean and Pan-Asian products. From produce, grocery, meats and seafood, our variety and freshness has always been our strength. From direct import to supporting local vendors and farmers, only products that meet our high standards make it into our stores. Let our product experts help plan your next meal.

Viola Imports

Founded in 2001 by Alessandro Bellini, Viola Imports is a family-owned import and distribution business of authentic Italian specialty products. Their commitment to quality and authenticity reflects the passion, traditions and expertise of the producers they represent. The personal relationships Viola has with the farmers and producers in the many regions across Italy enable them to guarantee quality, origin and history of their products.

Onyx Company

The Onyx Company is a single source provider of sustainable food service products, cleaning solutions, paper products, commercial kitchen equipment, and more. They utilize their specific product and industry knowledge to balance customers’ economic needs with their sustainable goals. Onyx currently services a cross section of businesses across the country, including restaurants, universities, airports, convention centers, corporate offices, grocers, retailers, and many more. 

Know a supplier that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

The Future of Restaurant Supply in Chicago

With such a wide variety of high-quality suppliers in the Chicagoland area and a very hungry population, the future looks bright for restaurants and suppliers in the Windy City.

The suppliers we looked at share a dedicated to quality, concern for the local and environmental impact of their sourcing, as well as a commitment to the best ingredients for restaurants and their customers.

We are excited to see the food supply landscape in Chicago evolve and grow these next few years!

Nilam Trivedi Desai Headshot
Nilam Trivedi Desai
Vendor Success Lead
ChefHero

 
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