Foodservice remains a big business for distributors in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region.

Many report sales increases.

Demand in the past several years has increased, thanks in part to the bigger presence of celebrity chefs and investors wanting to capitalize on the chefs’ popularity, said Kevin Keany, president of Keany Produce Co., Landover, Md.



Keany cites two restaurants — Volt in Frederick, Md., and the Range in Washington, D.C. — which celebrity or high profile chefs opened.

“A lot of celebrity chefs bring a fair amount of buzz to this area,” Keany said.

“When investors and these chefs find one successful concept, they open other concepts. They collaborate with one another at times and will open a restaurant that a couple of celebrity chefs have an interest in.”

Foodservice demand remains strong, he said.

“The restaurant business is moving well here,” Keany said. “Demand over the last year has increased. More people are staying in town.”

In the past, Keany said it seemed like many people would leave town when Congress went into recess, and visit places including Ocean City, Md.

With the new energy many feel, distributors don’t really see that migration much anymore, Keany said.

The huge dips don’t occur as much and business remains fairly stable, he said.

The many activities people can enjoy in the city keep business hopping, Keany said.


Rebounding economy

Sal Cefalu, owner and director of Jessup, Md.-based CGC Holdings, the parent company of G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard, said restaurant movement has improved.

“Things aren’t bad in this area,” Cefalu said.

“There’s money in this area and with the economy getting better, even when things weren’t so good, people were still eating. We are seeing that people have sort of gotten back to normal compared to five years ago when things were nasty.

“Then, people were being careful with their money and not spending it unwisely. Today, everyone has returned to normal. They have jobs and things are going relatively well for them.”

That normal lifestyle helps keep foodservice sales strong, Cefalu said.


Young crowd

The influx of younger diners is helping sales, said Tony Vitrano, president of the Tony Vitrano Co., Jessup.

“A lot of places in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., appeal to the younger people,” Vitrano said. “They’re the types that go out to eat a lot.”

During the summer, many distributors send trucks to the beach areas along the coast.

Vitrano said the tourist business also helps keep sales afloat.

Foodservice sales aren’t as difficult as they once were, said Gus Pappas, president of Pete Pappas & Sons Inc., Washington, D.C.

“Business has been pretty steady,” Pappas said.

“I see the increased business and the foodservice market share is definitely growing. Foodservice seems to be holding its own along with retail business, which is also pretty steady.”