During trying economic times, suppliers taking extra steps to help their customers can wind up increasing sales for themselves and their buyers.

J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc. has started a program to help increase the marketing of its restaurant customers.

The Holtsville, N.Y.-based J. Kings’ Great Restaurants Campaign is helping the leading independent retail customers in certain J. Kings geographic distribution regions through its Web site, http://www.greatrestaurantsny.com, where the restaurants post their menus, and through J. Kings trucks featuring the different restaurant names and addresses.

The restaurants participate as a unit in the advertising of the program so the cost isn’t exorbitant, said Joel Panagakos, executive vice president.

Consumers driving around in Nassau or Suffolk counties, for example, can see the four to six trucks that advertise the restaurants’ names throughout the day.

The side of one truck could display up to 40 restaurant names.

Though J. Kings does a lot of program account business with chain restaurants, Panagakos said it seems those chain restaurants are usually in a position to better manage their business because of volume involved and the chain’s front office marketing people.

J. Kings sells to chain restaurants such as Applebee’s and California Pizza Kitchen.

“Those restaurants get a good bang for the buck with marketing because of the nature of the restaurant,” Panagakos said. “Whereas at the mom-and-pop restaurants, or the smaller ones having one or two restaurants, it’s very hard for them to advertise and get their messages out.

“We have found there’s a tremendous desire for people to buy locally and to spend their money with local people. This gives these restaurateurs an opportunity to advertise their businesses in a way they were never able to before.”

Reduced price menus

To help increase sales, Panagakos said many of the foodservice distributors’ restaurants are returning to 1995-era prices during slower dining times such as Sunday through Thursday evenings. The restaurants are taking about a half dozen of their menu items and are tailoring them to that less expensive price structure.

J. Kings began the program last winter on a small scale and this winter was in the beginning stages of expanding the program to other areas of its distribution region such as customers throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The distributor ran a large advertisement in The New York Times, which also generated consumer interest, Panagakos said.
“The people that see those may frequent more of our customers’ restaurants,” Panagakos said.

“We are always looking for ways to help our customers build their business so we can keep our numbers where they should be. We help them build their business during the slow times.”

J. Kings distributes produce to restaurants and delis and institutional foodservice customers within a 110-mile radius that includes New York’s boroughs, Long Island, northern New Jersey and New York’s southern Westchester County.

This article was featured in The Packer's annual Foodservice section, published June 29. For more stories about the foodservice sector, visit www.thepacker.com/foodservice.