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CHEF’STORE President Irfan Badibanga. Photo courtesy of CHEF’STORE
US Foods CHEF’STORE, an alternative to wholesale clubs with no membership required, is expanding its presence in the United States and now has 83 stores. It opened its fourth location in South Carolina on Saturday and on Wednesday announced the opening of its second market in Utah in 2023. The Rosemont, Illinois-based food service distributor recently named Irfan Badibanga as its president. Badibanga recently spoke with Winsight Grocery Business about the company’s rapid growth, omnichannel strategy, inflation, and introducing a new audience to CHEF’STORE.
Diane Adam: In your new role as president, part of your duties will include growing the CHEF’STORE stores as part of US Foods’ omnichannel strategy. Can you tell us more about this and your mission for the future?
Irfan Badibanga: CHEF’STORE is poised for tremendous growth across multiple geographies in the United States, in line with our omnichannel strategy focused on enhancing synergies for US Foods general customers. This means we want to make sure we offer our customers more channels to interact with US Foods. We know some US Foods customers looking for products to refill between deliveries buy products through cash-and-carry stores, so we want to make sure the quality products they expect from US Foods are available to them seven days a week. seven a local retail option. Additionally, our warehouse-style stores are open to the public to support our commitment to making it easier for non-U.S. Food customers, including restaurant operators, food professionals, and home chefs, to quickly stock up or restock ingredients and supplies anytime they need them.
We are committed to delivering a customer value proposition that focuses on an incomparable customer experience. An experience that underlines a well-organized and clean environment with a constantly stocked assortment of products from all major categories in a variety of formats at wholesale prices. We strive for CHEF’STORE to be seamlessly integrated into their local markets, catering industries and wider communities so that they are the go-to source of food and supplies. In my role, I will continue to build on the retail operational excellence that CHEF’STORE delivers as we accelerate the growth of our footprint to serve more customers across the country.
CHEF’STORE shows no signs of stopping when it comes to expansion, especially in South Carolina, where a new 33,000-square-foot CHEF’STORE opened in September that joins three existing CHEF’STORE locations across Carolina del South. For the remainder of FY 2022 and FY 2023 you can tell us about CHEF’STORE’s plan to expand its presence and accelerate its growth in cash & amp; lead the market?
We have opened three new CHEF’STORE locations in Visalia, California, Lynchburg, Virginia and Spartanburg, South Carolina, with three additional locations scheduled to open this year in Santa Cruz and Merced, California, and Winston-Salem, Carolina. North. As you mentioned, we also announced the opening of stores in Helena, Montana and St. George, Utah next year, with the intention of continuing to accelerate the growth of CHEF’STORE throughout 2023. We are looking forward to it. to announce additional locations when the time is right.
Shoppers are loyal when it comes to their beloved wholesale store, but CHEF’STORE is a subscription-free warehouse and your bulk ingredients and food prices are on par with most other major warehouse brands. As a company that has primarily appealed to those operating in the restaurant business, do you see more buyers who are not part of the restaurant business entering your doors?
We certainly aim to appeal to food service operators and industry professionals such as caterers and food truck operators, but we also count home-based chefs as customers, particularly those planning family or community gatherings. We want to support anyone looking for diversity in product sizes to meet their needs at a price that works for them. CHEF’STORE is open to the public and no, registration is not required. While we focus on meeting the needs of the restaurant operator, we strive to make the shopping experience inclusive for everyone.
CHEF’STORE is a cash-and-carry business, illustrating the power of your omnichannel strategy and allowing general customers to meet their needs between deliveries during the week to meet demand. Do you see growth for potential new customers who know US Foods private label products as a purchase option, especially as food prices remain high?
Yes, we appreciate the opportunity for non-US customers to try our Exclusive Brand offers. As part of the US Foods Great Food. Easy. strategy, offering innovative and trendy products that offer cost and labor savings and versatility, is the key to our differentiated value proposition and certainly translates into other areas of the culinary space and industry. At the end of the day, operators large and small are looking for the best products to meet the needs of their diners and their businesses. We want to make it very easy for them to get those products affordably and at a competitive price.
During these inflationary times, portfolio spending weighs heavily on the buyer’s mind. Where do you see food prices heading and see some favorable wind for the consumer in the near future?
Food and labor costs continue to be a top priority for operators and we are certainly focused on providing customers with a wider selection of pre-made products to help reduce internal costs and provide high menu profitability. That said, as a warehouse-style shop, we also aim to provide competitive pricing and a variety of products at different price points to give customers more choice. I know it’s best to speculate on the future of food costs, but what I do know is that at CHEF’STORE we will guarantee our shoppers a wide variety of products to choose from, at highly competitive prices.
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