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CHEF’STORE President Irfan Badibanga. Photo courtesy of CHEF’STORE
US Foods’ CHEF’STORE, an alternative to grocery clubs that doesn’t require membership, is expanding its footprint across the US and now has 83 stores. On Saturday, it opened its fourth location in South Carolina and on Wednesday, it announced a second market in Utah will open in 2023. The Rosemont, Illinois-based foodservice 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 new audiences to CHEF’STORE.
Diane Adam: In your new role as president, part of your duties will include growing CHEF’STORE stores as part of US Foods’ omnichannel strategy. Tell us a little more about it and its mission for the future?
Irfan Badibanga: CHEF’STORE is poised for tremendous growth across multiple geographies in the US in line with our omnichannel strategy that focuses on increasing synergies for US Foods’ broadline customers. This means we want to make sure we offer our customers multiple channels to interact with US Foods. We know that some US Foods customers looking for fill-in products between shipments buy products through cash-and-carry stores, so we want to make sure that the quality products they expect from US Foods are available to them seven days a week. local retail options. Additionally, our warehouse-style stores are open to the public in support of our commitment to making it easy for Non-US Foods customers, including restaurant operators, food industry professionals and home chefs to quickly stock up or replenish ingredients and supplies at any time. they need them.
We are committed to providing a customer value proposition centered around an incomparable customer experience. An experience that emphasizes an organized and clean environment with a consistent variety of products in all major categories in various sizes at wholesale prices. We strive for CHEF’STOREs to be seamlessly integrated into local markets, the restaurant industry and the wider community so that they become a source of food and supplies. 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 joining three existing CHEF’STORE locations across South Carolina. For the rest of FY 2022 and FY 2023, you can tell us about CHEF’STORE’s plan to expand its footprint and accelerate its growth in cash & amp; bring 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, North Carolina. As you mentioned, we also announced the opening of stores in Helena, Montana and St. George, Utah next year, with plans to continue to accelerate the growth of CHEF’STORE throughout 2023. right.
Shoppers have their loyalty when it comes to their beloved wholesale store, but CHEF’STORE is a warehouse that does not require a membership, and your bulk ingredients and food prices are on par with most other large warehouse brands. As a company that primarily appeals to people in the food service industry, are you seeing more buyers than those in the food service industry through your doors?
We certainly aim to appeal to food service operators as well as industry professionals such as caterers and food truck operators, but we also count in-house chefs as customers, especially those planning family or community gatherings. We want to support everyone who is looking for a diversity of product sizes to meet their needs at a price that suits them. CHEF’STORE is open to the public and no, we do not require membership. As we focus on meeting the needs of foodservice operators, we strive to make the shopping experience inclusive for all.
CHEF’STORE is a cash-and-carry business, which illustrates the power of your omnichannel strategy and allows broadline customers to fill their needs between deliveries during the week to help meet demand. Do you see growth in new potential customers who are aware of US Foods private label products as a purchasing option, especially as food prices remain high?
Yes, we appreciate the opportunity for non-US Foods customers to experience our Exclusive Brand offerings. As part of Foods Great Food USA. Made Easy. strategy, delivering innovative and on-trend products that offer cost and labor savings, and versatility, is the key to our differentiated value proposition and definitely translated 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 demands of their food and operations. We want to make it easy for them to get those products easily and at competitive prices.
In this time of inflation, spending the wallet is very heavy on the mind of the buyer. Where do you see food prices going and do you see a tailwind in the near term for consumers?
Food costs and labor costs remain top of mind for operators and we are certainly focused on providing customers with a selection of pre-made products to help lower house costs and provide high menu profitability. That being said, as a warehouse style store, we also aim to provide competitive prices and a variety of products at different price points to offer customers more choices. I know better than to speculate about the future of food costs, but what I do know is that at CHEF’STORE, we will ensure our shoppers have a wide variety of products to choose from, at very competitive prices.
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