A restaurant supply warehouse (RSW) is exactly what is sounds like. It contains virtually everything a restaurant might need in order to run its operation from the small things like glasses and plates all the way up to industrial sized stoves, friers, and cooling units. While you probably won’t ever really need a 12 burner, industrial stove, these stores will have something you can use in your everyday life.
Here are five reasons why you should never visit a department store like Kohl’s or Macy’s or kitchen supply store such as Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table before seeing if your local RSW has exactly what you need.
5. Open to the Public: You may have heard of RSWs before and never considered that since you are not a restaurant or run one, you are not welcome there. This is definitely true for some warehouses, but where there’s a demand, there’s a supply. For every one private or membership card required RSW, I have found one that is open to the public. It just makes good sense. Often times, this information can be found of the RSW website and if its not, a quick phone call will let you know if you can shop there.
4. Front of House Supply: I have never been disappointed when I’ve gone to a RSW looking for a serving platter or glassware. RSW exist to supply restaurant with everything they will need to serve you dinner, so it makes sense that they would probably have everything you would need to serve dinner at home. They have every kind of wine glass, plates in every shape and size, table cloths, candle holders, and pretty much everything else you might want on your table. Chances are, they have something for you. What I really appreciate about RSWs is there wide variety of price points. They have porcelain plates that run on the low end up to bone china fine enough to inherit as well as glasses cheap enough to break daily to crystal glasses fine enough to be snobby about.
3. Back of House Supply: Personally, the back of house supply is my personal favorite. RSWs carry cookware that the majority of department stores won’t carry due to lack of mass consumer demand. While you might not need a 32 quart stock pot, I sure do for the two times a year I make stock en masse. But they carry everything from small pots and pans that are used by restaurants including non stick fry pans that will never let you down – my personal favorite. I have stayed away from RSW knives only because most restaurants send their knives out weekly for sharpening (assuming they supply them for the chefs) and are meant to be cheap and replaceable. If your favorite restaurant has it in the back of their house, chances are your local RSW will too.
2. Durability: I have been shopping at RSWs for well over a decade and everything I’ve purchased (minus a few broken plates and glasses) I still own and use daily. Because these items are used in restaurants, they are built to endure a crazy amount of daily uses and abuses. I purchased a non stick fry pan five years ago and I cannot tell the difference between that and a new one because the non-stick surface has never flaked or peeled off.
1. Low Cost: Because you’re buying direct from the manufacturer, there is a no packaging, you’re not paying extra for a name brand, you may be getting a model from a year ago, and there is no additional middle man looking to make a profit, RSWs can provide most everything you need to stuff your kitchen to the gills for a fraction of the cost. I’ve calculated that I save anywhere between 30 – 50% on the things I’ve purchased at RSWs as compared to their department stores cousins. Sure, I’m not always buying the “top of the line” equipment and dishes, but they work exactly the same way, so who really cares?
For my rural readers who may not have a major city close by, it is well worth taking a two or three hour drive to a RSW if you plan to completely overhaul your kitchen supply. Do a quick Google search and see if they have a store closer by. You’d be surprised. If you can’t get to one, you can also go to The Webstaurant Store online. It’s not nearly as fun as shopping around, but if you have a general idea of what you want, this may be a good resource. I have been fortunate enough to always have a RSW within a 45 minute drive and have been known to use these stores to shop around the day before I host a dinner party.
I want to conclude by telling you that you will not be greeted by overly helpful sales clerks in crisp uniforms. You will not find pleasing music and attractive displays that make you want to spend your money. The outside of an RSW is not usually welcoming by the average consumers eye and I have questioned multiple times whether I was walking into a meth lab. An RSW saves you money by saving itself money.
I have always found what I was looking for at a reasonable price and always gotten my questions answered quickly by individuals that know everything about their stock. I have been allowed to wonder through the whole store without being attacked by salespeople constantly asking if there is anything they can help me with. RSWs are everything I want in a kitchen store and I hope that you’ll be willing to give them a shot sometime too.