OMNOMNOMopoly
July 30, 2008 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Sysco : whether it's Wendy's, Applebee's, the local diner, a fancy restaurant, the cafeteria, or Guantanamo Bay, it's what you eat. Serving over 400,000 businesses, the "Wal-Mart of Food Service" has all the bases covered, from "Unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost" to more gourmet offerings.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim (135 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh God, I wish that unique 3D technology didn't exist...
posted by SweetJesus at 5:15 PM on July 30, 2008


What Quality Control was to Japan, Supply-Chain Management is to the modern US. And since they get more efficient as they get bigger, they tend to become like a natural monopoly.

Perhaps someday the US Government will break up Wal-mark and Sysco like they broke up Bell. and maybe pigs will fly out of my butt!
posted by GuyZero at 5:21 PM on July 30, 2008


Even when it's not an obvious chain, restaurants using Sysco are betrayed by their menu. If food comes in sticks, if it claims to be spicy and clearly won't be, if cheese is used repeatedly, Sysco is behind the scenes. A Sysco menu needs to be avoided at all costs. Primarily because you already had it everywhere else.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


Is there a list of Sysco restaurants or a Sysco look up? It would be nice to be able to avoid them on my vacation next month.
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:24 PM on July 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Available in four great flavors" immediately made me believe that there were actual chickens available in four great flavors. The teriyaki ones would be orangey-brown, the BBQ ones would be bright red with flame patterns . . .

My caterer friend always used to be hit up as a Sysco steak connection for private folks.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:25 PM on July 30, 2008


OMG. I was just thinking of Sysco today. My sister has an uncanny knack for figuring out whenever we were in a "Sysco restaurant." And it's not always who you think it would be (or not be) either.
posted by brain cloud at 5:26 PM on July 30, 2008


This is why we try to only patronize restaurants that serve local food.
posted by oddman at 5:26 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Also wishing I never heard about the amazing 3-D technology - must avoid possible Sysco chickens at all cost.)
posted by brain cloud at 5:27 PM on July 30, 2008


restaurants using Sysco are betrayed by their menu.

This is why we try to only patronize restaurants that serve local food.

We ate at a reasonably high-end local restaurant a few weeks ago, one that is known in its small community and surrounding areas for being top-notch, and right on the front of the menu was the proud disclaimer: "Our menu was designed and planned by Joe Schmoe, Sysco culinary advisor." They don't even try to hide it. And it's getting harder and harder to get away from it.

Eating at home gets more attractive every day!
posted by jbickers at 5:31 PM on July 30, 2008


When my wife and I are traveling or stopping at a new place, sometimes a look at the menu causes us both to mutter one word under our breath: 'sysco'. Sometimes there's an adjective too. Then, if possible, we leave the restaurant. I didn't know others did this too. That's comforting.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:33 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is there a list of Sysco restaurants or a Sysco look up?

They seem to keep it on the down-low. The idea of a guerilla list sounds appealing...

One way to find out is to look at the dumpster for empty Sysco boxes. A problem with this is the use of Sysco can range from not-so-bad, like getting Sysco frying oil, rice, and napkins, to bad, like using the pre-cooked chicken breasts, to flat-out reheating frozen Sysco entrees.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Our menu was designed and planned by Joe Schmoe, Sysco culinary advisor

OK, that's fucking horrifying. I bet Joe Schmoe is ACTUALLY A ROBOT.
posted by brain cloud at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2008


First day at college, in the Sysco managed, single cafeteria on campus...

Science!: Hey, the admissions department mentioned you have a great variety of vegan foods for students at each meal. Can I look over your menus and see what you offer?
Sysco Manager: What's a vegan food?
Sciece!: Umm... Foods that don't have any animal products in them. Like vegetarian dishes but without eggs, cheese, milk or anything.
Sysco Manager: You... You don't eat any animal stuff?
Science!: No. I don't.
Sysco Manager: What do you eat?
Science!: I guess salad for the foreseeable future.
posted by Science! at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2008 [24 favorites]


Doesn't the 3D technology amount to injection molded meat? I wonder if I could custom order cow shaped, chicken flavored protein chunks?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2008


Even the mom-n-pop 'health food' store I work at sells frozen Sysco pastries, cookies and cake at its deli-- I have customers come in and get really excited about all the 'decadent goodies' until they ask me who baked them.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:37 PM on July 30, 2008


Forgive me CPH, but Cat Pie Hurts sounds like what the Sysco dessert customer said.

Customer: What's for dessert?
Sysco: chicken cobbler, cow cake, and cat pie
Customer: Hmmm. Never had the cobbler, but cat pie hurts. Broke a tooth.
posted by netbros at 5:43 PM on July 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


I vacuum-marinade my own "breast pieces shaped into natural breast fillets", thanks. And if you've never had glazed flavouring fresh, right out of the ground, you might as well be consuming toilet water. Philistines.

Also, what?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:44 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


We're fucking doomed.
posted by zouhair at 5:48 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, the joys of SYSCO. They provided my dining hall food at college. The weird thing is that one of the dining halls (the new one which opened my senior year) was fantastic. The older one was mediocre. The one they tore down to build the new one sucked; it was like eating TV dinners.

They were staffed by the same people, run by the same company, and everything. It never made any sense to me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2008


A problem with this is the use of Sysco can range from not-so-bad, like getting Sysco frying oil, rice, and napkins...

And per the linked article, when Sysco gets an order for some fancy cheese, they turn around and fax it to a small cheese supplier. Not everything in their catalogue is "3D" "chicken" "breasts".

In Canada we have a bunch of restaurant chains that are owned by a company that got its start doing airline catering, Cara. They own Montana's, Kelsey's, Milestones which are indistinguishable and absolutely smack of the food being dumped from a box straight onto your plate. They even go so far as to often put two of these restaurants side by side (in mall parking lots) to create the semblance of choice. Lame.

Having said that, Montana's all-you-can-eat ribs nights are pretty awesome. Apparently some people show up at 2 or 3 PM and stay until close.
posted by GuyZero at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2008


A Sysco guerilla list is an excellent, marketable, money-making idea.

Someone should do that.

(I will totally admit to loving Sysco-branded pre-fab tiramisu. I know, I'm a barbarian.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:53 PM on July 30, 2008


kuujjuarapik: ... sometimes a look at the menu causes us both to mutter one word under our breath: 'sysco'. Sometimes there's an adjective too.

Your adjective doesn't modify "Sysco" emphatically enough for me.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2008


In the future, all restaurants are Sysco.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


sometimes a look at the menu causes us both to mutter one word under our breath: 'sysco'

?? How could the contents of a menu possibly indicate that Sysco supplies the foods?
posted by tinkertown at 5:57 PM on July 30, 2008


How can this kind of thing change? I can understand a small restaurant owner using them for napkins, spices, oil and other basics, if they're the cheapest and most reliable. And then it's not hard to imagine that same owner going for the pre-marinated 'steak-like meat', for the same reasons of ease and price.

So what do you do? It's pretty tough to avoid syscio if most places don't advertise where their food comes from.
posted by twirlypen at 6:06 PM on July 30, 2008


Gah, SYSCO! The restaurant I work at uses Sysco and I hate our Sysco rep, what a douche. I usually answer the phone when he calls in the mornings and I put him on hold and walk away. Just the other week him and another rep came in to discuss "exciting new items" and I wanted to vomit overhearing the kitchen manager "ooo" and "ahh" over the lame descriptions of some pre-made ravioli. One of the rep's selling points on one of the raviolis was that it had actual chunks of mushrooms in it..well it's still Sysco crap and it's still going to taste like fail.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:06 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Violet! You're turning Violet, Violet!

I'll bet Sysco's working out the kinks while we speak.
posted by chihiro at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Doesn't the 3D technology amount to injection molded meat? I wonder if I could custom order cow shaped, chicken flavored protein chunks?

Yeah, you all say you love bacon, but you refuse to eat your molded-bacon monopoly pieces after the game.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2008


So that's why everything at Applebee's tastes the same.

Sadly, it's also probably why that romantic little place on Ventura with the great gnocchi also has great tiramisu.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2008


There's this thing called kamaboko that I used to eat a lot of when I was younger - it's a pink and white fish cylinder that feels like it's made out of old foam slippers. Anyway, a cousin of mine went through culinary school and went to visit a kamaboko factory, which must have been for those future chefs what watching the "Highway of Human Stains" video is to future car pilots when taking Driver's Ed. Basically, deep sea fish have a lot of really long worms in their back, right above their spines. This crawly section of the fish is completely edible (worms included) but typically deemed "unseemly" to most discerning fish eaters. So they cut this area off (worms still included), slurry it up into fish goo and sell it to food manufacturers to be formed into things like kamaboko.

Totally unsurprising, but still grisly, gruesome, and horrific.

So those chicken patties that come on most grilled chicken salads, etc. at chain restaurants? Yeah. Chicken kamaboko. With 3D texture.

Makes me miss the days of finding a tumor halfway through a meal of chicken breast. At least then I knew that piece of "chicken" was from an actual whole chicken, albeit, one that spent too much time nesting on a pile of pitchblende.
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [13 favorites]


Is there a list of Sysco restaurants or a Sysco look up?

I've been a waitress in four owner-operated, upscale restaurants with a reputation for good food and high quality. Only one of them did not use Sysco. Yes, there are Sysco product lines that are very identifiable (the desserts, the "Santa Fe Pizza Finger"-type stuff, but there is also a lot of ...just....food that chefs need to cook with. I think most people would be very, very surprised to realize that Sysco is delivering to a great many restaurants, and ones you might never wrinkle your nose at and say "Sysco."

All chefs use distributors, and it takes more work to use more distributors (which was the old-fashioned way: the produce guys, the meat guy, the fish guy, the bakery). Meanwhile, in comes Sysco, with a friendly salesman and the best prices available from anyone - and they carry everything. Absolutely everything, from paper goods and cleaning supplies to cans of crushed tomatoes and capers and artichoke hearts, large cans of blended oil for cooking, butter and flours, sesame seeds and soy sauce, ketchup and guest checks and plastic gloves and rubber floor mats.

It's true that lame-o restaurants can order almost completely-prepared food from Sysco, like say lemon-pepper chicken with broccoli and ziti, and just dump it into a pan and heat it up. But chances are, many of the better restaurants you visit use them too. If you don't want to, it can be challenging - they employ slick and dogged salespeople, they'll negotiate you special deals and really lay the 'relationship' thing on thick, and the food-supply industry, at least on the East Coast is, you know, kind of controlled. For a restauarant not to deal with them, they've got to have good local supply lines already offering good prices. Maybe that's why the one non-Sysco-using place I worked was the only one that had been in business 23 years; all their supply relationships predated Sysco, and they were unwilling to change. Then, too, there is a new ethic of artisanal and local food that means many chefs are more willing to work harder and spend more money to avoid the sameness of Sysco. But it's important to realize that it really is everywhere - you can't tell it's from Sysco all the time. If the chef is buying raw ingredients or the higher-end cuts of meat, there's really no way you'd know (a good reason to ask the server where the food is from...).
posted by Miko at 6:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [19 favorites]


Sysco Manager: What's a vegan food?

See: "Vegetarianism as a Menu Item"

Even crazier:

"Portico Bounty: Offering consistency, value and excellent price and cutting competitiveness against industry standard and economy products."
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:10 PM on July 30, 2008


Do they carry plates of beans?
posted by jonmc at 6:10 PM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't think I have ever worked at a restaurant that didn't order from Sysco.
posted by konolia at 6:11 PM on July 30, 2008


deep sea fish have a lot of really long worms in their back...So they cut this area off (worms still included)...and sell it to food manufacturers to be formed into things like kamaboko.

To be fair, most filets of cod and swordfish have had/do have these worms as well. They pull them out at the fish wholesaler, and then again if they find more in the restaurant kitchen.
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Distribution is not innately evil, but distribution companies that sell five-gallon tins labelled "Entree*" are anti-human and have a special place in hell.

/boarding school flashbacks

*hyperbole, but only just barely.
posted by lekvar at 6:19 PM on July 30, 2008


My husband is a chef, and he's just started working for a former Sysco rep who's started his own restaurant, so they have a unique outlook on things. Their menu is mostly handmade, although I think they have a few pre-made desserts that would give them away as a "sysco". And Sysco provides all their staples, meats, & spices. We live in the middle of nowhere, it's just not possible to get bulk, low cost products from anyone else. His old boss once tried to get tomatoes from a local grower, and they were incapable of providing a set number of cases each day. That's not an option when you make vats of salsa everyday. So he had to stick with Sysco.

The evil is that Sysco just makes it so easy for restaurant owners who are in over their heads or can't get good cooks. All the have to do is order pre-packaged meal after pre-packaged meal. Nevermind that they'll lose half their profits in increased food cost. I think that's what my husband's last restaurant has just done. They couldn't hire someone with the same skills as him, so the menu has reverted to lot's of pre-packaged, find them everywhere, items.
posted by saffry at 6:21 PM on July 30, 2008


They even go so far as to often put two of these restaurants side by side (in mall parking lots) to create the semblance of choice. Lame.

Tillicum Mall, Victoria, BC. Kelsey's and Montana's, side-by-side.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2008


Wow! I used to work at a pizza joint, and although we made everything from scratch and bought our produce from a local supplier, our paper goods and flour came from Sysco. I had no idea that you could buy a few microwaves and set yourself up your own make-n-bake Sysco restaurant!

The Syscophobes among us will probably also enjoy John and Karen Hess's book "The Taste of America." First published in the 1970's, it was a book before its time. It skewered the tasteless, snobbish "gourmet" cookery of the Beef Wellington and off-white hothouse tomato era and made a plea for good food based on quality ingredients. I only wonder what they'd have to say about Sysco.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:33 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Don't be too quick to jump on the bashing bandwagon. As several have said, Sysco is just a distributor of all kinds of things. If you rely on them to make all your food, it will be mediocre. But if you use them as a supplier of basics, you can do all sorts of things with those ingredients.

I have a friend who used to work for Sysco. Twice I was invited to a demo where chefs and restaurant managers were invited to a warehouse to try prepared dishes that Sysco distributed. Reps were on hand to discuss proper fryer temperatures, freezer temperatures, etc. Some of the dishes were really awesome, usually the simple stuff like flash frozen cod with beer batter or weird appetizers with good sauces. Other stuff was awful. But a person could have made a lot of nice meals from the things on hand.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:37 PM on July 30, 2008


They even go so far as to often put two of these restaurants side by side (in mall parking lots) to create the semblance of choice. Lame.

To tell the truth, I like the mall bar-food places. You pound a few of those cocktails and then go over to the housewares department of the anchor store and start a pillow fight. or if you're really hammered to the home depot to test out the demo toilet.
posted by jonmc at 6:53 PM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have a very close friend who is just wrapping up his first year as a sales rep for Sysco. He had been a professional chef for years and landed himself a great opportunity for him and his new family. One of the first things he told me about Sysco was that not only are they a Fortune 500 company, but they are actually a Fortune 100 company. He's also told me that they make a point of marketing Food Alliance products. Sysco also has a line of biodegradable and sustainable disposables: to-go boxes, garbage bags, cups, etc. He's learning a great deal about the business. Plus, he's a foodie in general so costing out high end chicken wings is his sort of thing.

My friend also champions local purveyors and claims that the good restaruants need to offer a good mix of food...especially when it comes to produce and spices.

In the restaurants I have worked in, it's either Sysco or FSA making a path for the Corporate Executive Chef.
posted by captainsohler at 6:56 PM on July 30, 2008


tinkertown writes "How could the contents of a menu possibly indicate that Sysco supplies the foods?"

Certain combinations of deserts and appitizers are usually the give away.

Here in Canada besides Sysco (who sucks) we have DFS/Neptune. They'll get you anything and quick. Need caviar for your special menu tommorow? No problem just make sure your order is in by 4pm the day before. Wanna serve Goat/Lamb/Buffalo/Ostridge burgers (or steaks in the case of Buffalo)? They got you covered. Muffin batter mix, cookie dough (frozen or fresh), frozen pizzas, beef roasts as big as 40kgs, turnovers, lettuce, limes, frozen soup, rice, tea, sparkling water, 40lb boxes of mashed potatoes; the list is almost endless.

But the weirdest thing, from a non food service point of view, is eggs. You can buy:I really wonder what an egg peeler looks like.
posted by Mitheral at 7:08 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Any Sysco dining hall veteran will tell you that with enough weed you can turn choking down another slice of frozen pizza topped with sausage shaped chicken assholes into an act of lovemaking.
posted by The Straightener at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


When I was at summer camp we used to joke about all the things that Sysco provided: cups, napkins, bug juice, toilet paper, everything. There were a couple days where that was the big joke: is there anything Sysco didn't sell to this camp? It was during a pickup baseball game when I stepped up to the plate, turned the bat over in my hands to see how long it was and saw that unmistakable Sysco logo. The answer, I guess, was "no."
posted by one_bean at 7:12 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


(Somewhat derail) - How much of Sysco's success is predicated on readily-available petrochemical fuels? Show of hands, how many see a resurgence of locally-supplied small eateries in the not-so-distant future?
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


At some level, we kinda know that a menu at a restaurant is primarily marketing material. But what's unsettling about the Sysco ubiquity is that, if you're dining somewhere other than a fast food joint, you'd like to think that there's some creativity at work. That there's more to the culinary decision making process than just opening up the Sysco catalog and deciding to go with "Chicken Parts, 2" covered with "Sysco Sauce #5" and a dash of paprika over "Wild Rice Mix B."

Not to mention that as supply chain monopolies progress, the restaurants that actually care about their ingredients being locally produced and freshly prepared are going to feel the squeeze. Not buying from us? Then good luck funding your saffron habit, bitch! You're cut off! And so costs are passed onto the customer, who has less and less purchasing power these days to begin with, and ends up having to go back to the Sysco-approved restaurant for some operationally cost-efficient Frankenchicken.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
posted by krippledkonscious at 7:15 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitheral

But the weirdest thing, from a non food service point of view, is eggs. You can buy:
Holy crap, I'm moving to Canada. So. Much. Deliciousness.
posted by Science! at 7:16 PM on July 30, 2008


I really wonder what an egg peeler looks like.

Behold Odenberg, Inc's industrial peeling solutions!
posted by donovan at 7:19 PM on July 30, 2008


Is there a list of Sysco restaurants or a Sysco look up?
Here are some (nothing after 2004 though).
posted by tellurian at 7:39 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


This thread has finally revealed to me the mystery of why every local "family restaurant" in America tastes exactly the same, to the point that they might as well be a chain.

I'll be darned. It's a world I never really considered before, but one I'll never be able to ignore from now on.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:43 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I worked at restaurants as a young man in Houston, and Sysco and a company called White Swan were ubiquitous. The thing that I found fascinating about Sysco was the range of products. If you needed a 5 gallon jug of mayo, you could buy the budget, normal, or excellent mayo, depending on your preference. This was repeated throughout the catalog. The place I worked that where the owner/chef explained foodservice to me was a pretty upscale place, and the stuff we ordered was pretty high quality.
posted by SkinnerSan at 7:45 PM on July 30, 2008


I really wonder what an egg peeler looks like.

Like this.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:51 PM on July 30, 2008


A friend of mine owns a local, higher-end, restaurant and he generously shares some of his beef, pork, and whatnots with me from time to time. Last winter, he handed me a package of beef and told me that this was great stuff, "just like Niman Ranch, except half the price." He said his Sysco rep. told him they would give him a discount if he listed the "farm" name on his menu. I looked at it, and it was labeled "White Marble Farms." So I took it home and googled the "farm's" name. Guess what? Yep, Sysco marketing department working overtime.

Here's a very interesting discussion from earlier this year from another restaurant owner's perspective. This Ethicurean research is also very informative.

I'll leave you to your own conclusions.
posted by webhund at 7:56 PM on July 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


That's pretty spiffy, actually.
posted by jonmc at 7:56 PM on July 30, 2008


I recently did an article on Sysco for school, specifically challenging the notion that they're nothing but giant cans of baked beans. They know that's what everyone thinks. What their spring product show made me realize, though, is that so much of what they do saves time for individual restaurateurs.

A friend of mine is a culinary instructor who also owns his own business focusing on authentic products and local responsibility. He commented that up until a few years ago, he never would have used prepared chicken breasts and would have scoffed at any chef who did. However, he visited a friend who said that he had to do so in his own restaurant. Undercooking it would be gross and unhealthy; overcooking it would be tasteless and dry. He knew that whoever was working the grill that day, whether it was a skilled veteran or the fifth 18-year-old in three months, could send out a chicken sandwich that was what the customer expected.

In the restaurant business, you're either paying for the food or the labor. Do you want to pay someone to trim the meat, or do you want to spend a little more on food but have a lot more time for other tasks? Can you afford to hire a trained butcher, who might be in short supply, or could you pay less for someone with a less-specialized skillset? Can saving money on labor costs in one area mean that you can pay your workers better?

The finest restaurants source their products from places like Sysco. It's a matter of picking and choosing. But there are also thousands of mid-range restaurants out there run by people who are serving as host, server, bartender, chef and accountant at the same time. No, it's not perfect all the time, but businesses like Sysco keep smaller businesses afloat -- and Sysco knows that if THEY don't stay in business, Sysco is toast.

So... yeah, go with restaurants who prepare food in a way you like, and support local producers and independent business owners. But it's never so simple as saying that Sysco is nothing but a purveyor of fishsticks and cheap plastic gloves.
posted by Madamina at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


One step from Soylent Green.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


If its not Sysco - then its restaurant supply depot. http://www.restaurantdepot.com/RDWeb/Home.asp

You are not gonna get away from 'em in the dining out experience. The difference will be if they buy the 'raw' material or if they go with the pre-fabbed stuff. Depot buying places will have things like the McCain/Anchor branded munchies with the pre-made pasta.

Qualite' and Chef's Quality branding being the tells.

(and I buy from the depot, not Sysco,)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:16 PM on July 30, 2008


OK...question regarding the 3D chicken breast, from the peanut gallery (aka my bf Lipstick Thespian of Metachat fame):"I understand what BBQ, teriyaki, and fajita flavors might be -- but what exactly is 'original' flavor?"

Original chicken flavor? The original flavor of chicken?
posted by Miko at 8:25 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


You are not gonna get away from 'em in the dining out experience.

Well, you can, but you have to be eating out in a localized economy where there still are indepedent butchers, produce distributors, bakeries, and dairies.

There are still a lot of independent/regional produce and other food distributors. The problem is that no single purveyor is likely to have the entire range of supply products that Sysco can offer by making one phone call and writing one check. Sysco has the Wal-Mart philosophy: sell everything, at the lowest possible price, and ask your buyers to value convenience and price over all other attributes.
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on July 30, 2008


Probable Sysco giveaways on the menu:

1. Key lime pie. It's ubiquitous. "key lime" is sourced from the Florida Keys. I suppose it's possible restaurants are buying lime juice directly from there, but I doubt it.

2. Calamari (squid) appetizer. Battered and frozen. Few restaurants get fresh squid from the market, it comes from a distributor, the biggest being Sysco.

Basically, if the restaurant is making it from scratch, why sell what everyone is already selling, and for cheaper than what you can make it from scratch for? Instead you differentiate with unique items, not the same old stuff.

The next step in the food revolution is from cooking to sourcing. Today the "rock stars" are the cooks, but in 10 years it will be the farmers. Already we've had a bunch of FPP's about young urban hip types leaving the city to take up organic sustainable farming - where food comes from (how it's raised/grown etc..) is the missing piece and something more and more are becoming obsessed with.
posted by stbalbach at 8:37 PM on July 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Original chicken flavor?

Tastes like bacon.
posted by netbros at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2008


Sometime around 2002ish (maybe a little earlier?), suddenly I could suddenly get a veggie burger anywhere. Fish fry shack out next to the nowheresville marina? Veggie burger. Hamburger place in rural mountain town? Veggie burger.

I.e., Sysco started carrying them, or else lowered their price for some mysterious and probably horrifying reason.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:46 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Crapplebees made me a hater.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:47 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not so much in defense of SYSCO, but more for the sake of being educated- SYSCO does sell just about any prefabricated sauce, entree, dessert, or dinosaur shaped chicken nugget your little heart desires. There are real needs in the marketplace for such people fodder. There are many "broadline purveyors" out there- FSA, US FOODS, SHAMROCK to name a few, who market the same items. SYSCO always gets the brunt of criticism because well, they are the biggest. SYSCO does make an effort- at least in the West, where I live, to promote local produce, local meats, and seafood. SYSCO partners with regional suppliers with deep local roots- sometimes with 100 years behind them- to provide these products to those who desire them. I know that on the West coast, we can get some amazing products- seasonal produce, lobster, crab, cheese- from the East coast- and how does that happen? SYSCO. They will bring you canned chicken so you can grind it up & press it into the shape of a do-do bird- they will also bring you bread from Montana- sustainable bread made with grains grown on a family owned farm. SYSCO will bring you plates, and pans to cook in too.

Now, not to knock smaller distributers, but yes, because knowing is half the battle- larger broadliners like SYSCO have in place quality assurances that many small distributers do not afford their clientelle. Take a look next time a truck unloads in front of a restaurant- are they pulling off items that should be shipped under cold conditions? Is there a compressor on that van or truck? If not, you should question the safety and quality of that food. Just one of the benefits of a broadline distributor- safe product.

In an ideal world we would all eat only what is seasonal in our areas, and prepared in the places in which they are served- but because we are many, this is just not plausable. So we've all just got to get along, and eat what is good to our own little tummies.
posted by JONNYFROG at 8:55 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nellie and Joes key lime juice- available in Oregon at Safeway, and from SYSCO- not just southern hospitality any more!
posted by JONNYFROG at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2008


When I was at summer camp we used to joke about all the things that Sysco provided: cups, napkins, bug juice,

Weird. We called it bug juice, too.

Also, those of you complaining about Cisco's dining hall fare have obviously never experienced Sodexho/Mariott food. So bland, I swear the meatloaf tasted like the mashed potatoes.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:16 PM on July 30, 2008


One step from Soylent Green.
We start with 100 percent meat. Pureed, then blended with its own natural meat broth.

i don't even want to know what the Sysco definition of 'meat broth' is.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:20 PM on July 30, 2008


Around the same time as veggie burgers appeared, smaller podunk places started having salads with field greens or spinach, etc, rather than having only iceberg or romaine.

Both of which developments are beautiful things in my world, even though they're almost certainly a result of mega supplychain company.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 PM on July 30, 2008


those of you complaining about Cisco's dining hall fare

I thought we were complaining about Sysco's routers.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:01 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Already we've had a bunch of FPP's about young urban hip types leaving the city to take up organic sustainable farming - where food comes from (how it's raised/grown etc..) is the missing piece and something more and more are becoming obsessed with.

Uh-huh. Not the least debatable issue out there, if I do say so myself. Twenty may enter; one will pass.

The other nineteen will come back and forget the whole thing happened with their fashion sense set to "stunning."
posted by vanadium at 10:05 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I heard about the injection molded chicken on Madge Weinstein's podcast. I cackled like a chicken nugget on nitrous oxide.
posted by crataegus at 10:09 PM on July 30, 2008


Also, those of you complaining about Cisco's dining hall fare have obviously never experienced Sodexho/Mariott food.

Oh my God, Sodexho food is hideous. An ex of mine went to Trinity College here in Toronto, so I ate there from time to time. About all that can be said for it is that it tapped into the British tradition of public school food quite appropriately for a college which prides itself on British traditions: stodge and custard.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:10 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm a food lover, but I have little problem with the likes of Sysco. Pre-peeled eggs? Sure, why not: their quality control on such a thing is certainly going to be a lot better than trusting some dumb yoink in the kitchen to do it right.

The pre-made meals, ready-to-nuke? Not so impressed. The basic foods, prepared for use as ingredients to a real meal? Sounds good for a restaurant.

The key being, of course, that if I want a great meal, I'm better off staying at home. For a good meal out, though, I'm sure Sysco supplies can contribute beneficially.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


There seems to be this defense of Sysco when compared to local small scale suppliers based on Sysco's ability to scale and exhibit low-risk/big corporate traits.
I think this is a false dichotomy. The alternative people are looking for to Sysco is a local supplier passionate about their produce, not a local supplier who is slap dash, of mixed quality and potentially unsafe.
I'm sure Sysco is better than a poor local supplier, but a good local supplier beats them.
Note that nearly nobody in the restaurant customer class is sticking up for them here, it is people in the industry who are prepared to trade off convenience etc. for quality/authenticity.
If your end customers are cursing Sysco, perhaps you need to reconsider that trade off?
posted by bystander at 11:13 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


The alternative people are looking for to Sysco is a local supplier passionate about their produce, not a local supplier who is slap dash, of mixed quality and potentially unsafe.

Maybe people just don't want to pay for that? My general impression is that the price elasticity of demand for restaurant food is high--people are very sensitive to changes in price.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:23 PM on July 30, 2008


Holy crap, I'm moving to Canada. So. Much. Deliciousness.

Didn't you say up there that you were a vegan?
posted by oaf at 11:28 PM on July 30, 2008


I worked at a "high end" Italian restaurant and we got some stuff from Sysco, it wasn't horrible product, the tomatoes were alright but not great. The funny part was we also used kroger brand fettucini sauce and meatballs and people were more than happy to pay 15$ a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The house wine was out of a 4$ jug, the best part was seeing all the winos come in and sniff it and give it their stamp of approval. The trick is just charging way too much for your food and people all of a sudden think they're getting better products, it works for Bose.
posted by BrnP84 at 11:40 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, we can't very well blame Wal-Mart for everything, now can we? After all, there have to be seven heads to the beast of the apocalypse ...
posted by eclectist at 11:47 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Note that nearly nobody in the restaurant customer class is sticking up for them here, it is people in the industry who are prepared to trade off convenience etc. for quality/authenticity.

Got to side with Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America there. Clearly, people aren't willing to pay for that quality, or there would be a backlash. And surely all the evidence of the change in the American food landscape is that people LIKE homogenised predictability, and don't want authenticity. At most they want "authenticity", as demonstrated by a copywritten founding myth featuring an invented founding character.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:06 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


i don't even want to know what the Sysco definition of 'meat broth' is.

I would assume exactly like broth. Broth is bones boiled in water that may have some stock in it. You can't exactly go much further down from there.
posted by Talez at 1:35 AM on July 31, 2008


Also, those of you complaining about Cisco's dining hall fare have obviously never experienced Sodexho/Mariott food.

It's all Sodexho in the cafeterias on the BMC Software/Halliburton-LGC campus in Houston. While I've had better, it's not *bad*, and is better than a poke with a sharp stick. It's certainly cheap enough. I'm mad that they replaced the Thursday taco bar with an every-day fancy "toasted sandwich" bar though.
posted by mrbill at 1:41 AM on July 31, 2008


Maybe I'm hopelessly naive, but does this happen in Europe, too? I live in London and the places I go always seem to have their own distinctive menu, changed pretty frequently (but only at really nice places, daily), with dishes that are made that day. Yes, there are chains that use pre-packaged food, and you sort of expect french fries to be pre-packed, but how extensive is this? Please tell me it's only North America!
posted by Lleyam at 4:40 AM on July 31, 2008


Supply chain management is a different beast somewhere like the UK, not to mention that food producers are vastly more integrated into the infrastructure than on this side of the pond. I mean, you can go to places that have had weekly markets, people selling the same produce, for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Buying the Frankenfood premade stuff is a feature of big chains, places like Olive Garden, Applebee's, TGIF (hack spit ptui, God I hate that place)--fast food chains that pretend they're not fast food chains.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:52 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes these entities exist in the UK. Sodexho is actually French.
posted by JPD at 5:02 AM on July 31, 2008


Maybe I'm hopelessly naive, but does this happen in Europe, too? I live in London and the places I go always seem to have their own distinctive menu, changed pretty frequently (but only at really nice places, daily), with dishes that are made that day. Yes, there are chains that use pre-packaged food, and you sort of expect french fries to be pre-packed, but how extensive is this? Please tell me it's only North America!
posted by Lleyam at 1:40 PM on July 31 [+] [!]


And I bet that many those places with their distinctive menus source a huge amount more of their produce from bulk suppliers than you would imagine, rather than shopping in the (undeniably) high quality, easily accessible, specialised food shops and markets that can be found in London.

Pre packaging and bulk supply doesn't have to equate to identikit rubbish on your plate. Equally, local sourcing and small scale suppiers don't provide what many people in this day of globalised pallettes are looking for when they blow some hard earned on dining out.

In the corner of the French Alps where I live cafes, restaurants and hotels all across the spectrum of price use local suppliers, sometimes in combination with a small amount of products from national distributors like Brake, but bread will always be bought from the village bakery, fruit and veg will be delivered by the local greengrocer, we have a wealth of small distributors who provide cheese, eggs, cream, meat or wine all of which comes from the same 15 or 20 mile radius.

And what that means is that yes, we have reasonably priced, amazing places to eat pretty much everywhere we turn here. But I'll tell you I don't sometimes half hanker for something Italian or Mexican or Indian or even some cuisine from somewhere a few hundred miles away in France, rather than the cheese and potato and pork based fare that every restaurant dishes up variations of here . . .

Local supply = local cuisine. It's always been that way in France, and on balance I hope it never, ever changes (I can make my Indian and Mexican at home), but it does have its flipside.
posted by protorp at 5:03 AM on July 31, 2008


A UK version of Sysco
posted by JPD at 5:07 AM on July 31, 2008


I wonder if Sysco has a service that delivers the same stuff to foodie and upscale restaurants in non-Sysco-logoed trucks and boxes? In order to maintain appearances and reputation?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


My 2 cents,
My Bonifides are I am a ACF Certified Chef, Chef of the year in my home state of New Hampshire and a Gold Medal winner at the Boston Food Show. I left the Hospitality industry and now work in technology sales

Sysco is the largest distributor because of the quality of their sales people. They are the most efficient distribution source out there. They run a tight ship and have a strong business model. Their stock has consistently out performed such technology giants as Cisco.

As a fomer customer, they offer the full line from gourmet, organic, boutique to institutional.

It is the chef/ mgt at the local establishment who decides what to serve.
Sysco only markets and distributes, If your local diner wants to buy crap, they will, usually from other sources than sysco. Sysco Marketing Associates are well trained, and trusted business advisers. If you have a good one, you will make a profit by selling high quality food. If you decide to buy institutional food like the one in the subject, you will reap what you sow.

Sysco rocks, you would go hugry without them
posted by bluzshark at 5:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I mean...it just wouldn't do to have a Sysco truck unloading at Mesa Grill. I'm sure Bobby would pay the premium to have "independent" suppliers dropping-off their wares.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yea ideally I think we'd all like to be supporting our local growers, you know stick it to the man or whatever but there's how many people in this country? Tradition is all good and fine, yea some guy has had a farm in his family for like 200 years or whatever but the times are a changin and we need big suppliers like this Sysco thing to keep us functioning. We're the ones who keep Sysco in business because we eat at all these places and now we're gonna complain cause they provide a super cheap product? Yea the quality might suck a little but some of the stuff really isn't that bad, the Walmarts I've been to be the pants of our local Co-op in quality and price. If I ever find a finger or something in my salsa than sign me up for the Sysco boycott but for now I'm cool with buying a whole chicken for 5 bucks.
posted by BrnP84 at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2008


Sodexho food: better than a poke with a sharp stick.
posted by Mitheral at 6:12 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


As my wife, who grew up in a restaurant family, said to me once when I was ranting about Sysco, "You couldn't afford to eat out without them." Years later I recognize this as mostly true.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:13 AM on July 31, 2008


an alarming number of otherwise calm and decent people turn into assholes when they enter a restaurant. i own a restaurant and buy basic food ingredients from sysco and use them in original dishes of my own. i have a profitable and reputable business that has drawn praise from customers and food writers from several publications. without a supplier as dependable and consistent as sysco, time i devote to prep and cooking would be wasted dealing with multiple vendors. my advice is patronize restaurants that serve consistently good food and stop being such pretentious assholes. the majority of you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about
posted by kitchenrat at 6:20 AM on July 31, 2008 [16 favorites]


well, damn... damn you all to hell...I'll never be able to eat out again...

That said...

Ann Arbor has its share of chains, but we've a few local restaurants that focus on locally grown produce, locally raised beef (and buffalo), small bakery breads, local beers.... Arbor Brewing here is a great example....mostly local products/produce, make their own beer... many local restaurants use Knights Market for beef, Ed's breads for bread, Zingerman's for Bread, local produce.....

It's hard when you travel, but close to home you can do your homework and eat non institutional food.
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 AM on July 31, 2008


Restaurant folks getting dry goods and staples from Sysco is one thing, using them to prepare your menu is the sign of an owner who is either too cheap or too unprofitable to hire a chef with a modicum of imagination and experience. When I mentioned walking into a Sysco restaurant earlier, it was exactly this PF dump and stir, ready-made pre-glazed standard food crap that causes me to leave the premises. If the owner and the chef couldn't be bothered to put any care into their menus, why should I be bothered to give them my money? Count me in with the minority that doesn't want to pay for it.

and Jonnyfrog: SYSCO partners with regional suppliers with deep local roots

I was one of these suppliers, and I don't think "partners" means what you think it does.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh God, Sodexho - bane of my existence. All of the various "restaurants" on my campus are Sodexho, which means that all year round we get a choice of muffins-from-buckets, injection-molded-chicken-meals, and the most disgusting coffee ever served anywhere. I have Sodexho with a fiery passion. Getting poked with a sharp stick would be preferable.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good luck eating anywhere that doesn't order something from Sysco, US Foodservice, et al. My wife was a chef for Sodhexo, and she''ll tell you that every dining hall, chain and fine dining establishment gets something from a full-line distributor.

Me? Eighteen years in US military food service. We had built a mirror-image of the Sysco distribution system (I bought canned fruts and vegetables, the woman who sat next to me bought meat, another guy bought dairy, andother woman bought produce, etc) and we put it in a defense depot where it got lost, stolen, or improperly stored. When we came to our senses we awarded contracts to ful-line distributors, and now we manage our suppliers rather than managing our supplies. It's better, faster and cheaper. They are good at what they do.
posted by fixedgear at 6:47 AM on July 31, 2008


krippledkonscious: "Basically, deep sea fish have a lot of really long worms in their back, right above their spines. This crawly section of the fish is completely edible (worms included) but typically deemed "unseemly" to most discerning fish eaters. So they cut this area off (worms still included), slurry it up into fish goo and sell it to food manufacturers to be formed into things like kamaboko."

This is not accurate information. Lumping all "deep sea fish" together is not useful, all edible species live and eat in different environments and do not have exposure to the same parasites. Also, food manufacturers are required by the FDA and various state organizations to specifically control for the presence hazards such as these various parasites by removal or by rejecting the lot. I'm not saying that a few worms don't get by, but to say that there is a part of any fish that is "crawly" and that it is specifically excised and ground up for human consumption is total and complete bullshit.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:48 AM on July 31, 2008


On reflection, I have seen this trend in the UK. Cafe Rouge in the early to mid 90s was a great place, relatively cheap, good quality food. Nothing special but perfectly acceptable. After acquisition (originally by a brewer?) and a push to strip out costs and maximise profit, the food there is inedible and largely pre-packaged.

Buying basic food ingredients from a dependable and competitive supplier is one thing. But a whole menu assembled from prepared portions delivered direct and heated in a microwave is something else.

Compare Sysco's injection-molded chicken with Brakes' (linked upthread) approach to sourcing quality ingredients from New Covent Garden food market.

I know I sound like an asshole, but this is another reason I'm happy I'm a vegetarian :-) How much can you get vegetables wrong? (Well, vegetable lasagne in a plastic basket, but those godforsaken days are behind us.)
posted by Lleyam at 6:56 AM on July 31, 2008


Sodhexo actually does the food in my hospital and I think it is pretty good. Not fine dining by any means, but much better than the alternative, which is the McDonald's in the children's hospital next door.

I'm mad that they replaced the Thursday taco bar with an every-day fancy "toasted sandwich" bar though.

Hah-today is taco salad day in our cafeteria; I'll be headed over there in about an hour!

I'm surprised that relatively little has been made of the fact that Sysco also supplies a lot of supermarkets; the Kiplinger article mentions Whole Foods in passing, but that is about it. I had a friend who was produce manager at a supermarket and she did enough business with Sysco that she named her dog after them. So even if you cook at home some of what you use probably came on a Sysco (or US Foodservice, or other mega-distributor) truck.
posted by TedW at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2008


Our cafeteria is a Sodexho one. Most of the food is decent. And cheap - when I used to work in downtown Ottawa you couldn't get a decent sit-down lunch for less than $10. Lunch here easily rings in at under $6, and the portions are massive.

Plus, I love their pre-cut fruits section. I tried once to emulate this by buying my own fruit and portioning it; I failed spectacularly due to the different ripeness of all the components. Add in the cost of the time to prepare everything, and the Cafeteria wins hands-down.
posted by Meagan at 7:30 AM on July 31, 2008


an alarming number of otherwise calm and decent people turn into assholes when they enter a restaurant.
Especially those 'pretentious assholes' and those that have 'absolutely no idea what they're talking about'. They're often called 'restaurant patrons' or more commonly 'customers' or 'punters'
my advice is patronize restaurants that serve consistently good food and stop being such pretentious assholes. the majority of you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about
While I might agree with your first point, the idea of being labelled a 'pretentious asshole' and 'having absolutely what you're talking about', crosses you off my list of people I would take advice from.
time i devote to prep and cooking would be wasted dealing with multiple vendors
I don't understand exactly what you mean. Are you saying that you haven't found a single reputable vendor that can provide you with a consistently good product [vegetable, poultry, meat, etc]? It seems to me that if you had then you could prep and cook. Then again, you found them in Sysco. All your seafood, meat, poultry, vegetable and other bland, anodyne restaurant supplies. Hello, American cuisine.
posted by tellurian at 7:33 AM on July 31, 2008


My dorm-grub was Sodexho, and barely - barely - qualified as edible, much less desirable. But I remember specifically that someone in my friend circle had had Sodexho stuff at a fancy conference somewhere, and confirmed that they have good food; it just wasn't what we were being served.

My biggest problem with all this is the damn name. I'm a techie. I hear those syllables - Sis-koh - I think "huge supplier of meaty, reliable networking gear" - and not "semi-evil ubiquitous food megacorp."

"Wait, Cisco makes desserts now? Chocolate-covered routers, maybe? Licorice-whip Cat5?"
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:45 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


an alarming number of otherwise calm and decent people turn into assholes when they enter a restaurant. i own a restaurant.... stop being such pretentious assholes... you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about

Apparently this magical effect to turn people into assholes also works on management, not just customers!
posted by rokusan at 7:46 AM on July 31, 2008


Licorice-whip Cat5?

Rule 34.
posted by rokusan at 7:46 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


As others have said, everyone uses Sysco. Yes, even that local, high end, gourmet restaurant you're spending $$$ to eat at to improve your foodie cred: the salt and pepper on the table is from Sysco, the napkins are from Sysco, the soap in the bathroom is from Sysco and, quite possibly, the beef in the Beef Wellington and the carrots in the carrot cake are from Sysco too. Catsup, mustard, olives, onions, oil? Check. Saffron, pastry flour, basmati rice? Check.

The rumor, when I worked in restaurants - Miko notes this too, above: the food-supply industry, at least on the East Coast is, you know, kind of controlled. - was that Sysco is mob through and through. This could be just tin foil hat stuff but they are certainly ubiquitous and they don't give up. The last restaurant where I worked the Sysco reps seemed to know who we were ordering everything from and they'd show up at the door offering deals on items that we'd started ordering from other suppliers. It worked: every kitchen is always under pressure to reduce costs.

Whether it's mob or simple cost cutting, it's effective. You can figure that pretty much every single restaurant in the eastern US at least buys something from Sysco. Therefore, don't be shocked if you see the big Sysco truck early in the morning at Chez Locale Supair Trendy and, unless you've had a bad experience, it doesn't mean you need to stop eating there. Just because they buy salt from Sysco doesn't mean they're also buying Faux Pollo on a stick for EZ reheating.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2008


Anecdotally here:
My brother-in-law. He has to be the best butcher in South Australia. If you are a meat eater and you live is South Australia, Adelaide in particular, (Central Markets) you will know O'Connells Meats. He sources local meat and seafood (at Christmas) and processes it all himself. He's up at 5am most days and home by whenever, because he knows the best is hard to find, he really works hard. I would put his product streets ahead of anything Sysco has to offer.
posted by tellurian at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why I don't bother to go to restaurants anymore. It is vanishingly rare that I go out to eat and don't think "I could have made that quicker and better myself, and known where my food was coming from."

There are exceptions, obviously, but I can't afford to eat at them more than once a year, when someone gives me a gift certificate. And yes, this does point to the fact that widely available budget food service isn't really possible without supply-chain management and an Omnomnomopoly (best neologism ever). So what? Since when is going out to dinner a human right?

Clearly a number of people in the foodservice industry here don't think so -- possibly everyone in that industry. But Sysco, like Wal-Mart and any other mega-monopoly, is obviously a bad thing in the long run. It will be unfortunate if we're forced to discover that the hard way.
posted by rusty at 9:15 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The idea that Sysco is mob run makes me extraordinarily happy for some reason. I'm not sure why. Too much key lime pie, perhaps.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:24 AM on July 31, 2008


JONNYFROG: "[...] I know that on the West coast, we can get some amazing products- seasonal produce, lobster, crab, cheese- from the East coast- and how does that happen? SYSCO. [...]"

I think that's exactly the problem; foods grown thousands of miles away ought to be delicacies, not staples.

Not only is this an environmental problem (all the petroleum burned to transport the food, runoff and emissions from megafarms, etc.), but it puts us in one hell of a delicate position. If you depend on food hauled from the other side of the country — much less the other side of the planet — you're in real trouble if anything goes wrong with that supply chain.

When at some point in the not-too-distant future we search back for the perfect symbol of the Age of Petroleum, I'd like to nominate "Live Maine Lobster" as served in Southern California.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:29 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


> fast food chains that pretend they're not fast food chains

The proper term, apparently, is the "casual dining sector."
posted by monospace at 10:03 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to nominate "Live Maine Lobster" as served in Southern California.

Lobster is still a wild creature that doesn't require petroleum inputs for it's growth. A better nominee would be Argentine feedlot beef in Toronto.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:25 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lobster is still a wild creature that doesn't require petroleum inputs for it's growth. A better nominee would be Argentine feedlot beef in Toronto.

How so? Last time I checked, catching lobster required gobs of petroleum typically used in inefficient marine engines...
posted by jkaczor at 11:16 AM on July 31, 2008


Forget Sysco. Xanterra purveys the most foul institutional food I've had the misfortune to eat. Anyone who has been suckered into eating the overly-priced garbage at places like El Tovar will know what I'm talking about.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:25 AM on July 31, 2008


Sysco : still better than nutraloaf.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2008


an alarming number of otherwise calm and decent people turn into assholes when they enter a restaurant.

Having worked in restaurants both in the kitchen and as a waiter, this statement rings very true. People go to restaurants to be served. Many customers are pleasant people who are easy to deal with. However, within a distinct minority of restaurant patrons, it's almost as if a wave of entitlement takes over. Since they're footing the bill, the unwritten laws of common decency and respect for others get thrown out the window; as if they are given a free ticket to be rude to those serving them. Rather than asking for things politely, some customers demand them brusquely. Sometimes you can bend over backwards to please a customer and get stuck with a 10% tip or sometimes none at all. All of this is accepted with a smile on your face because, if you wish to keep your job, you're in no position to have any say.

without a supplier as dependable and consistent as sysco, time i devote to prep and cooking would be wasted dealing with multiple vendors.

Again, I have to agree. Restaurants are tremendously difficult to run successfully. To do it right is beyond a full time job, with tiresome hours, hot kitchens, sometimes difficult customers, sometimes lousy waiters and a constant stream of hard work. If buying wholesale basic food ingredients allows more time and effort for composing a superior product, and those basic food ingredients happen to come from Sysco, then so be it. Good food is good food. Consistent and streamlined delivery of goods helps make the work easier. Will the basil you picked up from your local organic farmer's market taste better than what Sysco can deliver? Probably so. Will that local grower be able to consistently supply you with the same quality basil for the next 4 months on a schedule? Maybe so, maybe not. Will his/her price fall within your budget so that your restaurant remains profitable? Again, it depends. It's one thing to order basic ingredients, another if it's complete precooked entrees. A restaurateur using Sysco is no different than you or me going to Kroger/Publix/Shaw's/Piggly Wiggly for ingredients to cook a meal at home.

I don't understand exactly what you mean. Are you saying that you haven't found a single reputable vendor that can provide you with a consistently good product [vegetable, poultry, meat, etc]? It seems to me that if you had then you could prep and cook. Then again, you found them in Sysco. All your seafood, meat, poultry, vegetable and other bland, anodyne restaurant supplies. Hello, American cuisine.

I may be misunderstanding your comment but just because he sources ingredients from Sysco does not automatically mean he is dishing out bland food a la Applebees/TGIF/Bennigan's. Sadly, America's eating landscape does suffer from the saturation of ubiquitous food chains like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc. etc., but it seems like many enjoy the consistency and familiarity of these places. They certainly don't cater to the refined palate, but they provide a product that many people like and can count on. Not my preference and it may not be yours either, but who cares. The supposed 'evil' of Sysco's influence isn't just a staple of American cuisine. Every nation has its network of large and small distributors with varying qualities of ingredients and each country has its fair share of both good and bad restaurants.
posted by inqb8tr at 11:39 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


jkaczor: You only need to harvest a lobster with petroleum. Lobsters don't need petroleum as fertilizer (inputs) to grow the corn and soybeans for feed and get it to the feedlot cow for fattening, get the cow to slaughter and on to market, move around all of the cowshit, etc.
Lobsters grow themselves with no help from oil. Aside from the bait that they eat when running in and out of traps, they are entirely human independent. It may not look like a difference to you, but it is huge.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:42 AM on July 31, 2008


kuujjuarapik: Well - I am not going to completely disagree, because I truly don't know how my local beef producers fatten cattle for market on a commercial scale. From my memory of our small farm, we did not feed our cattle corn or soybeans - they grazed on locally grown hay/wheat or whatever was in the fallow fields.
posted by jkaczor at 12:08 PM on July 31, 2008


That'll teach me to read Metafilter at lunch.

/hurls
posted by Space Kitty at 1:03 PM on July 31, 2008


"produce manager at a supermarket and she did enough business with Sysco that she named her dog after them.

WTF?
posted by sharksandwich at 1:49 PM on July 31, 2008


Somewhat related: Most sushi restaurants in the US (over 9,000) get their raw fish from True World Group, established by original members of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church cult.

For those of you living in the Bay Area, that includes Berkeley's Kirala, Alameda's Angelfish, and Oakland's Tachibana Sushi Bar and Grill.
posted by junesix at 1:57 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


That'll teach me to read Metafilter at lunch.

You really don't want to know how many whole maggots the FDA allows to be in a 20 ounce can of tomato sauce, then.

In your lifetime, you will eat your body weight in insects, flukes, helminths, annelids and other unintended fauna, regardless of your diet. Get used to the idea.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:47 PM on July 31, 2008


You only need to harvest a lobster with petroleum. Lobsters don't need petroleum as fertilizer (inputs) to grow the corn and soybeans for feed and get it to the feedlot cow for fattening, get the cow to slaughter and on to market, move around all of the cowshit, etc.

This is true. When I picked lobster, I was thinking that they represented conspicuous consumption because they have to be transported, typically via jet, across the country/world, while either refrigerated or packed on ice, so that they can be killed before they croak from being out of the water. It's always struck me as ridiculous bordering on comical, the amount of effort and logistics that goes into the process. (But then again, I've never much liked lobster, even when I lived in Maine.)

I do wonder how it stacks up per pound of actual meat to corn-fed, CAFO-raised imported beef. I guess given the amount of oil used for fertilizer it's entirely possible that's worse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:02 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bennigan's Restaurants Shut Down Nationwide

It's like Gordon Ramsay smiting Syscophants.
posted by NortonDC at 4:59 PM on July 31, 2008


Sadly, America's eating landscape does suffer from the saturation of ubiquitous food chains like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc. etc., but it seems like many enjoy the consistency and familiarity of these places.

Ironically, that type of chain would probably be less likely to use Sysco, because when you have a few hundred restaurants, you don't to give your money to a supply house. You'd rather run your own Sysco in-house.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 PM on July 31, 2008


YEAHAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:59 PM on July 31, 2008


I'm not saying that a few worms don't get by, but to say that there is a part of any fish that is "crawly" and that it is specifically excised and ground up for human consumption is total and complete bullshit.

I really really want to thank you for writing that. I was feeling quite unwell after reading the comment you are referring to.
posted by Wolof at 11:28 PM on July 31, 2008


Ironically, that type of chain would probably be less likely to use Sysco, because when you have a few hundred restaurants, you don't to give your money to a supply house. You'd rather run your own Sysco in-house.

Ermmm.. you're pretty much completely and totally wrong, there. Big mass-market chains--the kind of places, as said above, that are fast food with table service--are precisely the ones that use companies like Sysco.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:09 AM on August 1, 2008


But everyone else in this thread has said that everyone uses Sysco. I stand by what I said.
posted by smackfu at 7:26 AM on August 1, 2008


You're welcome to stand by what you said, but you're still really incredibly wrong.

Chains like Applebee's, TGIF, places like that, they don't make much food on the premises. Most appetizers are unpack, nuke or deep fry, arrange on plate. As are, actually, most entrees and I'd be willing to bet all desserts. This is how they achieve cost savings & consistency across all outlets. And who provides this? Companies like Sysco. It's easy, as others have said upthread, to tell--how many different restaurants have the identical 'Apple Blossom' dessert on their menus? Sysco!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:04 AM on August 1, 2008


okay. someone needs to explain to me what these worms are in fish's backs. i've never heard of this and makes me even more afraid of fish.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:19 PM on August 1, 2008


Round worms in fish
Parasites in Fish: Cod Worm
Parasites in Marine Fishes

But don't freak out. Like I said, worms are removed at the fish processors' and then again at [decent] restaurants, where they get a second once-over to remove anything iffy as well as stray bones. I love fish, the worms are ick, but that isn't enough to stop me wanting to eat the fish. The environmental impact considerations, on the other hand...
posted by Miko at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2008


someone needs to explain to me what these worms are in fish's backs. i've never heard of this and makes me even more afraid of fish.


They aren't specifically in the backs of fishes. KrippledKonscious was talking out his butt. In cod, they are generally found in and around the belly, where they enter fish flesh through the digestive system. This occurs when cod are feeding in waters where there are seals presentas the worms spend part of their life cycle in the seals, not so much elsewhere. These cod worms are easy enough to remove,common in cod and monkfish and I rarely ever saw them in pollock or haddock. And cod worms are harmless if cooked. If one ends up on your plate, it's an embarrassment to whoever provided the food.

Larger parasites have a habit of infesting swordfish, where they burrow in through the skin, where they create a cozy mobile home with access to open water. They are large, nasty and are really hard to miss, so they are generally excised by the wholesalerwhen the fish is cut. If one of these ended up on your plate, it's not so much embarrassing for the provider as it is a complete screw up on many levels. These are are the more rare, and far more disgusting of ocean fish parasites.

Another parasite can be found in wild Pacific salmon, but my experience limits me to talking about Atlantic fish. Maybe someone else can tell you.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:36 PM on August 1, 2008


So, so glad I don't eat fish.

please nobody mention chicken-worms, if there is such a thing, or my sole protein source is down the tubes
posted by brain cloud at 5:24 PM on August 1, 2008


« Older The Large Hadron Collider. The Large Hadron Countd...  |  Häagen-Dazs wants you to know ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments