Article In The Boston Herald - Restaurant Owners Unite To Cut Food, Supply Costs

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by Jay Fitzgerald

Over 200 Boston-area restaurateurs have cooked up a "Dining Alliance" to bargain for lower food prices from vendors amid rising inflation and economic turmoil.

"It's the greatest thing to happen to independent restaurant owners in Boston in a long time," said Steve DiFillippo, owner of the high-end Davio's and Avila restaurants in Boston.

The new group, which hopes to grow to 400 establishments within the next year or so, includes some of the most popular eateries and pubs in Boston, including Vox Populi, Fire & Ice, the Black Rose and Beehive.

Restaurant owners say they're already using their newfound buying power to wring out 10% price cuts or higher on vegetables, milk, flour, meats and even paper products such as napkins.

"We banded together and aggressively got some good prices," said Joe Quattrocchi, owner of Boylston Street's Vox Populi.

Some of the vendors now servicing the alliance include Sid Wainer & Son (produce and specialty foods), Cambridge Packaging (meats), Agar (general items) and H.T. Berry (paper products). But there are also vendors who have lost business due to the new alliance. A representative at Texas-based Sysco, a giant within the food vendor business, declined comment yesterday.

"Dining Alliance" is the brainchild of the father-son team of Clifford and John Davie, who first organized a similar independent restaurant group in upstate New York. Dining Alliance, a for-profit firm that negotiates on behalf of restaurants, also has established groups in Pittsburgh and Phoenix.
"Boston is probably our best opening yet," said John, the younger Davie, whose firm makes money via fees and rebates it charges food manufacturers and vendors.

Local restaurateurs said the alliance also allows members to buy food in bulk and at prices only national restaurant chains used to be able to negotiate.