DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The HFM Culinary Chefs Competition is staged by HFM Foodservice, a statewide food distributor for the restaurant, hospitality and foodservice industries. Chef Mark Briones, left, from Villa Paradisio and David Nishimura of DK Steak House displayed their creations last week. Briones is holding beef tomatos with a mushroom fondue, potato ladkes and beef carpaccio ala soushi while Nishimura is holding Island Fish salad with balsamic artichoke, sauteed tenderloin mustard and roasted garlic cream sauce.
At your service
Hawaii food industry suppliers come to the rescue
Before you even look over the menu at your favorite restaurant, whether four-star or plate lunch, Hawaii's foodservice industry has made it possible for your meal to get on the plate.
The trucks are everywhere emblazoned with the logos of HFM Foodservice, Hansen Sales Ltd., Y. Hata & Co. Ltd., and others.
"People maybe don't understand, when they see our trucks rolling down the road, 'what does that company do?' " said Laurence Vogel, president and chief operating officer of Y. Hata, the state's oldest food distributor, established in Hilo in 1903.
These companies are known as broadline distributors, and they supply restaurants, hotels, diners, health care facilities, military mess halls and more with products ranging from dry goods and fresh meats to frozen foods and specialty foods. The proteins, including beef, pork, seafood and poultry, are referred to as center-of-the-plate items as they are the focal point of the meal.
"The only thing we don't do, is produce," with the exception of Jamba Juice, with which it has an exclusive agreement, Vogel said.
The table-, glass-, bar- and flatware at your place setting may have come from the same distributor, which also may have sold the kitchen equipment used to prepare the meal, whether squab or squid luau.
The term specialty foods might conjure visions of exotic patés and artisinal cheeses like those carried by Island Epicure, an arm of Y. Hata.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The HFM Expanding Horizons 2005 buyers' show was held Wednesday at Blaisdell Center. At the Mrs. Friday's booth, above, Vana Surmanian gave Phil Kim some seafood samples. Kim is from Crawford Convalescent Homes.
Specialty foods are also developed for the health care industry, however, such as the thickened, lemon-flavored, enriched water manufactured by Hormel HealthLabs. The honey-consistency, lightly flavored drink is formulated for patients who have difficulty swallowing water and need to stay hydrated, but for whom intravenous delivery of fluids would be too invasive.
"Our products are meant to be a treat, not a treatment," smiled Andrew Hastings, a Hormel regional manager based in California.
Yep, Hormel is not just about Spam.
"Hormel HealthLabs improves the quality of life for patients whose health is compromised in some way," he said.
Hormel was among dozens of manufacturers' representatives, food brokers and food manufacturers at the HFM Expanding Horizons 2005 buyers' show Wednesday at Blaisdell Center.
The company's products "have a great customer satisfaction rate with the clientele and their families," said Helen Hiwater, dietary manager at the LifeCare Center in Kona, a long-term nursing facility.
Companies from all over the mainland and Hawaii were at the HFM show, such as Kaneohe-based Hawaiian Eateries Inc., displaying an array of potato and macaroni salads as well as other chilled dishes.
The company supplies several restaurants "that you would not even imagine," said Anna Baker, manufacturer representative for the company established by her parents. "It cuts their labor costs," she said.
American Roland Food Corp.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The HFM Culinary Chefs Competition is staged by HFM Foodservice, a statewide food distributor for the restaurant, hospitality and foodservice industries. The judges are, from left, Richard Viernes, Gordon Lum and William Trask.
, based in New York City, displayed arrays of sweets and treats and glazes and sauces and more. Western Region Sales Manager Marv Holtzberg stood in front of various savory food items including a balsamic vinegar glaze ... but on the table in front of him free for the sampling were brightly colored maraschino cherries that were not red.
The orange is passion-fruit-flavored, the blue is wild berry, the green is lime and the yellow is lemon-flavored, he explained.
The product was introduced two weeks ago and was making its debut in Hawaii. In his resort visits around Arizona he sold 500 cases of the cherries in one day. Not just small, retail-size jars, either. Half-gallon sized foodservice containers.
Nibblers at his booth interested in buying berry-and-other-flavored cherries included bakers and beverage makers and a college cafeteria executive stoked about garnishing desserts with the school's team colors.
Many companies use more than one distributor to get their food product lines to the widest possible audience.
Waimanalo-based North Beach Sales of Hawaii, a food broker, represents 4,000 products made by more than a dozen companies in Hawaii, the mainland and Europe and deals with at least half a dozen distributors around the state.
"We do more cheese than anybody," laughed President Dennis Felix.
Despite the variety of foods and distributors, not everybody cares about all that is available.
Capicolla, an Italian-style cured ham in both mild and hot varieties that is hard to find in Hawaii, was brought in by North Beach for HFM customer Gee ... A Deli, until a fire closed owner Doug Izak's Kailua sandwich shop in July.
"He was the first one to insist on it because of its quality," said Dennis Felix, president of North Beach Sales. The Cariani brand capicolla and other meats Felix carries is from a San Francisco company established by a first-generation Italian immigrant in 1898.
HFM's buyer's show drew some potential clients, but mostly, the company's existing customers, such as Puna and Cricket Nam and partner Carsie Green who own Cinnamon's Restaurant in Kailua.
Breakfast is the restaurant's most popular meal, "so we're always looking for new breakfast meats" and other goodies to offer, said Puna. "And desserts are her area," he said, motioning to his wife who was sampling a confection from an exhibitor's booth.
Restaurateurs can get discounted show-pricing on certain items. For example, were the Cinnamon's folk to buy 10 cases of something at the show rather than two cases per week, HFM would offer a discounted price, warehouse the items and deliver them as needed, providing the restaurant some savings.
In-show purchases also earn points for buyers who can redeem them for various consumer goods, such as French-press coffee makers offered as premiums. "And we can give them to the kids (employees) as presents," Cricket smiled.
Green, a partner but also the restaurant's chef, was looking forward to an upcoming event by Y. Hata, where he would review kitchen equipment for possible purchase.
Executives at HFM are seeing sales growth in a strong economy, partly because the industry is buying more product and in some cases higher-end items than during leaner times, said Carl Kuwada, district sales manager. More than 100 new products were being unveiled at the show, he said.
Customers need more product because "we're seeing a very strong economy that translates into people going to restaurants," said Vogel, of Y. Hata. The company's Hilo operation just logged its first $1 million month amid a leadership change, because "Bob Almada ... is just one of those consummate leaders," he said. Almada is an Oahu-based operations manager who visits Hilo twice a week.
The restaurant business has among the highest failure rates of any industry, and broadline distributors are not immune to their customers' failures.
"I have, without a doubt, the best credit manager," Vogel said. Doc Ramelb "is worth his weight in gold." Ramelb watches for red flags such as delayed payments.
Vogel was in the midst of writing the company newsletter when interviewed and read aloud a quote he loved by Henry J. Heinz, founder of the ketchup company, "To do a common thing uncommonly well, brings success."
"That describes perfectly what our awesome company does," he said.
A restaurateur juggling a million balls in the air at a time saves time, money, effort and energy dealing with a single point of contact, a broadline distributor, that can provide most, if not all his needs, Vogel said.
By living that quote, "we increase our importance to the customer." It is intangible, but very important.