The area’s sixth US Foods CHEF’STORE has opened off Meeting Street in Charleston’s upper peninsula. The store bills itself as a one-stop-shop for chefs, selling more than 5,000 items—from food products to kitchen equipment and supplies. The retailer’s large size and diverse array of offerings have some members of the Charleston culinary community shifting in their seats.
Should our local purveyors be concerned? It depends on who you ask. While more consumers are trending toward convenience, independent businesses are beginning to rethink their sales strategies in order to compete. The introduction of CHEF’STORE, however, creates a complicated situation. US Foods offers numerous additional products and services that many Charleston restauranteurs already utilize. Plus, this location has opened very close to Restaurant Depot, a members-only low-cost foodservice supplier which stocks everything from wine and spirits to clothing and refrigeration. On this small stretch of Charleston road, it is difficult to draw the line between supplier competition and consumer benefit.
What Makes CHEFSTORE Different?
Unlike Costco or Restaurant Depot, CHEF’STORE does not require a membership fee, upping its accessibility to home chefs and professions trying to cut costs. In fact, the greatest benefit will likely go to food trucks, caterers, and personal chefs. Unfortunately, this could translate to some loss of sales at farmers markets.
This impact, however, will not only be felt by restaurants and food providers. CHEF’STORE will also sell equipment alongside its food products. Charleston’s independent kitchen equipment suppliers will likely need to rely on superior service and decades-long relationships. However, most of these business owners aren’t too worried; this service is so specialized that a few extra dollars won’t mean too much to the consumer.
So, what’s the verdict? Situations will pop up where cost and convenience rule, but local businesses will remain important to Charleston residents. Many chefs already utilize US Foods accounts, so the physical presence of the store won’t do much to change their spending. If anything, the convenience may make Charleston consumers more savvy about their spending.