US Foods' latest concept, a grocery store for restaurateurs and foodies, opens Thursday at Interstate 240 and S Western.
The 31,000-square-foot store stocks restaurant-quality foods and equipment and is open seven days a week. It caters to restaurant workers, schools, civic groups and churches but is also open to the public.
US Foods, the Rosemont, Ill., based food distributor, opened its first Chef'store in Charlotte, N.C., in November; Oklahoma City is the second. The company has 64 distribution centers, including two in Oklahoma City.
From to-go containers and cups to oven thermometers and big packages of barbecue sauce and chopped lettuce, the store gives restaurants daily access to just about anything they might need to stock up on until their next delivery, said Sam Erwin, Oklahoma City division president. Everything is a bigger — think crates of 15-dozen eggs and 10-pound jugs of hot sauce.
Restaurant equipment includes stoves, fryers, ice makers, wooden high chairs and cooking utensils.
Chef'store's ethnic foods selection adds uniqueness to the product mix, Erwin says, with items like Mexican Coca-Cola, nori (the edible seaweed used in sushi) and Halal meat, which is prepared according to Islamic law.
“We're finding some needs and niches in some of the ethnic markets we're going to be able to address here,” Erwin said.
Fresh items include specialty cheeses, fruit and vegetables, herbs and dairy — the most popular category so far at the Charlotte store. US Foods also provides complimentary freeze gel packs and sells cooler bags to help customers transport perishables at proper food temperatures.
Chef'store's weekend hours make it especially attractive to restaurant owners, who are often short on options when they run out of an ingredient or need to restock supplies, said Kurt Fleischfresser, executive chef partner for Western Concepts Restaurant Group and Irma's Burger Shack.
“How great would it be to go down there in a pinch and get something?” he said.
And the store makes restaurant-quality equipment like skillets and chef spoons easily accessible to home cooks interested in sharpening their cooking skills, he added.
Erwin said current US Foods delivery customers will be able to purchase items at the store through their account. The company's distribution centers deliver the same products to individual restaurants as they do to the store.
At a glance
US Foods' Chef'store