Save Money by Shopping at Restaurant Supply Stores

A father grocery shops with his daughter.
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Ever shopped at restaurant supply stores?

Food and supply prices keep rising. And we’re heading into the season of parties and gatherings — graduations, the Fourth of July, picnics and vacations.

Even if you aren’t entertaining, it’s always a good time to look for deals.

So we did the math, comparing grocery store prices to warehouse prices to restaurant supply store prices, to see if you can save, and if so, how much, for that party or feast you want to throw. (Or to just chip away at that grocery bill.)

In the end, shoppers stand to save at restaurant supply stores.

What Are Restaurant Supply Stores? 

Restaurant supply stores exist to, you guessed it, supply restaurants. In addition to food items in higher quantities at lower prices, restaurateurs can find inexpensive yet durable kitchen supplies at restaurant supply stores, like mixing bowls, cooking sheets and utensils. You can also find food service items like napkins, plates and cups.

However, they’re not just for restaurant owners. Savvy shoppers have used brick and mortar restaurant supply stores to buy equipment for their kitchens for years.

The pandemic drastically impacted the restaurant industry, with more than 110,000 restaurants initially closing in 2020. Restaurant supply stores needed to pivot to stay in business. This means that more opened their doors to the general public.

Here is a list of both storefront and online restaurant supply stores (with grocery items) around the country:

Chef’s Store

Food Service Direct 

Food Service Warehouse

Gordon’s Food Service online store and Gordon’s Food Service brick and mortar stores

Green Mountain Food Service

URM Foodservice


What’s Different at Restaurant Supply Stores?

Here’s a look at what’s different at restaurant supply stores, other than price.

Package Sizing 

Package sizing is an important factor to keep in mind if you want to explore these stores for your regular shopping. Many times restaurant supply stores sell in bulk. Do you have enough storage space? Will you get bored with eating five pounds of chopped lettuce? If the food spoils, you haven’t saved any money in the end.

Portion Sizes

Another factor is comparing prices is individual portion sizes. For example, we looked at the price of salmon burgers. At the grocery store, each individual burger is 3 oz., while individual patties are 4 oz. at the restaurant supply and warehouse stores.

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The last thing to think about is the range of selection. A grocery store might have several versions of the same type of food (looking at you, frozen pizza aisle). The other stores probably will have a smaller range of choices.

Online vs. Brick and Mortar Restaurant Supply Stores

While no shipping cost applies to in-person shopping, online stores may offer free shipping over a certain amount (anywhere from $150 to $750), or on your first order.

And shipping fees don’t necessarily cancel out savings. A case (144 count) of spinach flavored, gluten free wraps, sells for $34 at Webstaurant, and ships for $18.49. That works out to $.36 per wrap, far below the grocery store cost of $1.10 per wrap.

Online restaurant supply stores don’t stock some items you might need, or in a way you might use them. We didn’t find any fresh greens online, nor could we find cans of soda.

Is a Paid Membership Worth It?

In some cases, online restaurant supply stores charge a membership fee. For instance, Webstaurant has a Plus membership for $99 a month, which includes free shipping and prioritizing orders. Clearly it is geared toward businesses. Most of the other online restaurant supply stores encourage you to create accounts, but there aren’t membership charges.

Warehouse stores, however, do have membership fees. Costco starts at $60. Sam’s Club starts at $50. BJ’s is $55. Depending on how often you shop and how much you need, memberships can be worth it.

Let’s Compare Prices

Say we’re throwing a summer shindig with beef burgers and buns, potato chips and plates.

Here’s how grocery stores, warehouse stores and restaurant supply stores stacked up against one another.

Grocery Store vs. Warehouse Store vs. Restaurant Supply Store 

Comparison Shopping

Type of store Beef burgers Buns Potato chips Plates

Grocery store

$11.41 for 16 ounces

$2.65 for 13 ounces

$2.90 for 8 ounces

$6 for 100

Price per ounce or unit

$.71 per ounce

$.20 per ounce

$.36 per ounce

$.06 each

Restaurant supply store

$18 for 80 ounces

$2.49 for 15 ounces

$5.49 for 20 ounces

$5.49 for 100

Price per ounce or unit

$0.23 per ounce

$0.17 per ounce

$0.27 per ounce

$.05 each

Warehouse store

$19 for 48 ounces

$3.58 for 28 ounces

$3.28 for 16 ounces

$25.98 for 600

Price per ounce or unit

$0.40 per ounce

$0.13 an ounce

$0.21 per ounce

$.04 each

Online restaurant supply store

$51.49 for 160 ounces

$49 for 209.6 ounces

$46.95 for 128 ounces

$33.95 for 1,000

Price per ounce or unit

$0.32 per ounce

$0.23 per ounce

$0.37 per ounce

$0.03 each

Shipping cost





Our Conclusion 

The warehouse clubs gave the best deals for our imaginary party items, but that doesn’t include the cost of membership. Grocery stores had better than expected prices on the plates.

But overall, the cheapest way to throw your party, and if you have room to store things, is by shopping at your local restaurant supply store.

Happy shopping!

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.