Bulk Shop at Restaurant Depot and Save

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Is the annual membership fee at warehouse clubs holding you back from joining? Here is how you can shop where restaurants shop and buy groceries in bulk without paying for a membership with Restaurant Depot

Outside Restaurant Depot
Photo Credit: Good Money Sense

You are not imagining things if you think your shopping cart is looking less full than it once did if you’ve stuck to the same grocery budget over the last few years. Between 2021 and 2022, food prices increased by 11.42% on average. Shopping the weekly sales flyers and clipping coupons can only go far when everything is more expensive.

Families looking to save money on groceries have flocked to warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s. You can save a lot of money buying in bulk at warehouse clubs. This is especially true if you have a big family. Thanks to the influx of customers, Costco’s annual revenue has jumped from $166.7B in 2020 to a record $242.3B in 2023.

Except for BJ’s, which offers a free BJ’s One Day Pass, you have to purchase an annual membership for access to the warehouse club deals. Not everyone will want to or can justify plunking down as much as $60 for a membership.

An alternative to warehouse clubs is shopping in bulk at wholesale restaurant supply stores. These stores mainly cater to restaurants, cafeterias, bars, and food service businesses with slim margins.

One such store, Restaurant Depot, opened its doors to the public during the pandemic when all the restaurants were closed. All you need is a free single-day pass to access all the foods and kitchen equipment previously available only to restaurants.

Here is everything you need to know about shopping at Restaurant Depot as a nonmember.

Getting Your Pass at Restaurant Depot

Restaurant Depot Membership Card
Photo Credit: Good Money Sense

To be able to shop at Restaurant Depot, you need to be a member or get a guest pass.

Unlike other membership warehouse clubs, membership at Restaurant Depot is free if you own a business. Your business does not even need to be food or sales related. I was able to get two membership cards printed up in five minutes for my online business by showing a copy of my business license from the Secretary of State’s website.

To get your free membership, go to the front desk at the entrance and tell them you want to sign up for a membership. You will be provided with some forms to complete. To speed up the process, visit Restaurant Depot’s website and sign up for a membership first. You will receive an email with your new account number that you will provide to the attendant when you arrive at the warehouse.

Restaurant Depot states you will need to provide your business license and/or the IRS letter also known as the CP 575 notice with your federal tax ID to get your permanent membership card. Unless you are in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, the business license is sufficient.

If you do not own a business, you can get a one-day guest pass each time you shop at Restaurant Depot by visiting the front desk. You will be asked to sign in and provide some details from your driver’s license. The attendant will print out a one-time-use card to use at the checkout when you are done shopping.

Shopping at Restaurant Depot

Restaurant Depot Meat Section
Photo Credit: Good Money Sense

Once you are ready to start shopping in bulk, head back outside to grab a utility cart. You will not find even the oversized shopping carts from Costco and Sam’s Club available at Restaurant Depot due to the sheer size of the product packaging.

Expect to find rice in 50 or 100-pound bags, flour in 25 or 50-pound sacks, mayo by the gallon or 4-gallon tub, 18-pound slabs of beef ribeye, and honey in 5-pound jugs. For even better pricing, you can also buy items by the case.

You can usually find products in a selection of different brands. From well-known national brands to private label ones unique to Restaurant Depot similar to Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Like grocery stores and membership warehouse clubs, you can take advantage of the monthly sales by checking out the Restaurant Depot monthly flyer for rock-bottom pricing on already discounted bulk pricing.

For instance, if you are making a cheesecake, you can pick up a 3-pound box of Philadelphia cream cheese on sale now for $11.50. Or you can get 3 pounds of the James Farm private label version for $6.99 on sale. The same amount of Philadelphia cream cheese at Walmart will set you back $15 or $8.58 for the Walmart Great Value brand.

Looking for shrimp? Walmart charges almost $13 for 2 pounds of 31/40 raw, peeled shrimp. You can pick up 2 pounds from Restaurant Depot for $8.79.

The best way to comparison shop between your local grocery store, warehouse club, and Restaurant Depot is to use your member number and register a free account on the Restaurant Depot website. It takes only seconds. From there, you can browse the inventory and look up prices at your local store, or place an order for pickup or delivery.

For non-members, shopping the monthly flyer is the easiest way to comparison shop unless it’s convenient to simply stop in.

Pros of Shopping at Restaurant Supply Stores

Everything you need in the kitchen, Restaurant Depot likely sells it. You can find dry goods, fresh and frozen meats, fruits and vegetables, dairy, condiments, beverages, desserts, seafood, and more at bargain prices.

Since the restaurant business has slim margins, restaurant owners look for the best deals to turn a profit. If you have the space available, you can take advantage of the bulk deals and pay less than you normally would at the grocery store.

Besides food and groceries, you can find other things commonly used in restaurants such as paper products, cleaning supplies, paper plates and cups, aluminum trays, plastic wrap, aluminum foil and pans, and cutlery to restaurant-grade kitchen gadgets and appliances. If you are looking for heavy-duty kitchenware and products that will last, you will want to shop where restaurants shop, which is Restaurant Depot’s tagline.

The discount pricing may be the main reason that draws you to a restaurant supply store. But the additional benefit of buying in bulk means one less item you need to worry about running out on for a while. This will save you time from making an emergency trip to the store. Having plenty of a product available also means you can take your time to shop and wait for the sales for even greater savings.

Cons of Shopping at Restaurant Supply Stores

Restaurant Depot Aisle
Photo Credit: Good Money Sense

Unlike shopping at stores that cater to the general public, restaurant supply stores mainly target business owners.

Don’t expect employees to be as eager to help you find something like at Trader Joe’s. They are often busy moving around stock and restocking shelves. You will need to watch out for and get out of the way of the forklift reach trucks. Warehouse clubs may have an extra person to block off an aisle, but you are on your own at a restaurant supply store.

The product presentation may not be as attractive as a grocery store. Expect to find rows and rows of pallet racks like at the warehouse clubs. Restaurant Depot did have signs listing what product was in each aisle to help business owners find what they need and get out faster unlike at Costco, where they want you to wander down every aisle and pick up an impulse buy or two.

If you thought going into the walk-in dairy or produce freezer at Costco was bad, you will want to bring a jacket when shopping at Restaurant Depot if you hate the cold. The dairy, meat, and produce sections are in one giant refrigerated area in the back of the warehouse.

You may find smaller-sized portions and containers at restaurant supply stores but expect to get the most savings buying in bulk. Sometimes the prices are not better than what you would find at a warehouse club or even the grocery store. I have seen cans of Coca-Cola at my local grocery store sell for almost 45% cheaper than Restaurant Depot when on sale.

Read more: What items you should and should never buy in bulk

The enormity of some product’s packaging means you may not finish an item before it expires or spoils. Unless you have a large family, planning a party or big get-together, or have the space to store or freeze an item, it may not make sense to shop at Restaurant Depot. But for some products, like 2,000-foot boxes of restaurant-quality plastic wrap mean you will not have to worry about picking up more for a very long time.

Closing $ense

Whether it makes sense to shop at a wholesale restaurant supply store like Restaurant Depot depends on your situation.

If you are able to take advantage of the bulk deals, you can also save money by not having to pay for a membership at a Costco or Sam’s Club. That $60 for a membership can purchase a lot of food for your household or fill up your car’s gas tank twice.

Read more: How to get a discount on the membership to Sam’s Club

Restaurant Depot has been supplying food service businesses since 1990 and is one largest restaurant wholesalers with 155 stores around the country. You can enter your zip to find a location near you in one of the 33 states they serve.

If there is not a Restaurant Depot nearby, you can search on Google Maps for local restaurant wholesalers and supply stores. You will likely find many are open to the public and will not even require a membership or owning a business to shop there.

Read more: How to avoid paying full price for a Costco membership

Have you shopped at Restaurant Depot or similar restaurant supply stores? What was your experience? Were the deals worth it?

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