TriMark: The Foodservice Equipment Distribution Giant

In a growing, but fragment foodservice equipment distribution space, TriMark has managed to become the largest consolidator by providing better value to customers through a superior operating model vs. peers.

TriMark is the largest foodservice equipment and supplies distributor in North America. The company is headquartered in South Attleboro, MA, and provides virtually all non-food products used by restaurants and other foodservice operators. With ~$1.1bn in sales,  TriMark commands  ~10% share of a highly fragmented $10bn market. TriMark is highly effective at driving alignment between its operating and business models because it is uniquely positioned to leverage its scale and distribution offerings/capabilities, delivering cost savings and operational value to its growing customer base.

Business Model

TriMark’s offering includes a broad set of equipment and supplies, as well as a suite of value-added services that includes kitchen design, project management, installation and repair. The company stocks more than 8,000 different SKUs in its distribution centers and can deliver almost any foodservice product imaginable. Below is an overview of the types of products that TriMark offers.

Products

TriMark serves a critical role in the foodservice and equipment industry. The company partners with customers over the full lifecycle of its operations, offering planning and design expertise, sourcing and installment of equipment, and replenishment of supplies on a recurring basis. Most importantly, the company helps manage its customers’ requirements, including on-time equipment and supply deliveries. TriMark is indispensable to customers from the design and installation of equipment to the monitoring of supply levels. Additionally, the company provides suppliers with the critical customer access necessary to sell and market their products. For these reasons, TriMark cannot be disintermediated in this industry.

Operating Model

TriMark has been an effective acquisition platform, but has simultaneously maintained the integrity of each of it’s subsidiaries. This decentralized approach emphasizes the importance of local market knowledge, effectively helping the company act as a regional distributor. However, the company’s dominating market share and national presence enhances its purchasing power and distribution capabilities, providing important competitive differentiation.

Customers

TriMark serves a highly diversified customer base, including chain restaurants, independents, institutions, grocery stores, government entities, and internet buyers. Customers include California Pizza Kitchen, The Pasta House, Washington State University, Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack and Zaxby’s

Suppliers

As the largest distributor in the North America, TriMark is also a top vendor partner for most of the leading kitchen equipment manufacturers and suppliers. TriMark has developed long-lasting relationships with its suppliers and has preferred agreements with all of the top manufacturers in the business. TriMark leverages this unique relationship with suppliers to achieve a superior cost position. Furthermore, TriMark is part of several buying groups including NexGen and ABC. These memberships entitle the company to significant purchasing advantages resulting in meaningful rebates and discounts, translating to further cost savings for its customers.

Distribution Network

TriMark’s footprint is vastly superior to its competitors. Its geographic breadth allows the company to provide time-sensitive deliveries faster and cheaper. In this industry, freight costs are passed onto the customer. Therefore, the proximity of distribution centers is not trivial for customers.

Additionally, TriMark holds an extensive inventory to service its customers consistently on-time. While beneficial to the customer, holding such a large amount of inventory reduces TriMark’s cash flows and subjects the company to some risk of obsolescence.

Summary

TriMark has significantly expanded its distribution footprint, product and service offerings and customer base through organic growth and acquisitions (most recently acquiring Strategic Equipment & Supply Corporation in Florida, further enhancing its operations and distribution footprint in the Southeast). Due to its scale, the company enjoys significant purchasing and distribution advantages. Furthermore, the scale and customer access has made TriMark a critical partner to manufacturers. As a result, TriMark has become the largest national player in the industry.

Sources

  1. http://www.trimarkusa.com
  2. http://www.fesmag.com/research/distribution-giants/12504-2015-distribution-giants
  3. Foodservice Equipment Reports 2012
  4. Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry

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3 thoughts on “TriMark: The Foodservice Equipment Distribution Giant

  1. I’m curious how Trimark is shifting its operating model to align more with a business model in pursuit of consumables sales? These are more recurring in nature and therefore more attractive to them long term. Further, Trimark is competitively advantaged due to its scale relative to smaller parts and equipment distributors but not necessarily vis-a-viy food service providers. It will be interesting to see how Trimark continues to differentiate themselves vs. this group over the long term as the two worlds converge over time.

    1. Hey Matt – thanks for the comment. You bring up a great point about the consumables (formally referred to as “smallwares” in the industry). Ideally, foodservice equipment distributors, want to have a solid mix of smallwares and equipment installation. While smallwares are highly recurring in nature (and of course attractive to financial sponsors), margins tend to be lower. Additionally, they are working capital burdens as the distributors must hold all the SKUs in stock. Contract design, installation and replacement of equipment is higher margin, larger ticket, and almost always followed by recurring smallware sales. However, these sales are heavily vulnerable to downturns.

      I’m glad that you brought up the foodservice providers (i.e. Sysco, US Foods, and Performance Food Group) as potential competitors. Interestingly, they have not posed a threat to foodservice equipment distributors. Food and non-food products are fairly different in product nature and delivery frequency. Furthermore, TriMark works directly with customers to help them monitor supply levels and manage their orders, a value-added service that is pretty important. That is not to say that there isn’t some overlap (i.e. plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc.), but for the most part, they do not compete with each other. I also think that the large foodservice distributors are interested in expanding into higher margin business lines vs. smallwares.

  2. I would be interested to understand more about the value-added services that TriMark offers, such as the monitoring of supply levels that you mentioned. What form would this type of tool take and what level of integration is required?

    It would also be interesting to know more about their customer strategy. Have they partnered with all of the big hotel chains? Do they sell to retail customers at all?

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