Let me tell you upfront that I own an Independent Distribution Route. There are several to choose from. Just to name a few there is FedEx, Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, Mission, Little Debbie. As you can see many independent vendor routes are in the food industry. If you are looking to purchase a route in the food industry let me give you an overview of how it works. Your route will cover a certain geographical area. You are responsible for maintaining the accounts(stores, restaurants, ect.) in your specific area. How well you maintain these accounts will help determine your income. All the routes that I am aware of are maintained using a handheld computer. This computer helps manage inventory, create invoices and sales reports for your route. The product for your route will be brought to a warehouse where you will pick it up. For the most part, you can use any vehicle that works for your route. You are responsible for the vehicle so you can use a box truck, van, truck etc. You are essentially buying the product from one company, say Pepperidge Farm and then reselling it to a grocery store like Safeway. You bring the product in and check-in with the "receiver" who is an employee at the store who is responsible for verifying what the vendors bring into the store and what they take out such as stale products. You are also responsible for putting the product on the shelves and keeping the shelves full. Typically the stores will require you to come in a certain amount of times per week. Most are going to want you to come in everyday and either deliver or "face up". Facing up means you are not delivering but instead pulling product forward on your shelves and making your section look clean and full. Some stores will allow you to leave back stock in their backroom that you can use to fill up your shelves when you face up. So Lets get into the overall pro's and con's of owning a route in the food industry.
- You have some control over your income. This will depend on your ability to maintain current accounts and getting additional displays in your stores.
- Potential for additional accounts which equals more income. Perhaps a new grocery store is built in your area. You may be able to buy an additional account from a fellow vendor.
- Sell for more. It is not uncommon for a vendor to buy a route and either a new account was created or the vendor manages the route more efficiently and improves the sales numbers. The vendor is then able to turn around and sell the route for more than they bought it for.
- The company that created the route has power over the route. The contract you sign when buying a route outlines all the ways they have power over the route. Read these carefully.
- You don't have a boss but you really do, several actually. Again the company that created the route has power over it and this usually includes their right to take the route from you if they feel you are not maintaining it to a certain standard. Also the store manager's can remove your products from the store if they feel you are not maintaining it to their standards.
- No days off. The expectations more often than not is for you to visit each account every day. They typically want you to come in and check your area everyday. If you want time off you need to train and hire someone to deliver or face up for you.
I hope this overview helps give you some insight into independent distributor routes. If you are looking to purchase a route or just gathering information, know that routes can range greatly. If you're looking to purchase the best advice would be to review all the contracts carefully and go with the seller on more than one occasion. This will help you get a feel for the route and if it would be a good fit. Happy selling!