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Relationship Advice: Your Food Purveyors

Relationship Advice: Your Food Purveyors

by David Klemt

An AI-generated image of a restaurant receiving their food delivery through the front

“When visiting City, stop by Food Comipany for a food.”

Operators are facing challenges when it comes to their food purveyors, and as Chef Brian Duffy says, the issues don’t all boil down to rising costs.

By now, Chef Duffy needs no introduction. However, he contributes so much to the hospitality industry that I’m going to boast a bit on his behalf.

As the founder and principal of Duffified Experience Group, Chef Duffy has opened more than 100 restaurants. In fact, I believe he passed the 110-restaurant mark this year during the National Restaurant Association show.

Speaking of that show, he has presented multiple sessions at industry events over the past several years. Further, Chef Duffy leads the F&B Innovation Center at the annual Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas.

On the topic of presentations and education, he recently spoke at the inaugural Flyover Conference. You can check out more of our coverage of this brand-new show here and here.

This is all, of course, to say nothing of his television appearances.

Now, if you’re a regular consumer of KRG Hospitality articles, you know I love a Chef Duffy live menu read. I firmly believe that the asides he throws out while addressing even a single menu offer more value than most dedicated menu webinars or menu-engineering conference sessions.

Chef Duffy’s Flyover session, however, represented a departure from his menu reads. Due in part to the frustration he, operators, and kitchen teams across North America are facing in terms of inventory, Chef Duffy addressed the relationship between operators and their food purveyors.

Repairing a Toxic Relationship

Allow me a couple caveats before we jump in. If you’re happy with your food purveyors, awesome. Should you truly feel you’re getting the most out of the relationships with your food supplier partners, not all of this advice is for you. Additionally, Chef Duffy’s Flyover session wasn’t an attack on national food suppliers. At risk of speaking for him, it appears his issues have arisen from specific reps, not the major companies themselves.

That said, I have a suspicion that if you really sit down and review your supplier relationshipsencouraging feedback from your leadership and kitchen teamsyou’ll find that things could be better.

Chef Duffy reviews a lot of menus. Whether reviewing one for a client or performing a live reads, he’s seen some things. And one of those things is that it appears national food purveyors have been handed too much control.

This is unfortunate, because this relationship should be a partnership, not a dictatorship. Further, if every operator is buying the same ingredients, it makes sense that most menus will be similar.

“If we’re all being sold the same products, we’re being told what to put on our menus,” said Chef Duffy at Flyover. “And we’re all doing the same thing.”

So, how do we turn this situation around? We stop being dependent or co-dependent, and we start developing reciprocal relationships.

Your food purveyor reps need to come into your restaurant on your schedule. Too many operators are only seeing reps when something has gone wrong with an order.

In other words, if your rep expects to earn your business, they need to meet your expectations: that they’ll actually work with you in a mutually beneficial way.

Let the Healing Begin

Okay, I’m being a bit cheeky with this topic. That doesn’t mean I’m not serious about helping operators improve their relationships with their food purveyors.

To that end, here’s how Chef Duffy works with his reps. He has a rep who comes into one of his venues every Tuesday from 2 to 2:30 pm. This arrangement is, again, mutually beneficial: the rep comes in at noon for lunch, completes his other work, then meets with Duffy at the arranged time.

During the scheduled weekly meeting, Chef Duffy tells this rep what he’s thinking of doing that week. He asks what the rep can do for him, then asks what the rep what he needs to sell. It’s important that you make your rep work for you, but also that you talk to them and see where you can be helpful.

Of course, you’d think this would be the approach every rep prefers. Well, in Chef Duffy’s experience, this just isn’t the case.

Recently, he asked a different rep from a different food purveyor to find him a specific product. Put simply, Chef Duffy didn’t want the products this rep was trying to unload on him. This was apparently too much work because this rep has gone radio silent ever since. Because of this, this food supplier no longer has this account.

Had the rep been interested in an actual professional relationship rather than just focusing on what he “needed” to sell, he’d still be servicing the restaurant.

Be the Change

If that anecdote feels familiar, it’s time to find new partners. Luckily, Chef Duffy has a suggestion you can use today.

Look at the smaller, regional purveyors who service your market. See what they can offer you, and compare their prices to those of your current, national suppliers.

You’ll likely find an impressive portfolio with appealing pricing. Moreover, these smaller companies want to land new accounts and work with you.

Remember, it’s your restaurant. You brought your concept into the real world. You’ve done the work to build your business, and it’s your menu.

Review your food purveyor relationship today, schedule time to sit down with your reps this week (or month), and develop the relationships your business needs.

Image generator: Microsoft Designer

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Chef Duffy x NRA Show: Live Menu Read

Chef Duffy x NRA Show: Live Menu Read

by David Klemt

Graffiti of crossed chef's knives underneath a baseball cap that reads, "D.E.G."

Chef Brian Duffy crushed it in Chicago at the 2024 National Restaurant Association Show.

We’re sharing tips from Chef Brian Duffy‘s live menu reads at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.

These informative sessions are always standouts at industry trade shows and conferences. Both the operator who submits their menu anonymously and the audience gain valuable insight into menu programming and development.

In ten minutes or less, the Chef Duffy shares wisdom that’ll boost guest engagement; streamline and energize the kitchen; and help save on labor and food costs. And he won’t even Bar Rescue anyone who submits a menu. That is to say, no, he doesn’t yell at anyone while giving them tips for fixing their menu.

As Chef Duffy pointed out during his latest live menu reads, an operator’s menu has the potential to create generational wealth. However, it must be programmed properly for it to reach that potential.

So, ask yourself a question right now about your menu: Would you be proud for your menu, in its current state, to be plastered across a billboard? If not, I have another question for you: Why aren’t you taking the time to rectify that situation?

Your menu is your concept’s billboard. Treat it as such.

Oh, and one note for the NRA Show before we dive in: These sessions deserve at least two hours. One hour just isn’t enough given how impactful Chef Duffy’s live menu reads are for operators.

Menu Programming 101

There’s a logical reason why Chef Duffy is never short on menus to review. In fact, he addressed the situation directly at the 2024 NRA Show.

“Everybody has the same shit on their menu,” he stated frankly.

One explanation for why menus seem so similar makes a lot of sense.

“We’ve been told what to put on our menu buy our purveyors,” said Chef Duffy during his live menu read.

For the most part, operators are given the same product catalogs. These are circulated nationally, not regionally. So, everyone is ordering the same items. Clearly, Chef Duffy is fed up with this situation.

“We’re not here to do the same things that everyone else is,” declared Chef Duffy. “I don’t want to see that anymore.”

Menu #1: Sports Bar

This first menu featured a vibrant design that instilled a sense of patriotism. Chef Duffy theorized that he’d feel good spending time in this space, based on the menu’s appearance.

However, he wasn’t a fan of the layout of the menu. Taking up valuable real estate was a large catering ad, placed directly in the center.

In the top left were salads. “‘Add chicken to any salad,'” read Chef Duffy. “No shit. Why are we stopping at chicken? We can add anything to a salad.”

Based on his knowledge of food costs and the menu’s pricing, Chef Duffy deduced that the operator’s food costs were too high. In fact, he estimated that food costs were more than 31 percent. The burgers, he surmised, were running a 35-percent cost.

By the way, Chef Duffy always puts two slices of cheese on his burgers to fill the top out more. This delivers a more visually appealing experience, and a better bite.

On the topic of pricing, operators must maintain balance. For example, this first menu priced the addition of two slices of bacon at $3.50, but a chicken breast was six dollars. Two Chicago hotdogs cost more than a burger.

Menu #2: Breakfast Spot

Unfortunately, the operator committed one of Chef Duffy’s deadliest menu sins. There was a photo of the restaurant’s steak and eggs.

Worse, the image showed a rather large steak paired with a commodity egg. If this dish doesn’t leave the kitchen looking exactly like the picture, guests are going to be underwhelmed and unimpressed. Further, why are operators still trying to save money by buying commodity eggs?

However, there was a second deadly menu sin committed by the operator. Given the overall perception this menu delivered, the claim that at least one dish featured “wild-caught crab” didn’t ring true to Chef Duffy.

I’m confident in saying that I think lying on a menu may provoke Chef Duffy’s wrath more than a photo.

“If you lie to me on your menu, I will tear you apart,” he stated quite strongly.

That said, he did like the menu’s design (minus the photos). Even better, he recognized that there were several inventive spins on breakfast classics. Remember, “We’re not here to do the same things that everyone else is.”

Menu #3: Sports Bar

To be honest, I was expecting this type of menu. In fact, I thought it would be the first menu design encountered during this session.

Essentially, it was a collection of what everyone else has on their menus.

As an example, there were wings on the menu, and the sauces were anything but creative. Chef Duffy didn’t address it but they were also listed without commas, so they appeared to be one long, run-on sentence of a sauce.

The most glaring issues, however, were the pasta and the dessert. Both sections contained just a single item. That’s rightthere was an entire section dedicated to one pasta dish. Moreover, it’s not like there were a number of modifiers one could select to personalize their pasta.

This was the item description underneath the dessert section (designated as “Closers”): “Dessert of the week – $8 Please ask your server for details.” There’s a significant issue with that description and placement, as identified by Chef Duffy.

If a menu includes desserts, the guest is likely going to forget about them after they’ve ordered their starter and entree. It’s far more effective to have a dessert tray or cart and train your servers to suggest dessert when they touch the table toward the end of the meal.


Chef Duffy throws in more tips during a single menu read than most people would expect.

Below are some of the takeaways that make his live menu reads so insightful:

  • Only list name brands if they come from a local farm. This approach shows that an operator cares about supporting local producers and is part of the community.
  • Use the best ingredients for the specific concept.
  • If a restaurant features housemade buns for burgers and/or bread for sandwiches, they should offer a version as an appetizer. Really make this idea shine by also offering housemade specialty butters.
  • Operators that have chips on their menus should use the crumbles and “dust” to make breading for other items. After all, the chips have been paid for alreadyuse all of them.
  • It’s better and more impactful to have 25 items on a menu that are executed perfectly than 50 items that are executed poorly.
  • Chef Duffy doesn’t agree with omitting prices from menus. “Why? Are we negotiating? Are we negotiating before I place my order?”

Connect with Chef Duffy on Instagram, and learn more about him on the Duffified Experience Group website.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

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BBQ Brawl: ‘Cue Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

BBQ Brawl: ‘Cue Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

by David Klemt

Chef Brian Duffy biting into a sandwich

Friend of the Bar Hacks podcast and KRG Hospitality Chef Brian Duffy is rocking it on season four of Food Network‘s BBQ Brawl.

And he’s dropping barbecue and cooking jewels while killing it on multiple styles of grill.

When we meet Chef Duffy on episode one of BBQ Brawl, he’s introduced as “The Renowned Restaurateur.” This makes sense given the fact that he has helped open more than 100 restaurants throughout his career.

Regarding grilling and barbecuing, Chef Duffy will use elements of whatever style he thinks will work best for a given situation. As he explains it, his barbecue “isn’t bound by the rules of any one style.”


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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)

I also want to point out that there’s what appears to be a 1950s-era Dodge Power Wagon, perhaps a Series 1 or Series 2 model, on Star Hill Farm, where this show was filmed. This isn’t relevant in any way to cooking, grilling, or barbecue. I’m just a Car and Motorcyle Guy® and I noticed the Power Wagon immediately.

Also, be sure to check out episode 33 and episode 53 of the Bar Hacks podcast to hear from the chef himself.

Alright, let’s check out some tips and tricks from Chef Duffy that he has shared on season four of BBQ Brawl. Like he said to the camera in the first moments of episode one, “Students, meet your pit master.”

Episode 1

If you want your food to be charred, you need to commit.

“You’ve gotta let it sit. Don’t move it,” says Chef Duffy. “Let that char happen.”

It’s just that simple. Patience is a cooking technique.


Signature Tacos

  • Mulita, a Mexican street taco made by dipping a tortilla in birria broth.
  • Togorashi- and ancho-chili-smoked red Snapper taco with “a fun little slaw.”


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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)

Team Challenge: “California Smoke” menu (Fire delivery: Santa Maria grill)

  • Cabbage, kale, Swiss chard medley with beans
  • Scallops and smoked crab salad with preserved lemon gremolata and avocado (collaboration with Chef Larissa Da Costa; Chef Duffy prepared the smoked crab salad)

Episode 2

One interesting bit of Chef Duffy trivia is that he has knife skills that rival John Wick’s. I’m confident in saying that they could’ve raided Chef Duffy’s impressive carbon steel knife collection to film the melee scene in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.

Now, he does nick himself during the advantage challenge in this episode. The nick requires Chef Duffy to double-glove up. However, this is a fluke. Check out his knife skills below:


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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)


Elimination Challenge:”Due West” menu (Fire delivery: Santa Maria grill. Direct-contact coal roasting)

  • Cast iron skillet-cooked mushroom gravy (portobello, maitake, shiitake, rosemary, garlic, butter) for Pitmaster Robert Smith’s quail.
  • Hot coal-roasted butternut squash topped with crispy, grilled pork belly

Episode 3

While Chef Duffy is no stranger to the pitmastery of fish, he’s always done so in a controlled environment.

Well, this competition show is much more chaotic than a standard restaurant kitchen. Of course, chaos doesn’t cramp Chef Duffy’s style too much.

In preparing his salt-crusted branzino in episode three, he chars lemons and limes, then squeezes them over the fish and creates a mixture with egg whites. After salting, Chef Duffy once again shows that patience is a key element of technique: he leaves the stuffed and salted branzinos to rest.

Chef Duffy also puts another of his specialties on full display in this episode: fried rice. Anyone who has seen Chef Duffy do a fried rice demo knows how good his preparations are.

During this episode, he prepares fried rice in a wok on a Santa Maria grill. For this element of his dish he chooses basmati, in part for its fragrance. Along with carrots and green beans, Chef Duffy’s BBQ Brawl fried rice includes onion, garlic, and bacon. He then hits it with ponzu and soy sauces.

You may think the bacon is the star of this fried rice, but that isn’t the case. The real standout is freshly prepared salt-cured eggs. For this element of the dish, Chef Duff places yolks directly onto a bed of salt.

“What that does is it pulls the moisture out of that yolk,” explains Chef Duffy, “so that you have a little bit more of a firm yolk.”

To complete the salt-cured egg preparation, the salt is rinsed off just before serving the rice.


Elimination Challenge: “Sea-Food and Eat It” menu (Fire delivery: Santa Maria grill, smoker)

  • Bacon and basmati fried rice with salmon, topped with salt-cured egg
  • Smoked, salt-crusted branzino

Episode 4

Chef Duffy hates crispy bacon. The reasoning behind this hatred is simple: flavor.

If bacon is cooked too crisply—or more accurately, burnt—it won’t impart much, if any, flavor. You may get ash flavor but you really won’t get bacon.

When stunned team leader Chef Sunny Anderson questions Chef Duffy about his opinion of crispy bacon, he explains his position succinctly: “Because it’s useless.”

It’s fair to say he’d rather switch teams than allow someone to prepare crispy bacon for any of his dishes.

“I want you to know I like your fire,” responds Chef Anderson. “But crispy bacon is life, okay?”


Signature Chicken Wings (Fire delivery: Cast aluminum kamado grill)

  • Butter poached fried and grilled wings with habanero, Aleppo, and ghost peppers

Elimination Challenge: “Hometown Heat” menu (Fire delivery: Smoker, cast aluminum kamado grill, cast iron skillet, Big Green Egg)

  • Manzano and Fresno peppers stuffed with spicy pork sausage
  • Irish soda bread stuffed with caramelized onion and bacon, topped with citrus-cream cheese glaze (prepared in collaboration with Chef Anderson)

Episode 5

To enhance the experience of a mac and cheese made with creamy béchamel sauce, try this tip from Chef Duffy. Instead of using only all-purpose flour, also use cassava flour.

Doing so will add some impressive stretchiness to the sauce, and the proof will be in the cheese pull. Also, cassava flour delivers a silky texture a traditional roux just can’t match.


Elimination Challenge: “Brazilian BBQ Fusion Feast” menu (Smoker, charcoal grill, cast aluminum kamado grill, cast iron skillets)

  • Skillet mac and cheese made with cotija, smoked gouda, sharp Cheddar, and gruyère topped with farofa (prepared in a skillet on top of a grill)
  • Brazilian-spiced and smoked spatchcock citrus chicken

Episode 6

On this episode,the teams prepare whole suckling pig via live-fire cooking methods. Due to the ranking of the teams in episode five, Team Bobby chooses their method first, followed by Team Anne. Team Sunny doesn’t get to choose; they have to take whatever the other two teams don’t select.

Team Bobby selects the cinder block smoker, and Team Anne chooses the hand-crank rotisserie spit. Team Sunny has to cook via an incredibly rustic method: a bed of hot embers.

Chefs Duffy and Chuck Matto decide to wrap their suckling pig in banana leaves before then wrapping the entire animal in foil. As Chef Matto explains, banana leaf acts as an insulator. The pig is placed directly on the hot embers, additional stones are placed around it, more coals are added, and then the team adds a layer of burlap.

To ensure an even cook without any burning, Chef Duffy explains that they’ll check temperatures every 20 to 30 minutes, rotating the pig each time.

When cooking pig, Chef Duffy notes there are certain things to check to ensure it’s cooked fully. There’s temperature, of course, but he also shares this tip: note how easily the thermometer goes into the meat when checking temp.


Advantage Challenge: Banana Leaf Challenge (Fire delivery: Santa Maria grill)

  • Southern-inspired, Caribbean spiced and seasoned catfish (prepared with banana-leaf wrap)

Elimination Challenge: “Campfire Whole Hog” menu (Fire delivery: Bed of hot embers, Santa Maria grill, cast aluminum kamado grill)

  • Campfire whole hog with California/Kansas City barbecue sauces (in collaboration with Chef Matto), with special attention paid to honoring the animal’s head
  • Four-pork chili
  • Potato salad

Episode 7

Chef Duffy swings for the fences on this episode and decides to grill octopus. However, it takes hours to cook octopus properly and ensure it’s tender enough to eat.

Of course, Chef Duffy has a plan, and it includes using three cooking methods in a five-step process. First, he throws it on a charcoal grill to impart flavors. Next, he boils the octopus. After that, the octopus goes back to the grill. Then, Chef Duff sous vides the octopus at 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, the octopus goes back to the grill.

Or, to describe the process more simply, Chef Duffy goes grill, water, grill, sous-vide, grill.


Elimination Challenge:  (Fire delivery: Charcoal grill, Big Green Egg

  • Grilled octopus over a white bean and sweet corn purée
  • Grilled watermelon, feta, and pickled cucumber salad (cold-pickled cucumbers for acid and flavor)

Image: Chef Brian Duffy