How Customer Service Made Sysco the Global Leader in Food Services


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Sysco is revolutionizing the way restaurants do business in Savannah & the coastal South

In the restaurant industry, Sysco dominates the food supply market. They provide the tomatoes that make the sauce at your favorite Italian restaurant down the street and probably the salt, pepper, sugar and eco-friendly drinking straws as well. The name “Sysco” might jog a faint memory of a passing silver semi-truck emblazoned with their red and blue logo on the highway, but that is probably the extent of the mental space Sysco occupies in most people’s minds

For as little as we think about Sysco, the ubiquituty ​of their reach in the food service industry is unprecedented. What started as a small Texas conglomerate of a few food distributors grew into a behemoth that now holds a share of the U.S. market more than double that of its closest competitor.

Behind that corporate façade, though, there are people. Lots of people. They employ tens of thousands of marketing associates, serving hundreds of thousands of clients around the world. It’s their biggest strength, and Jon Holaday wants you to know who they are.

Holaday is the new district sales manager for Savannah. He lives on Talahi Island with his wife and twin babies. They recently jumped at the chance to move from Washington, D.C. to be closer to family, escape the snow and spend their days off fishing on a marsh-side dock. “Because Sysco is such a large organization, it’s difficult to imagine that we are locals. We are more than just the silver truck. We are constantly striving to exceed our clients’ expectations, but we are their clientele as well. We eat in their restaurants just like anyone else,” Holaday said.

Exceeding their clients’ expectations takes some uncommon forms for Holaday and his team. When a recent prospect was feeling overwhelmed with cleaning the restaurant kitchen, Holaday and his team showed up one night with mops and buckets, and spent hours working with the staff to help get the place spotless. The prospect is now a client, of course.

“My team members have families and obligations outside of work, but they put that aside to come together and support the community,” Holaday praised.

Sysco provides more than just dry goods and to-go boxes. One of the key services they offer to their restaurant clients is a business review. It’s a VIP visit to Sysco’s regional headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida where Holaday and his team prepare a full itinerary designed around each client’s specific needs, whatever they may be – testing new items, revamping a menu, understanding true costs of new products. Sysco’s executive chef puts on a show preparing anything the client wants to try. It takes a big commitment from clients in the cutthroat restaurant world where giving up a day means lost income, but for new or struggling restaurant owners, the business-side service Sysco provides can be invaluable.

They’re also responding to client requests for local foods through a new program, Sysco Fresh. “The hottest thing right now is anything and everything local,” Holaday said. In the territories around Jacksonville, that means fresh steaks from Brasstown Beef and fresh produce from Atlantic Beach Urban Farms. “That’s what matters in this neck of the woods. Our customers want the story behind the products.”

Big corporations like Sysco may evoke images of faceless suits discussing bottom lines in cavernous conference rooms, and thinking about those organizations it’s easy to forget the people doing the work day-to-day. But for as much as Sysco could be seen as just a truck on the highway, Jon Holaday is a reminder that there are human faces behind the façade who love that Italian restaurant down the street just as much as you, and also happen to know exactly where that special sauce came from - because they helped the chef create it. 

David Ringheisen, district sales manager of Savannah West; Brett Gardner, director of Sysco Fresh; Jon Holaday, district sales manager of downtown Savannah

Did you know?

As the global leader in food services, Sysco not only sells, markets and distributes food and non-food products, but the company also has a Culinary Salon for menu development, working with chefs to customize the direction, quality and focus of their customers’ menus. Sysco Jacksonville supports farmers by locally sourcing proteins, produce and other products to fit their customers’ needs. By delivering fresh ingredients, Sysco raises the bar for exceptional service.More information at sysco.com

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