New Chef's Deal Website Aims to Improve the Online Ordering Experience

By Tim O'Connor

As more millennials enter decision-making roles in foodservice, the demand for online equipment ordering has grown. Tennessee-based distributor Chef’s Deal has had an online store for about eight years, but the company recently hired several dedicated people to manage its online sales and rebuild the website to improve the buying experience, increase SEO effectiveness and implement Google AdWords. “They really started pushing time and money into our website. Honestly, that’s kind of where sales are going in this world,” Morgan Dake, Chef’s Deal department administrator, said.

In addition to making the buying process more user-friendly, Chef’s Deal changed its website to showcase the associations and culinary federations it belongs to, such as FEDA and the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. By making those changes, the company hopes to be seen not as a small business, but a full participant in the foodservice equipment industry.

Since updating its website, Chef’s Deal has seen online sales grow to represent about half of its overall business, with traditional cash-and-carry representing the other 50 percent. Today, customers can find nearly 100,000 items from more than 200 manufacturers on the Chef’s Deal website.

The physical part of the business remains important but Estimator Manager Nekom Dake speculated that online sales will dominate the majority of Chef’s Deal’s business within the next 20 years. Making that transition will help the company better contend with overseas competition. “The imports are driving prices down and making margins smaller,” Nekon said.

Founder Jasmin Levent started Chef’s Deal in 2004 and it has since grown into a 10-person business. Morgan said the company established itself in the Tennessee market through positive word-of-mouth and by outlasting its competitors. “Our competition goes under, closes their doors or goes online,” she explains. “Now we’re the largest stocking dealer in middle Tennessee.”

Virtually any piece of equipment a restaurant or hotelier needs for its foodservice business can be found at its facility in Nashville. The company even has a robust concessions business, selling to clients such as D & D Events, which manages the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. “We specialize in food trucks, concessions, all that stuff,” Morgan added.

With the new website, Chef’s Deal hopes to connect with new kinds of customers. At the same time, the company is simultaneously beginning to leverage its status as a woman-owned business. In 2017, Levent took over majority ownership of the company and this spring it became a certified woman-owned business by the Tennessee Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Enterprise.

The designation gives Chef’s Deal an advantage when bidding on state and county government projects. Morgan said Chef’s Deal hasn’t pursued much contract work in the past, but it will be a key part of the company’s strategy going forward. Chef’s Deal is already seeing a positive response. The company recently won a $2 million contract with the city of Atlanta to supply ice machines, refrigerators and laundry equipment for all of the city’s fire stations, an agreement that will provide a steady revenue source for the next three years.