Manning Brothers Food Service Equipment & Supply Co.

One stop-shop for commercial kitchen supplies and support
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

No matter the food service challenge or need, Manning Brothers Food Service Equipment & Supply Co. (Manning Brothers) has likely seen it, stocked it and solved it over the course of 67 years in operation. Based in Athens, Georgia, Manning Brothers is a one-stop shop for all culinary needs, supplying a wide range of kitchen apparel, cooking and holding equipment, restaurant furnishings, beverage and bar materials, cleaning products, refrigerated equipment, disposables and much more.

With a 27-person staff composed of former cooks, hospitality managers, equipment fabricators, as well as restaurant operators and owners, Manning Brothers deeply understands the food service industry and ways to craft innovative solutions for unique operations. The company works for all kinds of industry clients, ranging from hot dog stands to national chain hotel kitchens, school cafeterias and country clubs.

Manning Brothers has been serving a broad client base since the company came to life in 1947. “Manning Brothers was established by Dick and Roy Manning after the war in 1947, originally as a grocery, refrigeration and delivery service in eastern Georgia,” tells Chuck Day, now president of Manning Brothers. “In 1980, the founders actually passed away within a month of each other from massive heart attacks and Stewart Manning, Roy’s son, purchased the company.”

Building a broad food service customer base

Manning Brothers made a strategic move to the larger Athens market in June 1981, in an effort to expand its customer base. In 1988, Manning Brothers gained a significant cost and service advantage when the company was selected for membership in the Supply & Equipment Food Services Alliance (SEFA), a premier buying group and marketing organization.

This partnership allows Manning Brothers to leverage SEFA’s volume purchasing power across 67 food service equipment dealer members nationwide. SEFA selects proven product lines and negotiates manufacturers’ best prices and shipping, in turn passing the savings onto customers.

In January 2001, Manning Brothers relocated to its present location; a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility designed for bigger, better food service equipment and extensive supply. Chuck, who had formed a relationship with Stewart via a business partnership through the fabrication company he worked for, joined the company ranks in the late 2000s.

“I knew Stewart for many years prior to joining Manning Brothers,” tells Chuck. “When I went to work for a competitor in 1996 he didn’t want to see me go, because I was his fab guy. He offered me a job, but I knew at the time, it wasn’t the right fit.”

Chuck finally got the opportunity to purchase Manning Brothers in 2009. “I bought the company from Stewart five years ago and brought my design-build and fabrication background to the table,” he says.

Today, Manning Brothers runs a 10,000-square-foot showroom complete with some 50,000 square feet of warehousing space with $1 million-plus of inventory, allowing the company to respond quickly to customer demands.

Catering to any chef

Manning Brothers’ team is complete with seasoned sales staff and design professionals, flexible enough to assist customers with smallware orders to coordinate the complete design and fabrication of food service installations.

“We have a large show room but we’re also online doing Internet sales, customer service, outside sales, as well as bid contract and design work,” tells Chuck. “In this industry you have to balance all of that out - you can’t just say, ‘we’re going to sell ovens; that’s it.’”

“We sell a full line of commercial equipment and smallwares – everything from shoes and chefs’ coats to tongs and pots and pans,” adds Chuck. “But we also sell walk-in coolers, hoods, fryers, ovens, food processors; all of the above. We’re a true one-stop shop.”

Chuck says being a one-stop shop is great thing, but quite challenging at the same time. “We work with so many different clients, from chain accounts to small, single-location restaurants, so it’s often a challenge to maintain our broad inventory,” he explains. “If someone calls and needs eight fryers to go out to eight locations today, I’d better have them.”

The company also offers unique financing for certain clients. “If you’re a local customer that has a credit account and history with us, we offer repayment terms with no money down,” tells Chuck. “But anyone in business knows cash is king and therein lies some of the problems any small business faces. To offer these terms and protect ourselves, it’s essential to have a good banker, accountant, attorney and good insurance point person. But it’s something that really sets us apart – being able to work with our customers to help them afford more.”

Operation-specific solutions

From school cafeterias to commercial kitchens and fast-casual restaurants, Manning Brothers understands every job is unique and, therefore, so should the solutions.

“We work with Bolton Dining Hall at the University of Georgia [UGA],” shares Chuck. “It has become the largest restaurant in the state, feeding 8,500 people daily – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their biggest challenge is keeping up with the ice, but we’ve worked alongside them to deliver special equipment and solutions to meet their operational needs.”

Chuck, who has adept design knowledge himself, says he prefers good old fashioned paper and pencil; however, Manning Brothers deploys Revit and state-of-the-art design software to bring a kitchen to life. But even if it’s not new construction and equipment and just a matter of maintaining existing systems, Manning Brothers can help.

“We went into the Home Depot headquarters in our area and noticed they hadn’t changed the hood filters since the system was built in 1995,” tells Chuck. “Our engineers went in and performed the maintenance – they were feeding 400 people, now they can feed 4,000. A little maintenance goes a long way.”

With such a range in service and products, Chuck says it’s always a challenge for Manning Brothers to stay on top of all of the moving parts of the business. “We also have a new fleet of trucks coming in that we’ve leased from Ryder,” he tells. “Our goal for 2015 will be working on our website and Internet sales to really showcase our products and our design-build capabilities.”

For a true service relationship, experienced teams with industry know-how, innovative solutions and proven products, service industry clients have called on Manning Brothers Food Service Equipment & Supply Co. for 67 years.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Focus Food Service, LLC
Star Manufacturing
The Hansen Group