Founded in 1934, R&R Provisions is a family-owned and -operated food distributor and manufacturer providing custom-cut steaks, meats and assorted food products to a range of food service and retail customers throughout the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania and across the mid-Atlantic region.
Operating out of Easton, Pennsylvania, R&R Provisions serves various restaurants, country clubs, culinary arts schools, hospitals and nursing homes with a large selection of wholesale products and in-house favorites including corned beef brisket, lobster tails and boneless Delmonico steaks.
In addition to the wholesale business, R&R operates a retail store in Easton, where customers can stock up on grocery store essentials and in-house favorites like veal patties, sausage and scrapple — a regionally beloved take on meatloaf popularized by the Pennsylvania Dutch that is a top seller among area diners.
“We’re not just a food distributor, we’re also a manufacturer and we make a lot of products in-house. We also do custom cuts of steaks — beef, pork, lamb, veal — that’s really our forte,” says Rick Rogers, president of R&R Provisions.
Family ownership continues
R&R Provisions started off as a specialty food supplier over 80 years ago when it was founded by two men named Ralph and Russ, who lent their names to the new company. In 1980 Richard “Rocky” Rogers bought out some of the original owners and in 1991, called on his son Rick to help buy out the remaining partner and turn R&R Provisions into a family business where Richard still serves as CEO.
Today Rick is in the process of buying out his father so that he can retire. “Right now he’s still coming in every day,” says Rogers, who has worked at the company since he was in high school, when he would unload trucks before class. “I’ve done every job here: cleaning trays, unloading trucks, picking orders in the warehouse — sometimes I use that as my gym day instead of going to the gym,” he says.
While some food distributors try to play the jack-of-all-trades, Rogers says that a big part of R&R Provisions’ success has come from knowing its limitations and focusing on what it does best. “We’re never the cheapest on the street and I never want to be,” says Rogers. “We sell quality of service and pride ourselves on that quality; we’re obviously doing something right because we’ve been around for 80-plus years.
Strength in numbers
R&R Provisions is a member of the Unipro Foodservice buying group, a collection of independent distributors who command lower prices by banning together to purchase new stock. “It definitely helps. The stronger the buyer is the better price you’re going to get,” says Rogers.
This collective buying power helps keep R&R Provisions competitive in an increasingly tough market where competitors big and small continue to edge into the company’s niche. “The business is cutthroat now, there are a lot more players and independents are struggling,” Rogers says. “It used to be that price was the third or fourth biggest concern on your list after quality and service, but now it’s No. 1 or 2.”
It’s the customer service aspect that sets R&R Provisions apart from its competitors, according to Rogers. “I like to think we bring the last word in industry back into play, food service,” he says. “It’s all about service and we probably do that better than anyone else.”
Employee retention is also a big point of pride for Rogers and the team at R&R Provisions. The company’s 36 full-time employees average 25-plus years with the company, with some on staff for over 40. “We’re one of the mainstays in our city, and probably one of the larger employers,” says Rogers. “We have very low employee turnover and everyone knows each other’s name.”
Growth has been relatively flat across the industry; in Rick’s opinion, major course correction is on its way. “I think something is going to shake out over the next five to seven years — it’s going to be a different scene, but time will tell,” says Rogers.
Looking ahead, Rick is less concerned with growth for growth’s sake, and more with delivering a consistent, quality product. To that end, R&R Provisions is working to add some new items to its slate of offerings. “We’re concentrating more on in-house items because we have more control over cost and things like that,” he says. While parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are still struggling to rebound from the economic downturn, Rogers has seen some promising economic indicators start to pop up in the Lehigh Valley region, specifically new dining options. “I think some of the blue-collar guys are still struggling, but there are new businesses moving into Allentown, like a new engineering firm, so I think overall the picture of Lehigh Valley is pretty good,” he says.
With a focus on exceptional service and an expanding roster of in-house specialties, R&R Provisions will continue to be help customers throughout the Lehigh Valley make the most of their meal.