There aren't many foodservice distributors that have been around for one hundred years. But then again, Ben E. Keith Foods, the foodservice division of Ben E. Keith Co., isn't your ordinary distributor. The company celebrated its 100-year milestone three years ago, thanks to a century of unsurpassed customer service and innovation.
The company, founded as the Harkrider-Morrison Co. in 1906, started as a small onion and potato distributor in Fort Worth, TX. Ben E. Keith was the first salesman and junior partner. Under Keith, the company transformed from the produce business into foodservice distribution and was renamed Ben E. Keith Co. in 1931. Today, it's ninth-largest broad-line distributor in the nation. "Pioneering is eternal," was Keith's motto and the entire company continues to embrace that belief today.
While Ben E. Keith has had a strong track record throughout its history, the last 10 years have seen phenomenal growth. In 2000, the company combined its Dallas and Fort Worth offices into the DFW distribution center, which is its flagship operation and headquarters for the company. Over the decade, the company continued to build and renovate distribution centers--without any disruptions to service--while more than doubling its sales volume in market areas served.
Ben E. Keith has ongoing operational improvement programs company-wide and is an industry leader in technological advancements. In fact, it has developed its own proprietary warehouse management system, dubbed KWCS, which stands for Keith Warehouse Control System. All of its facilities run on the system.
In addition, the company is a strong supporter of the foodservice industry and maintains an open door policy. It contributes to the communities it serves through direct funding of programs, grants and sponsorship of fundraising events.
But most importantly, Ben E. Keith places its highest priority on people--the customers and suppliers that it works with, as well as its associates. The distributor strives to maintain the loyalty of its customers by providing top notch service and responding to their needs as quickly as possible. And it provides all of its warehouse associates and drivers with opportunities and incentives for advancement.
"I attribute our success to our corporate culture--we've created a winning atmosphere and recognize all of our associates' achievements," says Keith Pittman, the company's senior vice president of operations and management. Pittman is responsible for operations of all of the company's seven distribution centers and for the direct management and profitability of three of the facilities in Oklahoma and Amarillo and San Antonio, TX.
"Our customers need us to be able to rapidly respond to their changing needs and we're able to do that for them," he adds. "We do everything that we can to help them to succeed."
A 40-year industry veteran, Pittman joined Ben E. Keith in 1970. He has held various positions in sales, purchasing and operations, and was general manager at two of the company's DCs. He has served as a co-chair for the International Foodservice Distributor Association's annual conference and also participates on a number of IFDA committees.
For its dedication to the industry and exemplary leadership, Ben E. Keith has received Food Logistics' Golden Pallet award in the foodservice distributor category. The Golden Pallets, sponsored by Food Logistics, are the first food industry awards to recognize excellence in warehousing.
Expanding With Technology
Ben E. Keith services some 22,000 customers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Customers include white tablecloth and casual dining restaurants, hotels, schools, healthcare and other institutional foodservice facilities. The distributor offers more than 20,000 products, including national brands as well as its own private brands, in all broad line distribution categories.