Blog : Favorite Foods: Family Success that Includes Sustainability

By Mike | Apr 1, 2015 | in

By Michael McCord

Chris Barstow has a philosophy that has served his company Favorite Foods well for more than a quarter century. “If we help our customers do more business and become more profitable, then we will reap the benefits.”

Barstow is the president and chief executive of Favorite Foods, the Somersworth-based restaurant supply company that has carved a profitable niche in a highly competitive industry that includes giants such as Sysco, US Foods and Performance Food Group.

Barstow admits to not seeking individual recognition and says credit goes to the 53-employee team. The $37.5 million annual revenue firm provides supplies to local, independent restaurants as well as some state prisons, military installations, private schools and food manufacturers.

Favorite Foods also has an entrepreneurial backstory worthy of an academic case study. Barstow, a Pennsylvania native, was working in Silicon Valley as a high-tech distributor for Texas Instruments when his brother, Jeff, founded the company. When he came for a Maine vacation to visit his brother he was already at a career crossroads.

“I was frustrated because I’m not a corporate guy. I hated dealing with layers of bureaucracy to get a decision made,” he said. A few months later he took a 75 percent pay cut (his wife, Petra, took on three jobs to maintain things at home) and became the company’s second employee but not the most knowledgeable one. “I knew literally nothing about the industry, except that I liked to go out to restaurants. I knew distribution, but not as it related to foodservice,” he said.

The brothers started with an empty 5,000 square-foot warehouse in Portsmouth and no clients. Then they got an order for a case of paper towels from an ice cream shop in Maine. “We ordered two cases because we figured someone would want another. That was how our inventory got started and how it continues to grow today, through customer need,” he said.

Eventually more orders came in, more employees were hired. In 1999, the company moved to its current location in Somersworth which has grown to a 50,000 square-foot warehouse. Chris and Petra later bought the shares owned by his brother and father in 2008 and the company remains private and family-owned.

Barstow’s son Kelly has joined the company inspired by how his father embraced the entrepreneurial spirit. “He saw the schedule I worked, 18 hours a day, six days a week and it didn’t scare him off. He became interested in what I was doing,” he said.

Barstow is not just notable for his entrepreneurial spirit; Favorite Foods installed the largest roof mounted solar array in NH to generate electricity. “We’re very excited to have the system online,” Barstow said. “We’re always looking for ways to be greener, and this was a huge step forward in that direction.” Additionally all the trucks run on biodiesel and the company has reduced its waste by 75% through an extensive recycling program of all plastics and cardboard. Lighting has been upgraded for maximum efficiency with motion sensors playing a huge role. Recently, controls were installed on their refrigeration system resulting in about 70 percent fewer defrost cycles and running evaporator fans more efficiently, further reducing electricity consumption.

Barstow said the most gratifying compliment he has received from a client sums up the Favorite Foods way of doing business. “A restaurant owner told me ‘we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you.’

Favorite Foods is a green-certified Business Partner of the Green Alliance, the NH organization representing more than 100 local green businesses and nearly 4,000 consumer members.

Learn more about Favorite Foods at www.favoritefoods.com