Restaurant supply store moves, expands showroom

The store may include “restaurant” in its name, but Western Restaurant Supply & Design also is hoping to serve home chefs at its new 10,000-square-foot Richland showroom.

“If you’re looking for a $15 knife, I got those, or if you want a $400 knife, I got those, too. We’re always looking to reignite or ignite people’s passion to cook and you’ll find that here,” said Joel Kruse, general manager. “We want to be able to come alongside somebody on their crazy food adventure and say, ‘We can help you get there.’ We can do our best work within whatever budget you have.”

The company’s move to 1957 Fowler St., which is visible from Highway 240, after more than 15 years tucked away in east Kennewick means it’s getting more traffic, Kruse said.

The team has seen former customers they hadn’t seen in a decade as well as new ones who were mostly unaware the store has been a fixture in the community since 2002.

“We are full-service food service,” said Kruse, who looks to appeal to those owning and operating restaurants, but also those looking to build their home kitchen inventory.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that commercial cookware is often less expensive and more durable than stuff you’re going to get at Macy’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond, or Target. Is all of it as glamorous? Not all of it. But I’m bringing in lines to address those who still want something that’s aesthetically pleasing but is still a commercial brand.”

Western Restaurant Supply & Design offers a wide selection of high-performance knives. (Photo by Robin Wojtanik)

This includes pots and pans, cooking utensils and high-performance knives. Kruse intends to offer classes on cooking techniques, like knife sharpening and use, for a small fee that would be offset by the purchase of an item.

The classes are just one of the new possibilities Kruse sees for the store now that it has relocated  from 1620 E. Seventh Ave., near Finley. That location was retained as a shop for the arm of the company that now focuses on food trucks.

Western Food Trucks and Trailers is currently under the same limited liability company, but specializes in the build-out and repair of mobile food vehicles. Kruse said the company has been doing it for about a decade, but demand really exploded in the last five years.

“We’ve done repairs or upgrades to most of the trucks and trailers in the Tri-Cities,” he said. “We’re the only food truck or trailer builder in the region that, in addition to the builds, is an authorized equipment dealer. Other ones are partnering with someone like me. I buy all my equipment from the manufacturers directly, so I can be more aggressive with pricing.”

As a fully-licensed and bonded general contractor in the state, Western Restaurant Supply & Design offers in-house computer-aided drafting to help customers design their ideal kitchens.

“If you come in and say, ‘I have a dream.’ We’re like, ‘Cool, we love dreams.’ And if you want to start a restaurant, I can tell you what kind of equipment you’re going to need on your cook line, what size hood you’re going to need. I can recommend different commercial spaces if you have one in mind, or we can take a site visit. We can do a whole design, spec out the equipment, and then if you want us to build it, we can bid out the construction costs,” Kruse said.

The new showroom supplies everything a restaurant would require, covering not just the back of the house, like cooking and cleaning, but also the front of the house, like glassware, china and furniture.

“We carved out 500 square feet for a design center so customers can come in to touch and feel stuff, sit in the chairs, so you’re not just flipping through a catalog,” Kruse said.

The company is locally-owned and operated and the team boasts combined restaurant experience of more than 40 years.

“We can share that knowledge with customers and say, ‘Hey, we want you to open a restaurant, too, but we want to paint a realistic picture before you throw $10,000 or $20,000 into it and be halfway through it and run out of money, barrel up,” Kruse said. “We care about people succeeding and we want them to do well. We want to be sure they have the right equipment with the right budget.”

Kruse believes half of the effort to successfully open a restaurant is knowing how much you’re going to need and what you’ll likely have to spend to fulfill your vision.

He’s also typically in the know about new restaurant openings, as those affiliated with the industry often come to him looking for equipment and supplies early on.

This was the case recently with Walla Walla Indian Cuisine, which plans to open a new sister restaurant at the former Famous Dave’s restaurant in Kennewick. Kruse said he hears the frequent refrain from people who would like to see a Cheesecake Factory potentially fill the former P.F. Chang’s next to Famous Dave’s, but he doesn’t see that happening. “There’s not a building in the Tri-Cities that meets the Cheesecake model,” he said.

Still, Kruse is encouraged by the growth and emphasis on food offerings on all levels, designing a high-end bar and extending the patio at The Bradley in Richland and building out the entire Honey Baked Ham Co. in Kennewick.

“If there’s a spot in a strip mall, we can turn it into a restaurant,” said Kruse, who added his team works directly with the state Department of Labor and Industries to be sure everything is operational on day one, as intended.

Western Restaurant Supply & Design became part of a buying group called Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network in 2016, and Kruse said this drastically changed the pricing structure to pass more savings on to their customers. “It gives us the ability to have much more aggressive pricing, better service, better relationships with vendors and access to a lot more lines,” he said. “It opened up the ability to get more things for customers and be competitive, whereas before we were just a standalone with no buying group. Relationships we had with vendors were direct.”

Now, Kruse said he keeps an eye on the pricing offered by competitors and feels confident people will save money shopping at Western. “We obviously have to make money because we’re a business, but I don’t feel the need to overcharge for stuff. We want to make it affordable for everybody to enjoy cooking,” he said.

The company opened its doors in the new location in early September and held a grand opening to industry professionals and the public in early October.

“I want this to be like a Williams-Sonoma restaurant equipment place,” Kruse said. “If you’re looking for gifts for foodies, or someone who loves to cook, this is going to be the place to do it. This equipment is designed for commercial abuse, day in and day out cooking and food-grade safe. If it’s good enough for a commercial kitchen, it’s good enough for your kitchen.”

Western Restaurant Supply & Designs: 1957 Fowler St., Richland; 866-585-6978; westernfoodequipment.com.

Editor’s note: Western Restaurant Supply & Designs did not do work at LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen. This story has been updated. (10/16/19)

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