Should You Be Shopping at Restaurant Depot?

Some are saying this is the best hack to shop wholesale without paying membership fees — but is it worth it?

The restaurant depot store sign on a teal background.
Photo: Adobe Stock/Allrecipes

These days everyone's trying to save money on groceries. From shopping the circulars to clipping coupons, there are certainly ways to save at the grocery store, but they can only go so far. That's why it's easy to see the appeal of wholesale stores like Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's. You can save a lot of money buying in bulk, but with the caveat that you have to purchase a membership to these stores in order to gain access to these deals.

Lately, there's a growing trend on social media to shop at Restaurant Depot, The Restaurant Store, and other restaurant supply stores. Like Costco and Sam's Club, they're also stores that offer customers wholesale discounts, but typically charge membership fees.

However, unlike those other big-box stores, you can skirt around membership fees altogether. For one, some stores like The Restaurant Store, don't require any membership. Others like Restaurant Depot will offer customers a free (yes, free!) single-day pass to gain access to all the savings, no membership required. (Note: Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's will allow you non-members to shop and/or order online, but they add service fees between 5-10% of the order total to the bill.) That's right — you don't have to buy a membership or own a business, you just have to show ID. And it's not a one-time thing either.

In a video posted to TikTok by user @jenn_nniffer, the employees working at Restaurant Depot even suggests customers can come back for day passes multiple times, busting the myth that only restaurants can and should shop there. I must admit, it's a great hack for shopping in bulk without compromising the savings with service or membership fees. But is it worth it?

Pros to Shopping at Restaurant Supply Stores

For one, you will find discounts, and great ones at that. You will find everyday products of all kinds at can't-beat per unit pricing. Since these stores supply restaurants with slim margins, they have to offer the best deals in order for their customers (restaurants) to turn any profit. From dry goods to meat to frozen fruits and veggies to fresh produce, there are plenty of groceries worth shopping at Restaurant Depot. Read here for our full guide to the best things to buy at Restaurant Depot.

Another pro beyond the discounts is that, as mentioned before, you don't need to purchase or commit to a membership to shop almost everything in store. In fact, you couldn't buy one if you wanted — Restaurant Depot will only sell memberships to registered businesses. The only section off limits to day pass holders is the live shellfish section; everything else is on the table.

Beyond groceries, you can find plenty of other useful kitchenwares and cooking gadgets at unbeatable prices. Their food storage section will blow any organization-lover's mind. And P.S. they have the best plastic wrap/cling film you will ever use. I promise, you will never go back to the grocery store stuff once you try restaurant-grade plastic wrap. And luckily, you won't ever have to, because the container is enormous! Need to restock any kitchen gadgets, utensils, or even small appliances? Chances are Restaurant Depot has them, and at a better price than big-box stores.

Cons of Shopping at Restaurant Supply Stores

It's important to understand that this is not intended to be a consumer grocery store, so there are some "cushy" aspects of the grocery store missing here. For one, there will be restaurant and business owners shopping there, and it can get busy — like Trader-Joes-on-a-Sunday-busy. I recommend going in the afternoons to avoid the rush.

You also won't find typical grocery carts, only flat utility carts, and no one's going to bag your groceries for you. In fact they don't offer any bags at all. You also might want to bring a warm coat for the refrigerator and freezer sections, too, since they're all encompassing. For other must-know-before-you-go tips, check out our full guide to shopping at Restaurant Depot.

Also, you are going to be shopping in bulk and bulk only. And I mean bulk — Restaurant Depot offers larger containers and quantities than you'd even find at stores like Costco and Sam's Club. Since stores like Restaurant Depot supply to restaurants, food trucks, and other business, and Costco and other wholesale stores supply to consumers, their products are portioned very differently. Where you might find a 45-pack of Goldfish at Costco you will find a 300-pack of the same at Restaurant Depot. So yeah, I mean bulk.

Restaurant Depot's products are intended to accommodate high numbers, so not all products in this kind of bulk sizing will appeal to home cooks. Unless you have a large family to feed, a lot of extra storage space, and/or plan to cook for a big crowd, many items won't be useful. For example, pounds upon pounds of baking powder or spices will likely expire or lose their potency before you can finish them. But for dry goods, meat and poultry (especially if you have freezer space), or pantry essentials, the bang might be worth the buck.

Finally, you cannot shop online through Restaurant Depot, only in person. However, there are other stores like the Webstaurant Store that offer bulk discounts online and The Restaurant Store, which allows customers to place their order online ahead of time, then pick up in person.

The Bottom Line

So is it worth it? It really depends on your needs. If you're feeding a big family or stocking up for a big event, it's definitely worth stopping by the store for a day pass to grab the applicable items. You pay nothing and gain access to incredible bulk deals, even if — just like at Costco — your final bill will still end up higher than the usual grocery store bill.

For everyone else just looking to save on groceries, it's probably not worth it to go out of your way. The size of the items will likely overwhelm you and even if you end up with a few items, the value may be outweighed by the time it took and cost of gas to get there.

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