Recovery on the Menu

LaGrasso Bros. Produce sees post-recession sales increases.

One vital barometer of an economic recovery is restaurant activity. When times are good, restaurants — especially fine-dining establishments — flourish. Another indicator is the volume of food delivery.

For LaGrasso Bros. Produce in Detroit, which marks its 100th anniversary in 2014, annual sales this year should reach pre-recession levels. “In 2008, we had 45 trucks on the road per day, where today we have 55 trucks on the road,” says Tom LaGrasso III, vice president of operations at LaGrasso Bros. Produce. “That’s a big jump.”

One of the company’s clients is the Cheesecake Factory, which opened in August at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. “The restaurant has been incredibly popular, and from what we’ve seen it’s bringing more people into the mall,” LaGrasso says. “It’s an amazing phenomenon.”

The food distributor, founded by Sicilian immigrants, deals primarily in produce, but also delivers meat and seafood on behalf of various partners. Responding to the increase in the “Buy Local” trend, the 110-employee company has strived to work with Michigan farmers on certification and shipping requirements, although it can be challenging for smaller farmers to comply, given the costs involved.

LaGrasso’s clients include The Capital Grille, Fleming’s Steakhouse, J. Alexander’s, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, and Bistro 82. “We deliver from the Upper Peninsula to Sandusky, Ohio, and all parts in between, including the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,” LaGrasso says. db