Not even an act of nature can keep Bush Brothers down for very long. As Hurricane Irma approached the company’s headquarters of West Palm Beach, Fla., the five-generation meat purveyor closed for a couple days and braced for the hurricane to make landfall. Within a matter of days, though, the business opened again, under generator power, and started taking orders.
Bush Brothers Provision Co. has been adept at reacting to changes, whether it be a change in the weather or in the marketplace. For years, the company has been known as a purveyor of steaks, chops and other higher-end meats for the top of the line hotels and restaurants in Miami.
“We handle any customers that want high-quality meats, meaning not just steakhouses, but also burger joints, and gastropubs, or new American, or creative independent restaurants,” says Doug Bush, sales manager and part of the next generation of family leaders. “I think historically our company focused more on hotels, country clubs and steakhouses, and these are still big for us, but we find more small restaurants willing to spend a bit more for quality and craftsmanship.”
With a varied amount of customers, Bush Brothers often sees a variety of trends occurring at once. Some restaurants are shrinking their portions slightly, preferring a 6- or 7-ounce fillet instead of the traditional 8-ounce cut. At the same time, other high-end restaurants are featuring large-format steaks, like a 48-ounce porterhouse for two or a 64-ounce double-bone tomahawk.
Bush says that the “artisan craft” trend has greatly affected the business. Bush Brothers has become even more adept at providing custom cuts, treatments, blends and more.
“We do a lot of lesser known cuts trimmed or prepared in new ways, like flap meat trimmed into small portions or vein-end New York strips trimmed into blocks. Additionally we see a lot of call for specialty dry aged items, with specific ages or odd cuts. Dry aged pork is new for us, and some really long age beef cuts,” he says.
Along with developing farmer/rancher-specific relationships to meet exacting requests from customers, Bush Brothers also partners with similar high-end, boutique suppliers that, Bush says, “want to be represented in the market by our family instead of large corporate distributors where they are only one of many brands being offered. This includes companies like Creekstone Farms Beef and Pork, Darling Downs Wagyu, La Belle Farms Foie Gras, Bell & Evans Chicken, North Country Smokehouse, Murvest Sausages and Pate, and so many more.”
Given the high-end nature of Bush Brothers’ products, it does no good if a beautiful steak is handed over to an untrained kitchen staff. As a consequence, the company offers full kitchen staff and waitstaff training for its customers.
“Often I'll be with staff for weeks pre-opening or during off season to help their staff prepare, discuss, and present our steaks in the best light,” Bush explains. “Also, we make a point of being completely clear and honest about every cut, farm, supplier, and product we offer. Often it is misinformation and confusion that lead to bad description and bad service.”
One of Bush Brothers’ most niche markets, thanks to its Miami location, is the yacht business. Bush notes that yacht customers give longer notice for their orders, but the requirements are often extremely specialized. Custom trimming, custom packaging, custom labeling, unique boxing and even special shipping can be included.
“Often the order will require us to seek out other ancillary products to accompany the order, and the yachts will send us their plastic crates or tubs to pack their orders in before flash freezing,” he adds.
Since yacht crew are typically from The United Kingdom, Australia, Africa or elsewhere, Bush Brothers also stocks favorites for them, such as Cumberland sausages, British back bacon, Boerwurst and more.
Bush Brothers’ offerings may fit into a number of popular niches — natural, grass-fed, antibiotic-free — but the company’s greatest niche is its own artisan craftsmanship. It is a reputation that has been built since the company’s start in 1925.
“Customers want to know their butcher and trust the family and team that bring them their meats,” Bush says.