In a QSR magazine article, “The Supplier Marriage,” Richard Leivenberg, executive vice president for Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom in Venice, California, states his relationships with food suppliers can sometimes feel like a rocky road of emotions.
“It’s very much like a marriage, there’s love, hate, and everything in between,” Leivenberg says. “With a good supplier, you can complain or argue and at the end of the day, you’ve corrected any problems and made up. If you can’t maintain a good relationship with them, if problems aren’t corrected, you have to reevaluate the situation and consider a divorce.”
And with the growing pressures of managing food costs and inventory, while continually meeting the discerning expectations of your guests, industry experts agree that building trusting and long-term partnerships with their food suppliers is the best path toward profitability.
As you navigate through your own food supply issues, below are tips to improve your supplier success.
- Communicate: as with any strong relationship, open, honest and regular communication is paramount. When entering into any new supplier relationship, it’s best to be clear, honest and upfront in your needs and expectations. To make sure that both parties are on the same page, get it in writing. Any and all agreements should be written and formalized in a contract and signed by both parties to avoid confusion.
- Don’t just let price drive your decisions: of course, staying on budget is important for any restaurant business, but choosing a supplier simply based on price can be dangerous. A good food supplier will help you to work within the parameters of your needs and budget in order to provide the best possible quality and freshest products to your customers.
- Keep the number of suppliers to a minimum: while you won’t be able to get everything that you need from one supplier, when you start trying to manage multiple vendors, things might start falling through the cracks and make your job more difficult.
- Closely monitor your inventory: keeping close tabs on your food inventory is the best way to make sure that you don’t overpay for extra food supplies that eventually get wasted. Talk to your supplier about your inventory challenges to determine a better strategy.
- Negotiate product quality and cost expectations at the very beginning: when speaking to potential new food suppliers, don’t be afraid to negotiate and set your own expectations. You are entitled to get the level of product quality and service that you need at a price that will work for your business.
- Put yourself in your supplier’s shoes: a WIN-WIN relationship works both ways and both parties have to feel good about working together. Get to know your supplier and their needs/expectations from the relationship. Ask what challenges they face and invite them to voice any concerns about working with you.
- Go local when possible: choosing a local supplier that sources products from local farms is often the key to ensuring product freshness while keeping costs down.