You’ve read it everywhere: the restaurant supplier relationship is like a marriage. We’re not discrediting that notion, in fact, we’re agreeing with it. There are a few details that you may be missing in your relationship altogether that are causing some hardships between the two of you. We can’t consider ourselves love guru’s, but since I’m writing from a company that’s in the businesses of making your back of the house relationship run smoother, I might know a thing or two about how important your relationship really is and how we can make it better. According to an article on QSR, “In the restaurant industry, experts agree there is a real need for operators to connect with their food suppliers. Establishing a solid working relationship is critical, and the wrong partnership could damage a business.”
In order to improve your relationship with each other, there are a few components to consider analyzing for business matrimony. Let’s browse through quality, timeliness, competitiveness, innovation, and finance.
Quality: As a supplier, it’s important to fulfill your customers’ needs by delivering the best quality service and product. Quality is a component in this relationship that can positively or negatively affect the union, for richer or poorer. As in any relationship, a restaurateur will enjoy the little things a supplier does for them and for the betterment of their business.
Timeliness: Their biological clock is ticking, so you both must act fast. Your timeliness in delivery, returning their phone calls, and placing their orders is crucial in developing that reliability with one another. A quick turnaround minimizes a suppliers’ inventory and maximizes a restaurant’s menu offering.
Competitiveness: Now, we may be the most confident person coming into this relationship, but slips, misses, and some delayed deliveries can create resentment, leading to more disputes, leading to less orders placed, and then gasp a possible break up? When a supplier and restaurateur enter into a relationship when both their glasses are full, they have much more to offer each other. Restaurateurs that have a solid relationship with their suppliers are sometimes given the one-up from their competition in the categories of pricing, quality, reliability, and industry trends. The grass can be greener on your side.
Innovation: When a restaurateur has found a supportive supplier, major contributions can be made to product development. Since suppliers live and breathe their product they know all of the cutting edge ways to use it! The good ones will understand your company, its industry and needs, and can help you cultivate ideas that expand your horizons. I think that’s called a soulmate?
Finance: Ahh finance…reportedly the biggest reason for divorce. However, if Ms. Restaurant and Mr. Supplier have proven and developed a relationship where they are considerate and loyal when it comes to financial matters, then it’s time to get down on one knee. A strong relationship built on trust will allow a restaurant the perk of tapping into a supplier’s additional financing once you hit growth mode, or find yourself in a cash crunch. That financing could include postponed debt, extended terms on a new purchase, a loan, or an investment in your company.
As you can see, all of these categories aim to make the best of restaurant and supplier relationships. There are still a few things to consider:
Aim to develop a long-term relationship. “Simply calling around and shopping for the best price on items is not an effective way to succeed in this business,” says Ashley Rathgeber, procurement director for Pizza Fusion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “In today’s market, building good relationships with suppliers is crucial. If they’re not completely on your side, your product is affected.”
Don’t take each other for granted. Yes, business is business, but you’ll have to show some lovin’ to your counterpart to keep things alive. Richard Leivenberg, executive vice president for Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom in Venice, California says, “Over time it may get to a point where one or both sides take the other for granted. If I’m on the supplier side, that’s why I want regular face-to-face meetings in order to address concerns and keep the relationship fresh.”
Show you’re committed and responsible. Greg Creighton, regional vice president at Denver-based Smashburger says, “If we commit to a vendor to produce 5,000 pounds of product with a particular seasoning and it doesn’t sell, we don’t just throw up our hands and tell them, ‘Oh well, sell it elsewhere,’” he says. “We’ll buy it whether we’re using it or not. It shows them we know what we’re doing and we respect their business as well. Those kinds of things pay off.”
Lose the expectations. Ric Scicchitano, senior vice president of food and beverage for Dallas-based Corner Bakery says, “If you sit back and expect them to know your needs, you’re going to be short on something when you need it. They may be close to your business, but they can’t predict it like you can.” This just goes to show that when both sides of the business are in sync and in constant communication it’s a match made to thrive.
New tech applications like BlueCart can help fill the holes in your back of house relationship. The app essentially digitizes all of your back of the house of the needs including ordering, inventory management, and provides detailed graphs that highlight trends over time thereby allowing app users to optimize future inventory levels and lower food waste.