As a successful restaurant, you can only be as good as your sum parts.
Of course, restaurant success includes having a great menu, low food costs, a dedicated staff, and a well-maintained location. However, a possibly overlooked element of a great restaurant is strong relationships with your restaurant suppliers. Without your suppliers, your restaurant doesn’t have produce, grains, beer, meat or wine. What can you serve?
How to Keep Your Restaurant Food Suppliers Happy
1. Proactive Communication is key
When establishing a business relationship, especially a new one, find a way to strike a balance from the beginning.
Any successful relationship is going to be mutually beneficial for both parties. In order to find a relationship that is fruitful for both your restaurant and your vendor, explore the characteristics of a balanced relationship.
Are you able to communicate with ease?
Is it easy to transport the goods from point A to point B on a regular basis?
Can order me made, repeated and revised with relatively low impact?
Communicate your needs, your systems and your schedule with your potential vendor partner. If you can arrange a system that works together and communicate effectively from the beginning.
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2. Your suppliers are your partners
Your Vendors are more than just business associates, they are partners.
In order to work successfully with your vendor, you should be able to work through problems, miscommunications and other misalignments without damaging the relationship. At the end of the day, you depend on your vendor to get the food to your guests. They depend on you to meet their own quotas.
While your vendor should offer you special incentives or discounts after a period of time working together, you should respond in kind by being respectful, timely and proactively communicative.
3. Use four core relationship values
In developing your vendor relationships, it is important to keep core relationship values in mind. Having a huge disagreement with your vendor? Take some time to go over these core values to make sure you are both still meeting them in your resolutions.
Trust is the most important element in any business agreement. On the financial front, you must be able to trust that your vendor is giving you value. Beyond that, you must trust that your vendor will be able to deliver results, on schedule.
Respect should bleed into every transaction with your vendor. A respectful relationship means you will value each other’s time, budget, and opinions.
Like we discussed above, a mutually beneficial relationship is key to a vendor and restaurant relationship. The relationship should always benefit both parties. If the relationship begins to lag on one side, however, communicate and solve the problem rather than simply terminating the relationship.
If you have the three aforementioned core competencies in place, you probably have honesty intact, too. Be as honest as you can be with your vendor.
If you are not happy with a particular shipment, be honest. Conversely, if you mess up on an order, take responsibility. Honesty and the willingness to take blame for certain mishaps will preserve the relationship.
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4. Timely payment make for better relationships
This could have been point number one, because it is so important. Don’t make your vendors chase after payments each month. Once you communicate your payment schedule, stick to it.
Vendors rely on these schedules to pay their own bills. You wouldn’t let a guest leave your restaurant without settling their bill first, would you? Stick to your agreements and pay on time.
If you can’t make a payment, be honest about it. Don’t “ghost” your vendor until you can make it. Use the core competencies of honesty when dealing with payments.
5. Deal with conflict
Miscommunications happen. Late deliveries happen. Late payments happen (tsk tsk!)
Assuming you are doing your best to avoid these types of problems, you should be prepared to deal with the head on if they do arise. If the relationship between you and your vendor is already at a healthy point, you will be able to tackle issues together and recover quickly.
A vendor relationship can be like a marriage. You should have the trust, honesty and open communication that allows you to address conflict efficiently and without any residual animosity.
Any relationship that is going to benefit your restaurant is worth nurturing. Just like how you manage your employees, you will want to keep an honest & open line of communication with your vendors.
Make sure to set expectations and adhere to them together!