Vendor Relationships: Finding Your Culinary Soul Mate

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soul matesThe relationship you create with food vendors can be the most crucial for your restaurant. Simply choosing the cheapest price for all of your supply needs is not necessarily the best route when it comes to choosing which vendors to use. Quality and trust are much more important factors in determining which vendors to enter into a business relationship with.

When researching vendors, try to find out which companies other restaurants are using and how the vendor is meeting their needs. It’s better to find a few quality vendors, rather than using a bunch of different companies. Keeping your vendors to a minimum will make your paperwork easier since you won’t have a ton of different invoices, and it will also enable you to harness close relationships with them, which is so vital for a successful partnership.

You should get to know your vendors well and you should visit their facilities if possible. Many vendors host annual food shows allowing restaurateurs to tour their warehouses and sample products.

Your vendors should also visit your kitchen often. The more knowledge they have about your menu, staff, equipment, and business in general, the more they will be able to understand your operations and anticipate your needs.

Many restaurants communicate extensively with their vendors and suppliers about their menu and accept advice regarding ingredients. The chef can come up with a multitude of creative culinary ideas, but the vendor is going to know better than anyone else how easy those ingredients are to locate and what the most cost effective choices are. The more information you give your vendors about your menu plans, the more homework they can do to locate the best deals for you. In some cases, vendors will start working with certain suppliers based on a restaurant’s request.

The relationship between restaurant and vendor should be a loyal one, but within reason. If your vendor knows that you are not just after the best price in town, but are willing to work with them as long as they offer quality and timeliness, then they are going to treat you like a valued customer. But likewise, if your vendor gets too comfortable in your relationship and thinks you depend on them for everything, they might slack on customer service and quality.

They key to a harmonious vendor relationship, like all others, has a lot to do with balance of power, sticking to commitments, and mutual understanding.

Last modified: April 7, 2013
Sasha Smith

This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, MPR Authored, Restaurants, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, Tips

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