Establishing a good working relationship with your vendors is as important to your business as hiring the perfect employee. Like everything else, vendors are only human and offer good points and bad points aside from the products they manufacture and distribute. Getting to know your vendors, and deciding whether it is possible to establish a long term relationship with them, should be as much of a priority as analyzing the products they carry.
Here are ten tips to help you sort through the process.
1). Research vendors in your area and set up an appointment to see their facility. The closer the vendor the better service you can expect.
2). Once you have made the decision that a vendor fits your needs, ask them to send a sales rep to your restaurant to meet and discuss product, terms, and delivery schedule.
3). Decide before the meeting whether you will need credit terms or want to be placed on a COD basis.
4). Have a financial statement and credit application ready to give to the potential vendor to speed up the credit process and establish the fact that you are organized and professional.
5). During the meeting with the sales rep ask about the company’s policy on returns, quality control, credits, replacements, and other variables that may arise.
6). Make sure to discuss fuel increase surcharges. What begins as a minimal increase at the beginning of the summer could cost more than the product by Labor Day.
7). Is there a price hold contract rate? This is a common practice. Vendors will decide on a price for a certain product and hold that price for a year if you guarantee a sales minimum. This makes food costing, invoice, price checking, and market fluctuation easier to track.
8). Remember you are not only in the restaurant business you are in the commodities business The difference- the pork bellies and corn get delivered to your back door.
9). Inquire as to whether the vendor’s changes product line frequently. Do they keep the same products for a long time? Do they add new products for customers to try. Do they allow for sample products? Having a vendor who continually discontinues product is an obstacle you don’t need to deal with.
10). Track record. Dealing with restaurants is not easy and many vendors get hurt and face financial difficulties because of it. Get references from the vendor and check their reputation with other restaurants.
And, once you enter into an agreement, remember to pay your bills on time, be courteous when you order and no matter how frustrated you become keep in mind the relationship is like a marriage – so communicate with your produce guy and don’t dodge him when thinks get tough.