Food and beverage suppliers play a key role in the success of your restaurant. You pride yourself on sourcing the best ingredients with the partners who deliver reliably and at an effective cost. Like any new relationship, the beginning can be harmonious and productive, but it takes constant effort to ensure your food and beverage suppliers remain Grade-A.
Recent supply chain shortages across the world, stemming largely from decreased production in areas under tight lockdown and understaffed shipping operations, have put these relationships under even further scrutiny. With the very food and beverages your restaurant relies upon to operate no longer assured, knowing who to trust and what to expect over the coming months becomes essential.
The foodservice distribution industry is hypercompetitive and robust. You have lots of choices on which companies supply your restaurant inventory, but how do you spot and manage great food suppliers?
You’re In Control: Performance Indicators
Your restaurant looks for partnerships based on specific needs: inventory, timeliness, reliability. To keep vendors accountable, establish metrics that monitor performance, such as:
- On-time performance percentage – Your restaurant likely relies on just-in-time acquisitions, so having suppliers that reliably deliver goods is essential. If supplies don’t arrive on time, that’s lost revenue.
- Responsiveness – Sometimes orders need to change on the fly. How open is your vendor to alterations, and how quickly do they respond to your requests? Having a supplier that treats you like a partner and not just a revenue source makes your end of the process much more satisfactory.
- Comprehensiveness – Nobody likes having to make ad-hoc orders. Managing an array of food suppliers who can collectively deliver the quality goods you need in bulk at the lowest possible price (at the price you were quoted!) saves you money, time, and lessens the risk of food waste.
Inevitable Obstacles: Emergency Preparedness
Especially in response to recent supply and labor shortages, the likelihood of delays and diminished stock is high. How does a vendor accommodate these setbacks, and do they provide you with open communications and updates? In a true partnership, both parties will work together to ensure deliveries meet expectations.
Before signing the dotted line, you should make sure the agreement and relationship are clear to both you and the supplier. Once your supplier promises a standard around the quality of ingredients and a guarantee of accuracy, make sure there is a process in place to remedy a mistake or complaint. If the supplier is not quick to make sure you are happy and gives you grief about accountability, that should be a major red flag.
Details can be tedious, but it’s important that you have an agreed upon understanding of your product needs, expected pricing and payment terms. Holding each other accountable for agreed upon terms is essential to a healthy relationship that’s good for both businesses.
Humans are naturally creatures of habit, and that brings us comfort, especially in our relationships. Sometimes comfort leads to complacency. In the restaurant business, relationships are what sustain your enterprise.
As part of your process for managing food suppliers, your restaurant needs to conduct relationship audits, whether annually, bi-annually, or simply spot-checking each month. Surveying staff who interact with your suppliers is another great way to get feedback. Even having a supplier discussion topic in your team meetings can ensure maximum results.
Even though cheaper ingredients lead to better margins, poor quality products can turn off customers and give your business a bad name. Maybe sustainability and farm-to-table is something your restaurant hangs its hat on. Regardless, you should know where your food comes from and the time it takes from packaging, picking and/or preparation to the time it makes it to your back door.
Keep Prices Competitive
Every once in a while, get a bid from another supplier to ensure the prices you’re already paying are aligned with the market.
This might sound like a tedious task, but with an inventory software system, you can easily compare prices between suppliers on like items. Instead of having to look back at paper invoices, potentially inaccurate spreadsheets, a robust inventory app with a vendor catalog import will let you see your suppliers’ latest prices in one spot. Paying more isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s important to know what you’re paying and how that compares to other prices.
Too good to be true?
If someone is offering something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Here are a few last words on spotting a rotten deal.
- The quoted price is consistently inconsistent with the invoice.
- Deliveries are often late and happen during service hours.
- Product is shorted without advance notice.
- Supplier substitutes product that won’t actually work.
Managing food suppliers and restaurant inventory isn’t fun, but your suppliers should help make it a little easier with quality products and great customer service.
Even though most restaurant operators prefer to procure F&B via the ease of a mobile device, only 21 percent utilize a smartphone app for this purpose. Fourth’s MacromatiX solution is the worldwide leader in QSR P2P&I, and Fourth’s HotSchedules solution automates myriad back-office tasks.