What’s the most significant thing a restaurant owner manages? Ask the owner of a new start-up restaurant, and the answer may be “maintaining food quality” or “selecting the menu.” However, even if they don’t know it yet, it’s maintaining relationships with food vendors.
As a restaurant owner, you have to manage several different relationships, all of which are essential for your business’s growth. Your cooks, waiters, other restaurant staff, customers, and food suppliers—each of them has immense significance when it comes to maintaining your restaurant’s bottom line.
However, most restaurateurs invest all their efforts in cultivating healthy relationships with staff and customers, leaving suppliers behind. According to research, food supplies and raw material purchases make up for almost one-third of your total restaurant’s costs. If you’re not paying enough attention to your suppliers and your relationship with them, you’re leaving a handsome amount of money on the table.
Without a good supplier relationship, you won’t have a clear picture of where one-third of your money is going, which can impact your projections of the restaurant’s growth and how you see your business’s health.
Inventory management is critical to a restaurant’s service, ability to provide guests with a pleasant food experience, and hospitality. Few things are worse than telling a regular guest that you “ran out” of a meal they had their eyes on because you couldn’t make accurate demand predictions.
Food suppliers are a critical building block of every small-sized and large-scale restaurant. And maintaining good supplier relationships is essential for smooth day-to-day operations. Nurturing a strong bond with the right supplier is as significant to your restaurant’s growth and success as hiring the right chef and restaurant manager.
We’ve worked with several restaurant managers and owners across various restaurant styles, cuisines, and concepts. With that knowledge, we’ve identified six key components for cultivating and maintaining healthy and profitable relationships with restaurant suppliers. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Invest in Your Relationships
The relationship between a restaurant owner and supplier is a business partnership that should be equally profitable for both parties. Successful restaurateurs value their relationships with suppliers and invest their efforts, money, and time in strengthening them.
Tracking your inventory levels in perpetuity will increase your restaurant’s efficiency and will help you establish a foreseeable tempo with your food suppliers. You’ll also have to work on your relationships with the guests and your restaurant’s staff to put across your restaurant as dependable, trustworthy and credible.
You need to convey to your suppliers that you’re an honest and reliable business if you want to have the upper hand during price negotiations. If your suppliers deem you trustworthy, they are more likely to offer you discounts, price cuts, and high-quality products.
Additionally, they will spread positive word of mouth about your restaurant among other suppliers. Suppliers have a vast network, and one bad review can make a dent on your restaurant’s reputation among reputable food suppliers you want to work with. So, make sure you’re leaving a good impression on your suppliers!
Get Yourself Introduced
If you’ve found a food supplier and have built a healthy relationship with them, make the most of it. Ask them to introduce you to other food suppliers that have a reputable name in the industry—those you’d want to work with.
Having a supplier vouch for your trustworthiness and credibility will help you big time when it comes to finding suitable suppliers in the long run. This is even more essential if you’re interested in working with small-scale food suppliers who stay far from high-risk transactions because they have more to lose.
Similarly, suppliers are always on the hunt for restaurants who are well-reputed and can make the right business partner.
Ask for Product Samples
As you seek new supplier relationships and strengthen existing ones, don’t forget to ask for product samples before you get into an official contract.
Also, do some research about their previous or existing clients or ask your supplier for references, so you can obtain first-hand information on how other restaurants’ experience was with them.
The more information you gather before going into a contractual partnership, the better it will be for your restaurant’s success and profitability.
Do Your Research Based on Your Restaurant’s Requirements
If you’re searching for local food producers and suppliers, or unique ingredients for your menu, get out and do your own research.
Head to the farmers’ market in your locality and try products that you want to procure and connect with local farmers. Also, seek information about bigger, dependable, and profitable farm operations from the local market organisers, as they tend to have a ton of knowledge and inside information about farmers.
Working with local producers and suppliers can be very profitable, and interacting with them in-person is the first step in partnering with them. You could also consider joining a local food cooperative if you want to work with local food producers.
Restaurant owners who are connected via a food cooperative can order in bulk, making it easier for small-scale suppliers to cater to your needs and offer lucrative discounts. Look for cooperatives in your area, or ask other restaurateurs in your neighbourhood if they’re a part of a local food cooperative or if they are interested in establishing one.
Even if you’re looking to procure most products on your menu locally, you can still make room for large-scale food producers and suppliers. If you’re investing in organic red or white meat from a local producer, you can save on common commodities like paper, common spices, and flour by buying from large-scale food suppliers.
Their prices are going to be more competitive, leaving you with more money to invest in products for your specialty menu.
Socialise With Your Food Service Suppliers
Food suppliers and producers have discovered that they can boost product demand by interacting directly with consumers (consumers are the guests who eat from the restaurants, while restaurant owners are the customers for foodservice suppliers and producers). Give your suppliers something to share on their social media handles by engaging with them. If they are not on social media, socialise with your suppliers by leaving positive reviews about their services and product quality on online platforms. Online reviews show that a brand or business is reliable.
Doing so will help you grab their attention. Post a photo of the most running meal from your menu and tag the supplier who provided the ingredients for that meal. Visit their production facilities and take photos of their processes and practices.
You can post these pictures with a caption talking about the cleanliness of their facility and their eco-friendly practices. This will strengthen your bond with your supplier, help your supplier get more customers, and help you attract more guests to your restaurants.
The more you socialise with them, the more you’ll be engaging with their circle of suppliers and expanding your network.
Be Nice and Generous
While all the new contacts with suppliers and a good bond with your existing food supplier will help improve your profits, also make sure you’re helping their bottom line as well.
Recommend your supplier, their services, and their product offerings to other restaurant owners within your area or your circle—and let your supplier know you recommended them.
Utilise their ingredients to create unique dishes on your menu and provide feedback to your supplier about how much your guests love the dishes made using their products. Even if you’ve sorted things out on your own, reach out to your supplier for suggestions when you’re looking to add a new item to your menu.
This way, you’ll get first-hand knowledge about the best products to create a specific menu; your supplier will get a sense of acknowledgment that they are being included in the decision-making process. Ask them if they require your help about a particular product and if there are any specific items that they think would complement your menu.
Use OrderTron for Enhanced Food Service Supplier Management
Remember, strengthening your relationship with the suppliers, or the rest of your community, to improve your profitability only works when both parties are benefitting from the collaboration. If you’re working on your supplier relationship with positive intentions, you’ll be able to take your bottom line to new heights, and so will your supplier.
If you’re a restaurant owner looking to improve your bond with your foodservice supplier, get in touch with OrderTron. It is a reliable and cutting-edge order management software for small businesses, including retail customers and foodservice supplier
Logging into different systems, and remembering emails and supplier contacts to send off product orders can be a difficult task. Our advanced Mobile Order Management Software App for retailers will help you manage all your products, suppliers, and orders from your smartphone or other handheld devices, saving you costs, time, and improving your supplier relationships.
OrderTron is a one-for-all software that incorporates order processing, inventory management and tracking, and order management. Connect with us at +61 2 8599 8830 for more information or fill this form to request a free trial today!