Developing Relationships with Vendors

One of the best things you can do for yourself as a restaurant owner is to make good friends with the suppliers you work with. You deal with these people often and it can be a beneficial relationship to both of you. Coming from a head chef job, I had actually known a few vendors prior to this and was happy to continue working with them. It helped me out a lot, honestly. After a few years of working with people, you come to rely on each other’s’ business and develop good relationships. You want them to succeed because it means they’ll continue to provide you with what you need, and they want you to succeed so that you’ll continue to buy from them.

Having a good working relationship with a vendor is helpful in a few ways. First, they are more willing to give you good prices. Be a repeat customer and maybe you will start getting a discount. Another thing I have noticed is that by being a good customer, you are more likely to have an ally. If something comes in at a good price, the vendor might think of you first. When you need something in a rush or for a special event, a good vendor relationship can really work to your advantage. There have been several occasions where my old boss would decide to add something to the menu at the last minute and an awesome vendor would hook me up with some out of season ingredients. Something I have learned recently: if you’re just starting out, they might be willing to be a bit more flexible in the payment schedules. Might.

So how do you develop a good relationship with a vendor? I usually just ask questions. I tend to ask the foodie questions: What’s in season? What has seemed like really good quality lately? Maybe you’ll get a standard answer but maybe they’ll surprise you. And if the vendor grows or raises the food themselves, they will usually be willing to talk about it. You benefit because you learn what’s fresh and how to spot the good quality stuff when you get it. If you’re dealing with a rep from a company, I have found that questions still work, they’re just different questions. Sometimes I’ll ask how long they’ve been with the company, what their bestsellers are, or what their favorite item they sell is. People like to talk about themselves and they want to express their opinions. I listen to their answers. I’ve gotten some great tips on products this way. Salespeople and deliverypeople know what is popular. What they sell can translate into what will be most successful for me as well.

And speaking of vendors, I have to go place an order. Until next time!