Factors to Consider When Choosing Food Suppliers

Quality of Products

The first and most important attribute of a restaurant food supplier is that they have high-quality products.

However talented your chef is, they can’t overcome poor ingredients, so make sure your suppliers have fresh, quality goods. On each delivery, carefully assess incoming produce to ensure it meets your standards.

Pricing and Payment Terms

Suppliers differ in price and the terms they offer. It’s worth the time to compare suppliers of similar quality to find the best price on the product you need.

Some suppliers require payment on delivery, while others offer Net 30 payment.

It’s typically advantageous to your restaurant to select the longest possible payment period. The Buyers Edge Platform can help manage your supply chain to make sure that you receive the correct products at the best prices.

Delivery Options and Schedule

Your best restaurant food supplier is one that delivers to you on a compatible schedule. Assess the options for delivery and optimize for a schedule that makes the most sense for your needs.

For produce, you want a delivery schedule that gets you the freshest possible goods for immediate use. Other types of goods, such as alcohol and paper products, can be delivered at longer intervals.

Customer Service and Support

Finally, don’t forget about customer service. You’ll be working closely with suppliers for restaurants for a long time, and will depend on their services.

It’s important that your suppliers have a meaningful commitment to a high level of customer service. If you have a problem with the day’s delivery of seafood, you want your seafood supplier to consider that to be their problem too, and work hard to resolve your concerns.

Types of Food Suppliers for Restaurants

Wholesale Food Distributors

Wholesale distributors purchase goods in large quantities from manufacturers for resale to restaurants. They often offer a wide variety of goods at wholesale prices. It’s quite possible that you can find a single distributor offering produce, meat and seafood.

Local Farms and Producers

The modern dining customer values local food and the support of local farms. It can be to your advantage as a restaurateur to establish connections with farms and farmers in your area, and highlight the origin of your ingredients on the menu. Whether local farms can supply the appropriate type and quantity of food for your restaurant will depend on your area, the season, and your restaurant concept.

Specialty Food Importers

Hard to find goods from distant regions of the world are the province of the specialty food importer. This business is dedicated to the provision of gourmet goods such as wines, cheeses, specialty meats, pastries, and spices.

In the United States, a specialty food importer will often be dedicated to bringing European goods to the American market.

Steps to Finding and Evaluating Food Suppliers

Identifying Your Restaurant’s Needs and Requirements

When preparing to select new suppliers, begin with an overview of your menu.

Dish by dish, what ingredients are required to execute these dishes?

Make a list and then consult with your chef—does he want to change the makeup of any of these dishes, or add entirely new creations to the menu?

Once you’ve established your ingredient list, track which products are coming from which suppliers. Most likely, you’ll want to preserve your relationship with your best suppliers while replacing the worst performers.

Optimizing your restaurant’s operations is key and companies like RASI & The Buyers Edge Platform offer services that can help tremendously for your restaurant’s profitability.

Researching and Comparing Food Suppliers

You may be wondering how to find food suppliers for a restaurant.

These days, the best approach is two-pronged: research online and talk with friends in the industry.

With your list of confirmed ingredients in hand, do some research online to find prospective suppliers that offer what you need. Collect phone numbers or email addresses, and start contacting them to request quotes.

You may find a supplier that offers a significantly better deal than others. In that case, don’t immediately sign a contract before you’ve done your due diligence. Research online to determine whether the supplier has a good reputation, and ask other restaurateurs for their experience.

Conducting Site Visits and Sampling Products

Once you’ve whittled down your list of prospective suppliers to a few candidates with the best prices and reputation, it’s time to sample products for quality.

Most local farms will be glad to show you their operation, including how they harvest and store produce for distribution.

Other types of suppliers, such as meat and seafood wholesalers, may not offer a tour but will gladly deliver sample goods. Ultimately, there’s no better way to test the quality and flavor of a product than to try it yourself.

Reviewing Contracts and Agreements

Your chosen suppliers will offer standard contracts and agreements—review them carefully to ensure their terms are satisfactory and appropriate to your needs.

If there are particular clauses that are unclear, ask for clarification. A contract is a negotiation on paper, so don’t be afraid to ask for changes that make the terms more favorable to your restaurant.

Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Food Suppliers

Communicating Effectively and Establishing Trust

Relationships are built on communication and trust. Speak frequently with your vendors, and bring up any issues that arise, such as quality problems or unreliable delivery schedules.

The more openly you can discuss the issues, the quicker you’ll see resolutions. Be careful to approach such conversations with a solutions oriented mindset, focused on how you can solve the problem together, rather than a focus on blame.

Being Open to Negotiation and Collaboration

Your restaurant food suppliers are businesses with their own way of doing things, their own schedules and procedures that work for them.

Be willing to negotiate to find contract terms and delivery schedules that work for you both. Treat the supplier management team as your collaborators in solving problems, rather than taking a competitive or adversarial approach to issue resolution.

Providing Feedback and Sharing Goals

In any relationship, clear and timely feedback is an important component to building a shared understanding of how to work together.

When problems arise, address them immediately in a constructive fashion. Beyond issue by issue problem solving, you can help your suppliers understand how to serve your restaurant by sharing goals with them. Give them clear metrics to aim at.

Maintaining Regular Contact and Showing Appreciation

Ultimately, the health of your supplier relationships will be determined by the quality of your contacts with them. Most suppliers will tell you that the most important thing they want from a restaurant is consistent payment. But there’s more to it than that—they also want appreciation for the job they do and the products they deliver. If your restaurant food vendor is delivering high quality food on schedule, let them know you’re grateful. Have regular positive interactions with your vendors; these interactions will form the basis of a relationship that thrives and can survive difficulties.