Finding the right food supplier is tough when there are so many selections out there. Start looking in your own back yard before you go looking around on the internet. Using local suppliers and farmers also assists with the area’s economy which in turns boosts your business. Check with your local chamber of commerce to be recognized for buying local as well. Many stores have stickers to indicate their status similar to being a member of the BBB. Another huge plus is that locally based suppliers get local sales representatives. These guys normally deal with accounts by assisting you in setting up your account as well as being your go-to contact in another matter. Having someone you build a relationship with is valuable in the age of pre-recorded voice services. There is nothing like calling a sales rep on their cell phone and having them pick up without dialing six different numbers and listening to all those annoying menus! Local products will save you tons in delivery fees and trust me the fees will eventually start adding up over time. Keep this in mind when making your selections if the prices are lower where do they make up for it? A pizza place uses fresh vegetables and meats on pizza, why not serve your guest the best? Buying from the farmer across town and a butcher around the corner is a wonderful way to set the higher standards. It is amazing how much having a right-off-the-vine tomato in your sauce and fresh cut of meat topping can change the whole pie.
When you make contact with sales rep asks for samples so you know what you are getting. Go to the farms and see where your vegetables are coming from. Knowing what you are serving to your guests is important. Organic food is healthier for you and smaller local farmers do not use additives and the pricing can be just as competitive as the bigger guys. Respect for your product is respect for the food you serve your customers. Customers will pay if the product is worth what they are getting.
Talk to your sales rep and shop around. There are probably a few different companies that will pine for your business. Let them wine and dine you! This is the fun part of shopping around, they may not really wine and dine you but you have the advantage. These guys would love to have your business and for most of your bulk ordering you can usually ask if they are willing to match the competitor which gives you a great advantage upon ordering when they honor the lower prices. Do not think this information will be advertised to you either so be smart. Look around and always keep an eye out on the best deals when you order for your stores. Some products are going to be seasonal in your area depending on what you are buying. Knowing what the seasonal pricing is for those ingredients you need all year round is important. Accommodate it in your budget by planning ahead during off season.
Ordering should be hassle free. Let’s face, it you have a company to run, you deserve at least one thing to go smoothly. See if you can do online ordering - having automatic ordering for those staple products is also nice to have. Your sales rep will contact you after they notice trends in buying habits reminding you it is time to reorder. Most companies also have minimum quantities you can order on some products. However, you may need a perishable item that you don’t use in large quantities, so in this case ask if you can break cases. Milk is something that would fall into this category, no need to waste your money. Ask questions and get informed, then get it in writing. Getting promises is one thing but make sure you see them set in stone. Have them set this up in your contract or see it on company header.
Deliveries are tricky in a restaurants and making them run smoothly is very important. Scheduling the appropriate amount of staff in will ease the pain of a delivery. Most people won't mind to coming in just to work a truck, extra money is extra money. Smaller restaurants should always ask if there are weekend, early morning, or late evening deliveries so you can have your delivers out of peek time. Companies will not always be able to fit your company's every whim, so know the delivery schedule. Trucks go to certain parts of town on scheduled days; normally there is more than one day so you have a selection. Getting a truck full of products to find the olives you ordered missing is frustrating. See what the company’s policy is on missing or back ordered items. Drivers get you what you need so you want to be friendly to them. Having a backup supplier or multiple suppliers will help if this should every happen. Treating a driver bad has to be one of the biggest mistakes owners can make. Treat them with respect and know that traffic and other stops could put your driver behind. DO NOT hassle the driver offer him a drink maybe even a bite to eat, most of the time you will find they will decline, anyways it is still nice to have the offer. These guys live in the area just like your sales reps they will keep you happy so keep them happy. Also, word of mouth business is important; these guys know each other and go to places on lunch breaks just like the rest of us do. Prior to setting up an account see what the arrangement is for drivers; some are unions so find out what happens in the event of a dispute. You do not want to end up in a jam if something happens. Life happens; check to see if drivers will call in the event of a late delivery. It is okay to be upset but again do not take this out on your driver.
Providing the freshest ingredients will allow you to serve your guests. As a restaurant owner you put your reputation on the line each time a plate goes to a table… what you put on that plate represents you. What does your plate say about you?