Rules of Vendor Relationship Management

Vendor relationship management is one of the least visible, but most significant, aspects of the restaurant world. Good dishes start with top-notch ingredients, so chefs and restaurateurs turn to vendors to procure the finest ingredients available. To find the freshest and highest-quality products, every chef must utilize a strong restaurant management strategy and develop positive relationships with suppliers. Keep these tips in mind to source the best possible ingredients and keep everyone happy.

  • Build Relationships
    Working with vendors, just as with any other form of collaboration, requires some nurturing. Focus on building a long-term relationship based on the tenets of trust and mutual admiration. If you're opening a new venture, ask people you respect in the industry for positive recommendations. A referral goes a long way in establishing a good connection with reputable vendors.
  • Pay on Time
    Just as you make sure to pay your employees on time, you need to honor your financial commitments to vendors promptly — especially if you work directly with local suppliers like farmers, fishermen and artisan food makers. You should be conscious that they rely on their revenue stream to keep their business going, and most likely, to pay their own salary. Always pay your vendors before or at the agreed-upon time.
  • Be Transparent
    When something goes awry, be transparent but not pushy. Always speak about the issue calmly rather than with the force of emotion. In an industry where the highest standards are expected in every dish and every meal, it's easy to lose your cool over wilted produce or meat that's past its prime. When sending something back, make sure to point out the specific issue and verbalize your appreciation for otherwise good service. You can still address an issue while maintaining a positive perspective — doing so probably means your vendor will value your business even more.
  • Write It Down
    As with any business transaction, written accounts of your expectations increase clarity for both you and your vendor. Going through an order on the phone is convenient, but it should be a secondary action after reviewing a written order or invoice. Written agreements make it easier to solve any conflicts and avoid a "he said, she said" debate.
  • Pay Fair Prices
    Everyone wants a good deal, but the best working relationships accompany market value prices. Paying for the quality of your products ensures your vendor will stay in business. If you're looking to save, ask if one of your vendors has anything extra you could take off their hands. Seasonal fruit and vegetables often overwhelm farmers and distributors at certain times of year — get a good deal and make them last through the year by pickling, freezing or preserving them in different forms.
  • Make Deliveries Easy
    Deliveries can be challenging due to the logistics of moving a lot of products at once. To make the process as easy as possible, train your employees in the proper protocol and set up a regular routine for processing new orders. If you do not have a clear area for parking, help the driver find the best possible place to unload.

Incorporate these guidelines into your vendor relationship management strategy to build positive relationships with suppliers. If you hit bumps along the way, be transparent and firm. As always, bring it back to clear, written expectations to build a relationship that lasts.

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