How Important Are Good Vendor Relationships?

I’ve had the good fortune of having some amazing relationships with vendors over the years – food, wine, produce, you name it.

I’ve had vendors use their personal truck on a day off for an off-hours delivery just to make sure I didn’t have to 86 several wines that were selling like crazy. One of my clients had a vendor loan him a refrigerated trailer to make extra room in his freezer during a very busy summer week. Plus, vendors have helped me print menus, write recipes, build inventory worksheets, etc. As a result, I’ve been able to better serve my guests.

Relationships with vendors can either help or hurt. What you make of those relationships is up to you.

Qualities of a Good Vendor Relationship

  1. A good vendor will listen first, talk you into different products “for a better deal” second. After listening, they should be able to make constructive, productive suggestions that fit your overall concept. Selling you a great Caribbean jerk seasoning for a new “special” when you are an Italian Cucina isn’t helping you, it’s probably helping them.
  2. A good vendor will have in-house specialists and bring in guest experts to help with various parts of your menu. Center of the plate, produce, help in training grill men, cocktail creation, etc.
  3. A good vendor should already be giving you your best price. If you find the same product cheaper somewhere else and then they somehow “find a way” to cut $3/case, something is wrong. Either they could have saved you $3 all along, or they are switching products that look cheaper to keep your business. Good relationships are built on trust.
  4. A good vendor won’t “pop in” with food reps for at least 6 months into the relationship. Even then, impromptu visits should be rare. Vendors should schedule an appointment, not use your relationship to essentially assist door-to-door solicitors. Once a rapport is established, a rep may stop by unannounced, but always at a time they know is good for you.