Restaurant SupplierWhen moving to a new restaurant supplier, it is important to establish the responsibilities of each party in the relationship before you do business. This means setting up a timeline for the transition, going over products, discussing sales tax, getting to know account representatives and ultimately forming a solid contract. It is important to agree on a timeline of these events with your supplier and get familiar with it to ensure a smooth partnership from the very beginning.

The Products from Your Restaurant Supplier

The single most important thing about a restaurant supplier is what they have to offer in terms of products. Before you even think about starting up a relationship with a supplier, get to know what they are selling. Go through the list of products and let them know what you will absolutely need them to have on hand and what you can substitute if there is a shortage of a particular brand. Also, let them know if there is anything you need that they don’t currently stock. Most importantly, test out the products with which you are unfamiliar to be sure they meet your needs.

Key Points:

  • Go over supplier’s product list
  • Identify your crucial and non-crucial product needs
  • Test any products with which you are unfamiliar

The Timeline to Expect from Your Restaurant Supplier

You will want to determine how much inventory you are going to need to get started with your new supplier. Are you rolling out a new menu with new ingredients or stocking an empty kitchen? Your supplier will need to know these things so ordering and delivery can be arranged accordingly. If it is critical you get things rolling immediately, be honest and let your supplier determine if it’s possible. If you have time to do a slow transition, be clear about that too, so no one is rushing needlessly.

Key Points

  • Calculate what you will need to start
  • Determine how long you can take to build up new inventory

Your Account Representative

There should be a person or team of people at your supplier that you can depend on to answer account-related questions. Get to know them as soon as possible. They will be your contact when you have a problem or need to make a change. Make sure they are professional, reliable and knowledgeable. Take this opportunity to ascertain the sales tax status for your state, and any other states in which you operate. Your representative should be able to tell you where you will be taxed, if at all.

Key Points

  • Find out who your contact will be at the company
  • Discuss important details like sales tax with your representative

Making Orders and Rolling Over Deals

Most suppliers have software or even a website where you can place orders easily. Get access to this software and familiarize yourself with it. Make sure to train any employees who will be using it on its proper use. Furthermore, talk to your supplier about any manufacturer’s deals you had prior to your new contract with them. Get their help rolling these over into the new system, so you keep getting the same deals from the manufacturer of certain products as before, if applicable.

Key Points

  • Get access to supplier’s ordering system
  • Familiarize yourself/employees with new ordering system
  • Rollover existing manufacturer deals

Contracts and Rollout to Setup With Your Restaurant Supplier

Your contract is essential to a secure business relationship. First, write a list of everything you need to see in the contract, such as cost, schedule, reimbursement and quality of goods. Your supplier will have a few things that must be in the contract as well, so communicate as much as possible to create a contract that works for both parties. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices for delivery and products.

Your delivery schedule is an important part of your supplier contract. You don’t want a contract that makes it so you can’t get important orders before the weekend rush or has you overstocking paper goods because your deliveries are too far apart. Be specific about what days of the week you need deliveries for certain items, making sure to space them out realistically, so your employees aren’t taking in huge orders on a Saturday morning and nothing on a Tuesday.

Make sure to go over the small details before finalizing your contract. Is there packaging your supplier needs returned? If so, does it get picked up with the next order or separately? What are your responsibilities? Go over the start and end dates for the contract, as well as contract renewal terms. It is important to also go over fair terms for ending the contract prematurely, as this will sometimes happen in the restaurant business.

Key Points

  • Write a list of things you need in a contract
  • Determine delivery schedule and include in contract
  • Be specific about terms like cost, reimbursement and expected quality of goods
  • Set terms for ending the contract early
  • Select start and end date for contract

Get Ready for the Transition

Before you transition from your current supplier to a new restaurant supplier or open your business, meet with your new contact to discuss inventory and to go over everything one more time. Reiterate what you need in stock for the transition dates, and ensure that your new supplier has these items in time for that date. Go over the pricing to make sure it is still within the agreed terms. Also, make sure that all of the items you need in your inventory have reasonable expiration dates and are not past expiration.

Preparation is the key to rolling out a new supplier. It will help you start off smooth, which will build the foundation for a smooth relationship in the future. Starting off rocky may not bode well for future conflict resolution and contract negotiation, so it is in everyone’s best interest to be upfront, professional and thorough in the weeks or months it takes to start making and taking orders and deliveries.