Michael Shepherd Expo Exclusive 2012

Shepherd

Beating up your vendors will usually get you nowhere fast. Many will disagree with me on this issue, but I firmly believe that a restaurant-vendor relationship is a two-way street.

Consider the relationship your pizzeria has with its customers. The customer expects to be valued, respected and serviced at a fair price, while you expect mutual respect, loyalty and a fair price for your pizza. Flip that around with your vendors, where you are now the customer.

Seen in this light, picking the right vendor is a crucial step, one that should create a lasting partnership that is profitable for both you and your vendor. Here are five ways to know if your vendor is worthy of your business:

1. Your vendor is happy to have your business. Every time you see your sales rep, every time you speak to a sales manager, every time you speak to a driver, you should get the feeling that they are pleased to serve you and that they understand that their paychecks are there every week because of customers like you. Positive employees reflect a positive vendor work environment, which will result in great service.

2. Your vendor goes the extra mile. On one cold New Year’s Day I had the displeasure of finding my floor drains overflowing and flooding my store. The contractor had tied them into the storm drains outside, and a downpour of rain in the night had spilled out into my store. While the associated headaches were many, one less thing I had to deal with in the aftermath was finding a place to store all the perishables that were sitting in my walk-in cooler about 10 inches above a sea of grimy brown water. My vendor sent a reefer truck and picked up all my food and stored it until I was able to get cleaned up and reopened.

3. Your vendor will set contract pricing. If you are willing to step up and give a vendor 80 to 90 percent of your business, you should expect them to be willing to agree to some type of price accountability. It could be a verbal or written agreement on markup percentages, cost over block on cheese, or “zone” pricing. Regardless of your volume, you should be able to rely on agreed-upon pricing. Companies that have commissioned sales reps may be resistant to such structures; however, those that have sales reps commissioned on other factors, such as case volume, will be more than happy to accommodate you.

4. Your vendor will guarantee its service. As a responsible pizzeria owner, you always keep plenty of stock on hand for unexpected busy nights or when you’re shorted some product. However, there will always be times when you need something to absolutely, positively be on that truck when it comes in—and it isn’t. A good vendor will get that product to you ASAP! Whether it’s the sales rep putting it in his car, a courier service bringing it to you or even shipping it via FedEx (I once had my vendor overnight a 50-pound bag of flour to me), they should get you what you need when you need it. At a minimum, they should know your list of acceptable substitutions and send them.

5. Your vendor is willing to accommodate your needs. If you’re like me, you don’t keep enough cash on hand to pay a vendor for a truckload of goods or even have a checkbook on site. I require terms: Seven, 10 or 14 days will be fine, but I do not write checks on site for goods. Due to some geographical challenges, I also require that my deliveries be coordinated so they do not disrupt my business or local traffic. Needs like these should be easily accommodated if your vendor is serious about your business.

See Michael Shepherd at International Pizza Expo® Click Here to Register for Expo!

Owner of Michael Angelo’s Pizza and two other Ohio pizzerias, Michael Shepherd will give a seminar at Pizza Expo outlining in detail how to find and do business with the right vendor.

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