Figuring out how to pick a restaurant supplier takes a bit
of planning. Sure, if you are part of a chain you don’t have to worry about
this; the parent company will make all of your connections. For independent
owners, though, this is a serious decision. The right supplier will ensure that
you have good prices on all your equipment; the wrong one will cost you much
more than just a few dollars.
Reputation Trumps All
The best prices won’t be much of a comfort if a company’s
reputation is questionable. You will never be able to trust your supplier to
give you what you pay for, or to be honest with you when you need an opinion.
Check with the local Better Business Bureau, other local restaurants and fellow
restaurant owners to establish whether the supplier you are considering has a
reputation you can live with.
Once you have a few suppliers in mind that have good
reputations, start looking at catalogues. These can be online or in paper form.
Check the prices of common items. What does a wooden 4-top cost? How much will
you pay for shipping? Do they have a buyback program if you want to upgrade
your furniture or equipment? The goal is to set up an apples-to-apples
comparison, not just make assumptions based on a couple of items.
Do They Stock the Right Products?
Chances are that you have some idea of what you want your
restaurant dining room to look like, so figure out if a particular supplier has
what you need. Do they carry the right type of tables and chairs? Do they offer
more than the basics? Can they help you connect with the right kitchen
equipment? If they don’t stock such items, do they work with someone who does? This leads to the next question…
What Else Do They Offer?
A good furniture supplier will have contacts way beyond the
restaurant industry. They should have business relationships with delivery
services, inventory trackers, local food suppliers and more. The restaurant
industry is a complex world, and to succeed, each supplier needs to have a web
of contacts with whom they have good relationships. This list of contacts will
help you save time and money with every interaction.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions
Now that you have some idea of what you want in a good
restaurant supplier, narrow your list of choices. Then, create a list of
questions you want answered by each candidate. Delivery schedules in your area,
assistance in constructing new purchases, warranty information, billing
practices and more should be addressed before you make the final decision.
The relationship you have with your supplier has the
potential for making or breaking your business. Make sure you pick the right
company to work with.