In the Kitchen
pizza on fire: Make the most of your suppliers
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
A pizzeria’s relationship with its suppliers has a tremendous effect on
the success of the business. Just like everyone else, I deal with
suppliers on almost a daily basis to ensure my livelihood is strong.
A pizzeria’s relationship with its suppliers has a tremendous effect on the success of the business. Just like everyone else, I deal with suppliers on almost a daily basis to ensure my livelihood is strong. It’s critical to invest some time and build a good relationship with your suppliers to increase the likelihood of saving money, or getting a better quality product from them. In the end, your business is more profitable. I have worked with different suppliers over the years, and some are definitely better than others.
There are general tips all of us should keep in mind when choosing or dealing with suppliers. Always meet anyone linked in any way to your pizzeria face-to-face. Have some understanding about how his or her business operates. Once you know how your supplier works, you will have a better sense of how it can benefit your business. Ensure that your sales representative is easily accessible. There will be times that some items will be missing from your order list. Whether due to human or computer error, it’s vital for your business that you have quick and easy access to your salesperson so the problem can be remedied as soon as possible.
It’s good practice to be clear about deadlines, always pay on time and avoid placing orders with your suppliers at the last minute. If you wait until the last minute, you might be faced with stock shortages and you run the risk of not getting what you need on time. One thing you will notice right away is that if you are delinquent about paying, your suppliers will stop looking out for your best interest. They will have little incentive to offer you any special discounts if you are behind in your payments. If you can’t settle your account on time, it’s best to warn your suppliers before the due date. Some suppliers may offer better prices if you promise to use them exclusively. But, be careful entering into such contracts because you will have to deal with many problems if that supplier goes out of business. Always keep your eyes opened to what other suppliers are offering, and compare that to what you are currently receiving.
If you are aware of renovations or company changes taking place with your supplier, don’t hesitate to ask what their plans are to ensure it doesn’t affect their service to you. Also, remember that suppliers depend on word–of-mouth to get new clients. If you keep referring new customers to them, they might offer you additional discounts. However, keep in mind that your referrals will still want to make sure your supplier meets their specific needs. In the end, what the supplier is willing and able to provide to your business will ultimately decide how successful the business relationship is. Build a good relationship with suppliers and often they will go that extra step for you when you really need them.
When your order arrives, be sure to double check that all items listed on the invoice have been delivered. It doesn’t hurt to check for any errors and verify that your prices didn’t increase. A few weeks ago, I was invoiced for a few hundred dollars more than usual. It was a surprise to me because I had ordered the usual items, and nothing extra. Sure enough, when I added all of the prices together, it didn’t match the total amount of the invoice. I called the supplier the next day and was told that they would investigate as soon as possible. Five minutes later, I received an apologetic phone call and was told there had been a computer error. Now that is what I call great customer service.
If you are having problems with your suppliers, you’ll be weighing the pros and cons of continuing your business relationship, or finding a new supplier. Sometimes, mentioning you are going to start searching for your product somewhere else will make your current supplier improve their service to you. It may be what they need to hear to start treating your concerns seriously. Poor suppliers are not always those who deliver your order late. More often than not, they knock on your door at the most inconvenient time, send the wrong items, or refuse to take returns.
When your business doesn’t receive the supplies it needs, the quality of service you provide to your customers can be disrupted. At the same time, frequent returns and poor quality of produce can cost you time and money, even if they are replaced free of charge. Late supplies could translate into lost money when your staff has to wait around for produce needed to sell your pizza. Choose your suppliers wisely and then nurture your relationship to create a win-win situation for all.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.