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How to Choose Vendors and Suppliers for Your Restaurant

Gluten-free products are very popular within establishments across Toronto. Cafes and Restaurants are on the lookout for quality gluten-free suppliers to provide them with high-quality goods that are affordable and tasty.

But, most importantly, restaurants need to partner with the right supplier for gluten-free products. After all, food and supplies form the raw materials for building a tasty menu and strong customer experience in a restaurant.

gluten free products
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Major metropolitan areas have many vendors, restaurant suppliers, and wholesale distributors that want your business, but how do you pick the right one?  A good starting point is to look at your competition and find out which vendors they are using.

Many vendors even take pride in sharing their list of customers as references.  Do the research, call the references, and consider these five attributes before making your first order.

1. Expertise

Operating restaurants have become increasingly complicated and relying on top-notch food and beverage distribution companies are critical to your business’ success.  Let’s say you’re planning to open a new pizzeria that specializes in seasonal vegetable toppings. Searching for a vendor who works directly with farmers is probably a great start.

Most likely that produce vendor has the expertise to choose the best farms growing the best fruits and vegetables within a season. Relying on how they store and ship items is essential to maintaining freshness and will translate into better tasting dishes.

2. Delivery

Your time is valuable as an operator.  Shopping at wholesale stores, driving to farms, or picking up at Will Call is time-consuming and keeps you away from your restaurant where you’re needed the most.  Vendors who deliver their goods and services will most likely be your favourite ones. 

But the delivery isn’t free.  Logistics is complicated and expensive and vendors typically build that into the cost of goods.  Furthermore, opaque cost structures frustrate even the savviest owners.  Delivery days and times can also vary and will influence pricing as well. But, at the end of the day, not having to leave your restaurant to pick up goods is an essential vendor attribute.

3. Ordering

Ordering supplies has become much simpler with companies as all customers order through a mobile app on their smartphone.  Many vendors are slow to adopt technology when processing orders and mistakes occur regularly.  Those same vendors also rely on a sales force to collect orders from customers which are expensive and prone to errors. Just like delivery, vendors will bake these costs into their pricing.  

Another advantage to online ordering is the extension of ordering cut-off times. Choosing a vendor that’s created a technology-based ordering system can be extremely advantageous when ordering goods and supplies for your restaurant.

4. Digital Catalog

Let’s think more about that new pizzeria you’re aspiring to open. Is that imported can of tomato exclusive to Italian speciality vendors?  Maybe you want to offer a gluten-free pizza crust.  Do they sell a flour substitute?  The list of vendors and their catalogues can get tangled in emails, printed pdf’s, cocktail napkins, or even those old school printed catalogues.  Having access to an online catalogue that’s available 24/7 is essential for many reasons. 

Not only can it perform well at its core (list of items available), but it can generate new ideas and diminish the effort of tracking down sales reps during office hours.  Foodservice distributors are slowly realizing the importance of online catalogues and the best ones are keeping them updated with pricing and real-time inventory levels.

5. Pricing

Business’ thrive on profits and more often than not, pricing is the final decision in how to pick a vendor.  Some operators pit fresh food vendors against each other to get the best price.  In the dry goods and non-food categories, full-line distributors usually offer the best pricing yet determine to price on purchasing volume. 

Some vendors are open to price negotiations, but that can become burdensome and often leads to ill will towards your vendor. Are you really getting the best price? The best vendors are transparent with pricing which leads to a positive, long term relationship. 

Picking the right vendor could be the best business partner you could ever have. Think critically about how to achieve your goals and share those with your vendor. Aligning your business with vendors who are honest, fair and experts in their category will be the most beneficial to your business.