If you’ve read our past two installments — or are simply conducting your business — you know most of the restaurant industry is fighting a labor shortage and supply issues. Previously, we discussed solutions related to raising employee wages and increasing prices to facilitate that. The next solution is just as important: meeting with distributors and vendors to ensure you’re getting a fair price from them.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve experienced product shortages — with some products simply being discontinued — and price increases, as the vendors that service our industry also feel the pain of the pandemic. But the answer is not a simple renegotiation or just switching vendors. Rather, it’s having an honest conversation with vendors about where we’ve been, where we are now and where we go from here.
Vendors face challenges from all sides, from manufacturers to customers who bolt for small savings and big promises. But if you’ve been loyal to your vendors, keeping your business with them for a long period, then you owe it to yourself to start the discussion. Remind them of how your relationship started, how you’ve always found common ground in the past. Talk about how you both hung tough during the pandemic, and finally, remind them that when other vendors came for your business, you were always loyal.
The circumstances restaurants and their vendors currently are facing are quite similar. Supply disruptions and employee shortages are crunching both parties weekly. In your conversation, let vendors know you are concerned not only for your business but theirs, as well, and the state of the industry. We’re all in this together — and we’ll get through it and build a better tomorrow.
Beyond the emotional component, discuss what price structures are in place right now, be prepared to go through your invoices line-by-line, and identify areas where you can get better pricing immediately. This is to remind the vendor how long it’s been since such a detailed review occurred and make sure they are aware of where the prices currently stand. I’ve seen that when you review line-by-line with the right person, they are happy to find ways to save you money where they can. You can expect them to be honest and tell you where prices will keep going up or where they are at the mercy of the manufacturers.
Next, take it to the final step and talk about the future. What can you expect from them, in terms of service and price? Where do they see their business going in the coming months and years? How do they see your relationship evolving? Then let them know your own game plan — how you see your business growing and your vision for the future.
Indeed, all great businesses, from the tech world to pizza shops, must have a vision. This is a dream or long-term goal that can be shared with your vendors and your team members alike. In the next installment of Building Blocks, we’ll discuss crafting a vision that resonates — and why now is the perfect time to build more stores.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza