This industry is filled with partners and pariahs. A partner wins with your pizzeria’s success; they are successful when you are, which is good business. I don’t expect my food vendor not to turn a profit. I expect them not to profit off me at a 10X rate. That would be a pariah. I’ve had pariahs as food vendors before. The pariah dynamic typically happens with single-store units without leverage or a serious negotiation push. A pariah does not care if your business fails; they want to use you til you fail and find no incentive for the inverse, i.e., your success. Typically partner company culture has vision and resolve; bad company cultures feed off customers with ownership who are looking to purely monetize customers as fast as possible with no long-term vision.
When it comes to a partner, they’re looking to set you up for success so that you can grow, and they can keep monetizing with you and that’s good for all. The ideal setup is everyone you work with is a partner. Here is my process for how I achieved that.
Write down every vendor and partner not officially on payroll that you work with in any regard and ask, is this person a partner or pariah? Caution: If you think every one of them is a pariah, you are the problem. If you constantly complain about them while not informing them of your concerns in a reasonable manner that addresses the facts of the issue and not the emotion, then again, you are the problem. But if you seek to ensure they benefit with you, then you are a partner.
Once written down, take a week for each Pariah to try to turn the relationship into a partnership.
I used to have my food purveyor, who sold me chemicals at three times what another vendor charged for the same item. When approached about it, my food vendor of the time, i.e., the pariah, said, “That’s just our fee, can’t do anything about it,” That’s how I make money.” It was clear they were not in partnership with us, and I changed my business to the partner who just wanted to charge a few percentage points over what they paid, and that is my partner today.
For the pariahs you can’t change, find a new replacement who is hopefully a better partner.
The current partner/pariah debate typically centers around third-party delivery vendors. And before you assume all third parties are pariahs, realize they can be partners. They’ve built a technology hub and want to do all the insurance and leg work of having people deliver food on your behalf. That’s a partnership. When they have insane fees over 15 percent, bad accounting, and never respond to an e-mail, they enter the realm of pariah.
But I’ve turned my third-party vendor, the only one I choose, into a partner, and I’m proud of that relationship. The third-party delivery drivers who fail, I blacklist, but the ones who kill it and deliver a great product and service; I give sodas and slices while they wait in a zoned-off area.
This concept goes for every interaction, though. The same concept applies to government and regulatory agencies that are not on any of your payrolls. I could complain about them, but if I have a direct one-to-one meeting and maybe cater a few events to make sure they know I care, in turn, they start to care about me and my business. And that is how you turn a pariah into a partner. No matter how many stores you have.
Repair people, health departments, food vendors, liquor reps and every online seller in between them will care about you when you humanize yourself and recognize their effort. If they don’t, clearly explain your stance and inform them you want to find someone else who would be a better partner fit, i.e., fire them and replace them.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch