Eye on Hospitality: How to find a vendor that fits your needs

Eye on Hospitality: How to find a vendor that fits your needs https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/shutterstock_387274954.jpg

By Paul Schlienz


Choosing a vendor shouldn’t be rocket science, but you do need to take care and find a provider who fulfills your needs.

“One of the most important things vendors can do is to deliver on their promises,” said Quentin Incao, CEO at Q Hospitality Management. “You want them to deliver on the service level they sold, the quality of the product they sold and the support that they sold. I find at times that vendors are great at selling a product or service, but then, once you have subscribed to their service or start using their product, such as linen or napkin rentals, then, all of a sudden, the service falls off because the vendor’s main goal was sales.”

Will Harmon, a marketing associate at BlueCart, an online and mobile ordering, inventory and operations platform for the hospitality industry, identifies six areas you should consider before committing to a vendor’s product or service: payment options, quality of delivery, minimum and maximum order quantities, quality assurance processes, order availability and references.

Payment options

According to Harmon, payment options can include pay the cost of the product plus a fixed fee or paying the cost of the product plus a percentage.

“Payment options can be significant if you’re comparing one vendor to another and they’re both selling the same toilet paper or they’re both renting the same kind of linen,” Incao said. “At the end of the day, you want to get the best product for the lowest price.”

Arnold Shain, founder of the Restaurant Group, says price stability is more important than finding the lowest price for a product.

“You want to have some price stability,” Shain said. “It’s better to make your plans on price stability versus looking for people who have the best price today. Many people have a very short-term approach to the idea of consistency in pricing.”

Quality of delivery

Having vendors that consistently deliver quality products on-time is essential for any hospitality business.

“Finding a vendor with a track record of on-time delivery is going to be paramount for building a solid professional relationship,” Harmon writes. “A reputation for [quality product] is also essential for not only your relationship with your vendor, but with your customers as well. Selecting a vendor who can deliver on both fronts is a leap in the right direction for a long-lasting partnership.”

Minimum and maximum order quantities

Many vendors have minimum and maximum order quantities. It’s important to understand a vendor’s policy in this area before signing a contract.

“For me, I’d rather vendors didn’t have minimums and maximums because I’d rather be able to get whatever I want whenever I want, however many I want, but I understand why vendors do this,” Incao said. “It controls their costs and deliveries. You’re running a business better if you set up some of those parameters.”

Quality assurance processes

Quality assurance means your vendor is more interested in providing customers with great products than simply moving inventory. Find out how a vendor assures quality before you enter a business relationship.

“Always go for quality rather than cheap and build your menu around quality,” Shain said.

For Incao, however, some products warrant more quality assurance than others.

“If a product is purchased or rented on a weekly basis, like napkins, tablecloths or uniforms, quality assurance is really important because you want product that is undamaged and not marked up,” Incao said. “It’s less important in other products like dental kits, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. I’m not really looking for any quality assurance with those kinds of products. I’m just looking for a good price.”

Order availability

Before signing with a vendor, check for order availability and find out if a vendor’s delivery time syncs with your schedule. According to Harmon, a good sign is when a vendor has adopted a tech solution for streamlining their delivery routes since this means the vendor is forward-thinking and more likely to be a reliable supplier for your business.

“Availability is very important,” said Incao. “If I’ve made the decision to go with you over another vendor for the same product or for any product, but now it’s not available or something else has happened, that, to me, is not acceptable. Some of the questions I ask about something that will be repeatedly ordered: What is the general availability of this product? Is it easy to get each week?”


Checking references can also be a useful way to discern if you want to do business with a vendor.

“If I were brad new in the field, I would definitely want to call up a chef or general manager and ask, ‘Hey, how’s this company been working for you?’ said Dave Coleman, COO of Gourmondo Catering. “Since I’m seasoned in this business, I know where to go, who to call and how to achieve whatever I need, but if I were a new director of purchasing, I know I’d be checking references.”

A recent article in Today’s Hotelier sums it up well: “Having good supplier relationships will help reduce costs and workloads – finding new contacts and renegotiating contracts takes a lot of time – and helps you provide better service to your guests.”

These vendor relationships are, indeed, essential to any hotel or restaurant. Do your due diligence and choose wisely.

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