How to Choose Vendors and Suppliers for Your Restaurant – Five Things to Consider

How to Choose Vendors and Suppliers for Your Restaurant – Five Things to Consider

Restaurants don’t live in bubbles.  Owners rely on plumbers, laundry services, architects, customer loyalty programs, and POS companies to launch restaurants and keep them running efficiently.  But, most importantly, restaurants need to partner with the right restaurant supplier and grocery distributor. After all, food and supplies form the raw materials to building a tasty menu and strong customer experience in a restaurant.

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 has become increasingly complicated and relying on top notch food and beverage distribution companies is 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 favorite ones.  
But delivery isn’t free.  Logistics is complicated and expensive and vendors typically build that into the cost of goods.  Furthermore, opaque cost structures frustrates even the most savvy 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.


Save time by ordering your supplies through an app or online

3. Ordering

Ordering supplies has become much simpler with companies like Cheetah as all customers order through a mobile app on their smartphone.  Many vendors are slow to adapt technology when processing orders and mistakes occur regularly.  Those same vendors also rely on a sales force to collect orders from customers which is 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. Cheetah customers love to take advantage of the midnight deadline as they can take an accurate inventory post-dinner service.  Moreover, Cheetah takes orders on the weekends when most vendors are closed.  Choosing a vendor that’s created a technology based ordering system can be extremely advantageous when ordering goods and supplies for your restaurant.


Look for companies, like Cheetah, that show their prices transparently
and have online catalogs of all of their groceries and supplies

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 specialty vendors?  Do they sell mozzarella di bufala or will that come from your specialty cheese vendor? Maybe you want to offer a gluten-free pizza crust.  Do they sell a flour substitute?  The list of vendors and their catalogs can get tangled in emails, printed pdf’s, cocktail napkins, or even those old school printed catalogs.  Having access to an online catalog 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 catalogs 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 pricing 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.  

About Cheetah 

Headquartered in San Francisco, Cheetah is a startup that is quickly disrupting the $1 trillion US wholesale grocery and foodservice distribution industry. By offering flexible, next-day deliveries as well as transparent pricing and inventory in an easy-to-use app, Cheetah is helping support thousands of SMB restaurants with their grocery and supply needs in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Seattle, and Dallas. Cheetah has made more than 150,000 deliveries to over 2,000 active customers and has achieved over $100 million in annual sales with triple digit growth. Next up – turbo charging growth by bringing Cheetah to small businesses nationwide. 

Interested in more details? See our website, download our iOS and Android apps, or call us at 1 (800) 571-5231.

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