9 steps to finding your perfect food supplier
Safe Food Suppliers
When you run a food business, it’s no overstatement to say that your choice of suppliers can be the difference between success and failure. And there’s a lot to consider. Price, yes. But equally important are things like delivery schedule, accreditations and – most important of all – food safety management. Here are some pointers to streamline the search for your perfect food supplier.
Have a clear idea of what you are looking for
Finding a supplier that fits your business starts with having a well-defined idea of what you’re looking for. So before you begin hurling questions at potential suppliers, you need to ask yourself some. Would you like ingredients to be sourced locally? Do you need your supplier to deliver to your premises at certain times? Knowing what you want before you begin searching will save you a lot of time, so it’s worth some thought.
Figure out the financials
As well as knowing what you are looking for, you need to know how much you are willing to pay for it. What’s your budget? How far are you willing to stretch to get the right food products? How much room is there for you to add mark-up to the products before they become too expensive for your customers? Is that mark-up enough for you to return a comfortable profit? Stretching for high overheads can put a lot of pressure on small businesses. Happily, you know your accounts better than anyone. You’re the perfect person for the job.
Ask about your supplier’s delivery schedule
Once you have found a prospective supplier, there’s plenty of information you will need to wheedle out before you can decide whether to work together. One of the first things to find out is how your supplier’s products will get to your premises. Do they deliver or will you have to send someone to collect them? Do they have a set time of day for delivery and does that fit with your rotas? And if you need your supplier to deliver fresh produce seven-days a week, is that something they can offer?
What are your supplier’s policies for food safety management?
Food safety is the most important aspect of any food business. And it’s something consumers are increasingly sensitive to. How does your supplier ensure the safety and integrity of their produce? Do they use temperature monitoring systems? Or automated food safety software? Where does your supplier source their products or raw ingredients from? If you are big on food provenance and traceability, you need a supplier who is too.
What industry accreditations or awards does your supplier have?
Be sure to ask for evidence of all food safety certificates and industry accreditations. You might also want to ask if your supplier has won any awards for their produce. It’s true that a lack of awards doesn’t signify a lack of quality. But when a supplier does have awards, you can be reasonably sure you’re onto a good thing.
Who are your prospective supplier’s existing clients?
A look at a supplier’s client list can tell you a lot about their philosophy and how they work. Do they work with multinational supermarkets? They can probably guarantee a minimum level of quality, but you might find them to be extremely busy. Does your supplier prefer to work with small independent retailers? Provenance and traceability will likely be important to them, but they may not be able to guarantee enough supply to meet large orders. If you’re feeling curious, there’s no harm in contacting an existing client of a prospective supplier to do a little detective work.
What about staff training and staff turnover?
Your prospective supplier’s staff should be thoroughly drilled when it comes to food safety – knowledgeable about the risks and clued up about how to avoid them. Staff can be fickle in the food industry, but if you discover that your supplier has a particularly high staff turnover it’s even more important to make sure their inductions on food safety are rigorous and that standards are monitored. Your supplier’s answers might be hard to verify, but it’s worth asking anyway.
Does your supplier have any skeletons in the closet?
After an initial conversation, it might seem like your supplier is just what you are looking for. But before making any final decision, it makes sense to check the background of their company. Trust Online allows you to run checks on a company to see if they have any outstanding County Court Judgements against them – such as for unpaid bills or undelivered orders. It costs £4 to search any registered company based in England and Wales – a small fee for peace of mind.
Remember it’s a two-way thing
Finally, when you’re talking to a prospective supplier, remember that you’re not the only one looking for the right kind of business to work with. Your supplier may have boundaries on the type of businesses they choose to retail their products, so making the right impression and selling the story of your company is something you should be prepared for.
Partnering with a supplier is a big decision and there’s plenty to think about. Break down the various factors – financials, food safety, delivery etc – into bite-sized chunks (excuse the pun) and you will be able to make decisions that are lucid, structured and informed. And remember, you will most likely be able to find plenty of preliminary information online.
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