On the surface a restaurant is quite simple. An establishment where people pay to have meals cooked for them. This simple concept has driven many would-be restaurateurs to kick start their own restaurant business.
But, in reality the commercial dining industry is rather complex. Cooking skills and delicious menus alone cannot guarantee success. At the end of the day your passion project is ultimately a business venture, and businesses thrive on cash profits.
Choosing the best food supplier is probably one of the most crucial component of opening a restaurant. Your food suppliers needs to not only have fresh quality produce, but also have a reliable logistics, and adhere strictly to food safety standards. Lose any one of these qualities and your restaurant can suffer financially.
So if you are a would-be restaurateur you might be asking what to look for in a wholesale food supplier for your restaurant. We have a few pointers that might help.
Age and reputation
Wholesale produce suppliers need word of mouth and trusted customers to last long in the business. If they have been around for many years then they may have a good enough reputation among local businesses. They might even be the preferred produce supplier among the local businesses.
You could ask local eateries where they source their food supplies. Chances are you might find a common name and that is a good sign that it is a reputable food supplier with good history. What’s more important is that they have established connections with their sources and approve of their standards in safety and quality.
But also, nowadays you can just do a search online to find the information about them. You might even find reviews on them from their clients. A simple keyword search will get you names, and even their location on a map. This brings us to the second point.
Locality of distribution
Go with one that is as local to your restaurant’s location as possible. Local eateries that you ask for information from may source their supplies outside of the region. Some may have a combination of local and outside sources depending on their menu items, and that might be a good idea for your own restaurant too if you have a few “unique” items you would like to offer in your own menu.
Whenever possible it is best to have your food supply sourced and distributed locally. It would be even better when the local wholesale produce provider even source their produce from local farms. You are far more guaranteed to receive fresher ingredients when your produce are from within the state borders given the simpler logistics.
So for the best efficiency and quality not only does your provider have to be local, their sources have to be local as well, which then brings us to the next point.
Locality of sources
Local produce wholesalers may not always have goods sourced from local farms. Due to diverse demands and the pressure to provide a steady stream of deliveries to their clients, most wholesalers will source from both inside and outside of their respective regions.
The reason to choose local sources is already pointed out before. To get the maximum quality you want your produce to undergo as little transportation and handling as possible. Some produce wholesalers may even have their own farm. If you are around Penang, one such wholesaler is Bansan Penang. They started as a small farm selling to local markets but has since grown to become one of the most respected online grocery stores in Penang. Bansan Penang is now also a wholesaler catering to a diverse clientele.
With a local wholesaler you may insist on having your produce sourced from local farms and fruit orchards. Not only is it great for quality, it’s also good for your brand image and marketing.
Flexibility and diversity
While wholesalers may try to fulfil the many demands and requirements of their vast clientele, sometimes they have to put on a strict guideline as to what they can deliver. Nowadays more and more restaurants and kitchens are aware of the benefits of running lean. Lean running kitchens are more efficient, produce less waste, and are more profitable.
An efficient supply of food - as opposed to plentiful - is a major part of running a lean kitchen. Alongside you also need to be flexible with your menu offerings. A change in menu may be required, or you might want to do the occasional “in-season special”.
Make sure your supplier has a diverse catalogue and a very capable delivery operation. You may want an emergency order for the rare occasion that demands suddenly spike more than usual. You may even have to source from multiple suppliers. You can have your vegetable supplies delivered from a farm or specialized wholesaler, while your other food items can come from a different warehouse.
All the above should be considered heavily, but you should also weigh the cost of it all. While wholesale items have quite little variations in value from seller to seller the services that accompany them can vary greatly. Wholesale food suppliers can vary in delivery capabilities, and sometimes standards in quality of their sources. Remember, more does not always mean better. Sometimes the cheapest can also turn out to be the best. It all depends on what you are willing to compromise.
Good food supply management is the key in running a good and profitable kitchen or restaurant. Choosing the right wholesale food supplier can be a daunting task for new restaurant owners. The food industry is a very competitive business. Trust your own research and communicate with the food supplier thoroughly.