Your business reflects you – your character, your integrity, and your dependability. So whether you’re stocking your retail shelves with fresh product or serving up lunch to hungry high school students, you want your customers to have a quality experience and come back for more.
As a food service institution, your supplier can make the difference between pushing your sales through the roof or tanking your business. You have various sourcing options, from traditional household names like Kraft and Rhodes to dozens of smaller regional bakeries.
So how do you choose one?
While you want to keep costs down, price shouldn’t be your only consideration. Market trend data suggests the person sitting in your restaurant will gladly pay more for consistently fresh and delicious food. To illustrate, if your table bread tastes bland and has a rubbery texture like it has just been microwaved to death, don’t count on your customer returning anytime soon, no matter how inexpensive the meal.
Backed by years of experience supplying fresh and frozen baked goods, we recommend you look for a supplier who stands out with the following critical competencies:
Quality & Variety
Does your supplier offer whole grains, wheat, and white flour products? How about vegan or gluten-free options? How does the company source its raw ingredients? Do they mill the flour for their cookies and bread themselves? These are just a few of the questions you might want to ask as you look over a company’s portfolio of products.
Another great way to gauge quality is to visit the distributor’s factory. Investigate the in-process and pre-shipment quality control measures. Does the area meet your standard for cleanliness? What food safety protocols do they have in place? Are the employees professional and certified as masters in their craft? Ask to check that necessary inspections, certifications, and licensures are in place and up to date. As you meet with the company’s leadership, also ensure they have the production capabilities you will need to meet your business goals.
And, of course, don’t forget to sample the products.
Second only to quality is reliability. If the product can’t get to its destination as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, it won’t matter how good it is. You’ll want to know if the company completes all of its deliveries on time. Also, how would delivery to your operation fit into the overall schedule? Do they make holiday or late-night deliveries? Are they fast and flexible with alternate plans if there’s a service disruption, i.e., a weather event, accident, etc.?
In addition, ask what kind of delivery trucks they have in their fleet. Size can be a big issue if your café is located in a tight urban area and the company only delivers products using a large semi-truck. How do they ship frozen goods? Ready made bread dough needs to remain frozen at a consistent temperature to arrive fresh without freeze or thaw damage. Finally, does the distributor pack your deliveries together to avoid excessive rehandling?
Reliability also extends to product quality consistency. You want to know that the baked goods in next week’s delivery will look and taste as well-made, fresh, and delicious as the ones you received this week.
First and foremost, make sure your supplier practices price transparency. You want to know upfront how much your food costs will be and stay vigilant to avoid opportunistic “price creep.” Also, look out for service and other ‘hidden’ fees. A quality supplier will keep you informed about any necessary fees or price hikes and the reasons behind them, such as weather-related delays, raw materials shortages, etc.
Does the distributor offer volume discounts or other price breaks or incentives? How about flexible financing plans? Let’s say your business takes off, and you need a lot more product to keep up with demand, but you have a cash shortage. Will your supplier work with you?
Consider open communication, honesty, and complete transparency key factors when looking at your overall product cost. You’re searching for a partner you can trust to deliver quality products on time and at a competitive price, not just someone who promises a great deal.
It’s good to find out what your supplier’s current customers are saying about them. Are they satisfied with the products? What’s their response time like when there’s an issue? Are they flexible enough to work with customized business needs? For example, at Janey Lou’s, we provide you the opportunity to create proprietary goods designed solely for your foodservice operation.
Pick out a few reviewers and try to speak with them directly about the positives and negatives of working with that supplier and why they recommend them. You can find client reviews on several sites, including Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo! Local Listings, LinkedIn, Google Business, and the Better Business Bureau. Another way to find client feedback is by visiting the suppliers’ websites, as many often have a dedicated testimonial page.
From milling the flour to scheduling deliveries, process improvement represents an essential piece of any good distributor’s operation. Are deliveries logged in digital manifests? Is delivery scheduling a streamlined, automated process? Is their fleet of delivery vehicles up to date with maintenance and repairs? Do they have advanced freeze storage equipment? What is the supplier doing to improve efficiencies on the production line?
Food shrink, or spoilage, accounts for millions, even billions, of lost sales dollars every year. That spoilage can happen anywhere in the supply chain due to various causes – a low-tech frozen storage facility, a broken-down delivery truck, or a driver who’s way off schedule. Such setbacks are costly and annoying. Make sure the supplier you select commits to process improvement by establishing a regular system for measuring performance in advance.
Consider Janey Lou’s in your search for a trusted baked goods supply partner. Our state-of-the-art facility manufactures more than 100 products with all-natural ingredients, including frozen pizza dough, par- and fully-baked frozen cookies and pastries, and pre-packaged sweets.