Food safety, traceability and sustainability blog

Supplier Management / Food Safety

5 Tips for Improving Food Supplier Relationships

Between maintaining compliance and reducing costs, to monitoring logistics and ensuring inventory is stable, the tasks and responsibilities of a supply chain leader can seem never-ending. Add the challenge of onboarding and managing suppliers on top of it all, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Yet, improving and maintaining relationships with your suppliers is too important to end up on the back burner. When you cultivate and invest in positive supplier relationships, the benefits can grow to far outweigh the difficulties. Whether these benefits are as abstract as reducing stress or as concrete as receiving a better price point, the takeaway is the same: Better food supplier relationships are worth it.

How can you work toward building this type of mutually beneficial relationship? Here are five simple tips you can start practicing today:

1. Clearly Communicate Expectations

As in any relationship, communication is key. By clearly communicating your expectations early-on, you can avoid sticky situations down the line. Because every business has their own methods of quality control, food safety and logistical management, you can’t expect suppliers to understand your internal processes.

Take time to outline these procedures. If you’re using software for supply chain traceability, ensure every supplier understand their responsibility in recording various actions. Show your supplier how you measure success and what you consider unacceptable. If you take the extra time to share this information, you can reduce the risk of future errors.

2. Remember You Aren’t the Only One

Your relationship with your food supplier isn’t a monogamous one. It’s important to remember you aren’t their only customer so you can set your expectations accordingly. They’ll appreciate the added degree of understanding and you won’t fall into the trap of demanding more from the relationship than they can provide.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal

Your suppliers aren’t just a nameless, faceless company—they’re people! Taking the time to learn a little about them as individuals adds a personal touch to your business interactions that can strengthen your relationship. Of course, this also goes both ways, so don’t be afraid to share more about yourself, too.

4. Be Open About Your Plans and Goals

If you plan to expand or downsize your business model in the near future, be as upfront as possible with your supplier so they won’t feel blindsided by a big change. For instance, perhaps you have plans to open three new restaurants in the next year. That’s information you would want to share with your suppliers. By setting clear and transparent goals, you can stay on the same page about your changing food supply needs.

5. Be Honest

A relationship is nothing without honesty. If you’re unhappy with the service or product you’re receiving, find a constructive and non-confrontational way to approach the problem with your supplier so you can work toward a solution that suits you both and honors the existing relationship. Just remember: Honesty goes both ways and open communication can solve issues before they grow into big problems.

As with any relationship, it takes work—but a strong, positive relationship with your food supplier is entirely possible. By investing the time and practicing open communication, you can build the type of working relationship that benefits both sides for years to come.

One of the most important parts of the relationship with suppliers is making sure you’re on the same page with compliance. Are you FSMA-ready? Learn the must-know facts in our free eBook, FSMA 101.

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Posted by Katy Jones on Feb 3, 2016 8:00:00 AM

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