How to find the right hospitality supplier

How to find the right hospitality supplier
Dakota Murphey
Dakota MurpheyDakota Murphey

Posted: Thu 11th Jul 2024

The fast-paced, demanding and evolving hospitality industry has forced businesses to rethink their supplier relationships.

Building a network of reliable and trustworthy suppliers is vital in ensuring that hospitality businesses like restaurants, hotels and other food and drink start-ups have access to all the high-quality products and services they need to fulfil customer demands.

Having the right suppliers at your beck and call can make or break your hospitality business and define its success. The capabilities of your suppliers and the quality of your products directly influence the customer experience, which is why businesses in this space can elevate their offerings from satisfactory to exceptional.

Why choosing the right supplier matters

Whether you’re a restaurant owner, a catering business, a cafe or bistro manager, or have any influential decision-making role in the hospitality sector, choosing the right suppliers is vital.

Suppliers specialise in a variety of areas in the food and hospitality sector, including (but not limited to) technology, housekeeping, furniture, fixtures, marketing and food and beverages. The sector itself relies heavily on these facets, which means that depending on your area(s) of expertise, you can usually find niche suppliers with proven experience working with similarly sized businesses or those that share the same marketplaces.

As such, it’s common to find specific suppliers that suit your business model, whether it’s to supply high-quality artisan bread products, premium feathered quilts, linen and pillows, luxury varnished tables made from recycled wood, or anything in between. Ultimately, however, there are some qualities you should look out for when scouring the market for suppliers.

1. Consistency and quality

The hospitality sector thrives on consistency and delivering exceptional quality every time, in terms of the product(s) and how they are presented. Working with reliable suppliers ensures you access the high-quality products you need, whether it’s state-of-the-art restaurant booking software, comfortable bedspreads, fresh ingredients, or any other element allowing the required excellence. Your suppliers can provide your business with the right products which you can then enhance with top-notch service to your customers.

2. Cost-effectiveness

While quality should always be the number one priority, finding suppliers that can offer competitive pricing, flexible payment terms such as Net 30 and a healthy amount of customisation options can help you manage operational costs and maintain a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.

Partnerships with trusted suppliers can save businesses money as suppliers can often prepare items in advance and streamline supply chains with timely deliveries without hindering a business’s operational efficiency.

3. Reliability and convenience

Hospitality industry suppliers can provide much-needed convenience and peace of mind as businesses expand their service offerings or branch out to new markets. The increasing popularity of diverse diets and eating habits, the need for real-time availability and insights, not to mention growing consumer awareness of sustainability and ethical choices, means that businesses have to choose products that cater to these requirements closely. Working with like-minded suppliers ensures you are fulfilling customer needs with greater care while maintaining your productivity.

4. Brand reputation

In the long run, the supplies you use, whether food, beverages, linen, amenities, furniture, or other products, directly influence your brand identity and reputation. Choosing a reputable supplier can help you find products that align with your brand image and reinforce your messaging while offering premium customer experiences and the utmost satisfaction.

Tips for finding the right hospitality suppliers

When it comes to choosing the right supplier for your hospitality brand, there are several tips to consider.

1. Establish your needs

Consider the types of products, supplies and services you need, including quantities and any specific quality standards you (or regulatory bodies) may have. For example, confirm whether products are locally sourced, kosher, halal, etc to help you narrow down your options and find a supplier that can meet your business goals.

2. Research and review

Begin by researching different suppliers across the industry and in your specific niches. Find evidence that a company has a proven track record of working with businesses similar to yours and what previous customer experiences have been like. Read reviews, check online forums and ask for recommendations from other industry professionals.

3. Evaluate product quality

Before evaluating pricing, it’s important to establish quality from the outset. Request product samples to assess quality firsthand, visit the supplier’s facilities to see their inventory and confirm quality control processes and industry certifications for your peace of mind.

4. Compare product pricing and value

Price is an important factor but it shouldn’t be the sole determining factor in a supplier relationship. Obtain quotes from multiple suppliers to compare terms and long-term value considering upfront costs, delivery fees, minimum orders, bulk discounts and more. Avoid working with suppliers that offer ‘too good to be true’ discounts without any guarantees of product quality.

5. Assess support and service options

It’s immeasurably more beneficial if your suppliers can offer reliable, professional customer service. If they can offer dedicated account managers and support options for responding to and helping with queries, then you can feel reassured that your business will be given ample support throughout their tenure as your supplier. Make sure to evaluate returns and exchange policies in case of order replacements, adjustments, or cancellations.

Watch this webinar to learn what it means to have an ethical and sustainable supply chain:

6. Consider sustainability and ethical practices

Many suppliers nowadays will be forthcoming about sustainability efforts, such as using eco-friendly packaging or through the use of carbon offsetting, as examples. Enquire about their sourcing practices and commitments to ethical working standards to help you align with more eco-conscious consumers and set your brand apart from the crowd.

A recent survey found that many consumers believe companies have a duty to protect the environment, with 65% willing to pay more for sustainable products. This is worth bearing in mind when partnering with suppliers.

7. Confirm delivery and lead times

Confirm the supplier’s commitments to deliveries, lead times and order fulfilment. Consider their ability to accommodate last-minute or emergency orders, how feasible they are and whether they offer any real-time tracking solutions to provide insights and visibility into delivery whereabouts.

Connecting with hospitality suppliers

Having identified potential suppliers that meet your business needs, connecting and establishing a relationship with them is the next step.

Attend industry trade shows, events and conferences, where you can sample products or services whilst engaging with representatives. Leverage your business network and ask for introductions or referrals to reputable suppliers. Be sure to scour industry associations or online directories, where suppliers and businesses connect with one another and promote openings.

When reaching out directly, be transparent about your expectations and needs from the beginning and explore opportunities for exclusive product lines to differentiate your offerings. Foster feedback, collaboration and mutual understanding to ensure that both your business’s and suppliers’ needs are met in the short and long term.

Another key to success can be found in using Enterprise Nation’s matching service, which allows you to find the right type of business support in a few short clicks. Taking advantage of the vast business community that Enterprise Nation has built will allow you to connect with professional advisors and suppliers today.

Finding and establishing a relationship with the right industry suppliers may take time and effort but it’s an investment that will pay dividends in the long run. Following these tips and taking a methodical approach will help you identify the suppliers that align best with your needs, values, and goals, and position you for optimal success in the competitive hospitality industry for years to come.

Relevant resources

Dakota Murphey
Dakota MurpheyDakota Murphey

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.