Do you believe what distributors are telling you?

Most food store operators affirm that they trust their foodservice distributors. However, they also agree that distributors are also prone to mistakes. They also know that, being in the business of making money, distributors may not give the lowest prices. Nevertheless, operators generally view distributors with trust and believe that the latter works in their best interest.

* Roger Berkowitz CEO Legal Sea Foods Allston, Mass.

Yes, we trust our foodservice distributors. But, we also assume that they can make mistakes. If you assume that, you are more detail-oriented in checking deliveries or anything else you do.

We tell our general managers at each restaurant that mistakes will be made from time to time, and they are responsible for checking things closely and finding any errors. We also distribute some items ourselves and know that mistakes can be made there, too, so managers check our deliveries as well.

We do trust our suppliers. That’s why we’re doing business with them. However, you have to assume that everyone can make mistakes.

There also may be situations where you have a good relationship and complete trust from the outset with the head of the company with which you’ve made your agreement. But, there can be situations where drivers or other people in the distributor’s organization take advantage of that trust. So you always have to go in with your eyes open completely, and assume that mistakes will be made.

* Bo Handy District Manager T-Bones Charleston, S.C.

Overall, I would say we trust our suppliers on issues such as whether they do what they say they are going to, whether they provide us with good-quality product, and whether their trucks are clean.

But, there are some issues on which we don’t trust them. For example, we don’t always know whether they are giving us their lowest price. The answer is that they are not because they are in business to make money and we know it.

However, I generally feel that our distributors look out for our best interests. I usually trust that they do. But, I think I also need to shop around.

We have five restaurants in two states and deal with some large companies, and sometimes the same company will quote different prices to different locations. They may even quote different prices to two places in the same town. So we shop around among a couple of major companies, and if someone has a better price, we may buy an item from them one week instead of from the other company.

Part of our job as managers is to make sure that we get the best product for the best price. However, that doesn’t mean that we always take the lowest price, because that may mean settling for lesser quality. But, we do shop around.

Aside from that, we trust that the distributors we deal with are capable. However, since they’re doing business on a mass scale, some things will slip through the cracks sometimes, and we have to check.

* Dolores Juergens Director, Food Services Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Milwaukee

I trust them. However, we’re a large operation in a position to employ competitive bidding, and I think that is something we need to keep in the forefront. I think that competition is good, therefore I’m not a believer in one-stop shopping.

Also, when it comes to product quality, I don’t rely on anybody for trust factors. I do a lot of comparative shopping myself. With canned fruits and vegetables, for example, we ask each supplier to submit samples, and we open the cans and compare the products to each other.

It is up to us to be the judge of quality. Certain claims are made by distributors about the quality of products that they carry, but I feel that it’s our responsibility to search out the truth. And I think it’s up to the distributors to understand why they are not getting the business if we try something and aren’t satisfied.

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