We sat down with some of the best chefs in DC, to see what they want most out of their suppliers. If you want to sell to the top restaurants in the country, here’s what you need to do.
Number One: If you want to supply the best, you better employ the best.
This one comes from the top of the top. Not naming names, but three of the five best restaurants in DC were interviewed for this article, and they all had the same thing to say about their sales reps. It basically boiled down to “I work in one of the best restaurants in DC, so my sales reps bend over backwards for me. They are amazing. They don’t want to lose my business, so they go all out to keep it.”
What does that mean for you if you’re looking to break in to top tier supply? You better make sure you have some top tier sales reps to get you there. These aren’t the kind of reps who don’t answer their phone on Saturday nights. These people have passion. They want to make big sales to big players. They want to supply the next Rammy winner.
So, take a minute. Look around. Can your current reps bring you to the next level? If they need some extra help or training, put a plan in place to get them where they need to be now. If they need a new teammate, get out there and find your star player. You won’t make it to the big leagues without at least one heavy hitter.
Number Two: Show them you know the one thing they think you don’t.
Chefs work crazy hours. You know that. Your sales reps know that. But here’s the thing: chefs think everyone outside (and sometimes inside) the restaurant industry has no idea how hard they work. They are annoyed on a regular basis by people who fail to understand the gaping chasm between what it means to cook a nice meal for friends at home and the reality of cooking dinner rush in a professional kitchen.
When asked, “What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job?” the biggest names in DC restaurants basically said, “It’s really, really, really hard work.” It is the number one chip on the shoulder of every chef that has “made it”. They didn’t just saunter into a kitchen, sprinkle some rosemary on a lamb shank, take a swig of Bordeaux, and become a top chef—and they want us all to understand that.
You’re thinking, “Yeah, OK, I already know that though. I’m in the business.” That may be true, but ask yourself what you or your sales reps can do to acknowledge the crazy hours your clients are putting in. You work crazy hours too. What would be something nice one of your suppliers could do for you as a gesture of solidarity in this demanding business? Chefs probably don’t need you to buy them a beer, but maybe your sales rep could throw in a bag of good coffee beans with the next order of a valued client. Or – shameless plug – maybe you make ordering easier for them by adopting BlueCart…
Who knows? It could be as simple as acknowledging it. Next phone call, just say, “You guys work so damn hard. I use your work ethic to light a fire under my staff all the time. It’s how I try to make sure our work is up to your standards.” That may be enough to keep a loyal customer from switching to a competitor next time you have to raise the price of tomatoes a few pennies…
Number Three: They aren’t scared of technology. They love it.
This one was a little surprising, even for a tech startup. When we started asking chefs questions about what they thought of all the new technology in and around restaurants, we expected to hear at least a few bursts of nostalgia for the good old days when everything was analog and no one had ever heard of an integrated POS system. We could not have been more wrong.
These people are part of the first generation that grew up with cell phones, computers, and varying combinations of the two. They crave innovation. Without even mentioning technology, we asked them what their favorite kitchen tools were. Did they mention a favorite cast iron pan or high-end paring knife? No. They said: iPhone, laptop, and “smart oven” (whatever that is).
So what can you do about it? First, don’t be afraid to introduce new technology to them. Odds are, if it makes their lives easier they will thank you for it with lots more business. Second, get to know the technology they’re using now. What exactly is a “smart oven”? We have no idea. But is there a chance that maybe it needs an expensive new cleaning chemical that you could be selling? That’s something you want to know.