Know your operation's purchasing score

Sept. 23, 2013

Any good football coach knows in order for the team to succeed, they need to know how to score. In the world of multiunit foodservice, your team may include servers, chefs, kitchen workers and various administrators and of course, the buyer.

Just as you cannot play a football game without a ball, you cannot run your restaurants without supplies.And if those supplies do not come on time, if there is no one there to record their delivery, if payments are incorrect or you delay payment, or you do not communicate product changes and needs, you may harm your supplier/customer relationship and eventually "lose the game."

So, how do you rate your supplier? How do you manage your own performance and how do you maintain and enhance your relationship in a way that makes both parties successful?

Create a scorecard

You need to have an honest system in place that can measure both sides' performance; it takes two to play the game.

Many scorecards focus on the supplier; it is often difficult for restaurant operators to see their own performance. The best way to keep ahead of any problems that may arise is to maintain strong and consistent communication between you and your supplier and to preserve an objective and measurable system that strengthens the relationship. Use a daily complementary scorecard that includes meaningful measures regarding the performance of both players. Here are some important metrics:


  • Product quality
  • On-time delivery window percentage
  • Number of substitutions
  • Number of miss-picks
  • Communication
  • Correct temperature range
  • Billing/pricing errors


  • Place orders on time
  • Extra trips
  • Communication on unusual product needs
  • Buyer inaccessible or unreachable
  • Excessive special orders/add-ons
  • Adheres to terms
  • Excessive dock wait time

Both entities must be responsible for their individual performance in order for both to succeed and the only way to gauge the success is to keep track of the performance.

Don't just judge your supplier 

Imagine a situation where your distributor's purchasing department continually processes late orders or adds product to orders after the cut off time. Late orders and add-ons increased cost on the supplier's side. Products may not make the delivery vehicle; leading to poor deliveries or special deliveries. Your store manager complains about the supplier but there is no record of the root cause of the service issues. Eventually, communication breaks down between the two. By the time senior management hears about it, there may be irreparable damage.

There are two sides to every story. A successful partnership requires open communications. Mutual measurement with scorecards keeps emotions from rising clearly identifies areas that need attention and together parties can solve the problem. Sometimes the supplier is right.

A win-win proposition

By instituting this type of record keeping, you can create a win-win situation.

As the manager of a multiunit operation, you may be the last person to get involved when a problem arises. Many excellent, efficient and low cost distributor relations sour because of local misunderstandings. With a scorecard in place, you can head off any issues that may arise, keep control of your supplier, your team and focus your attention on other more important operational needs like customer service, financials, and new product development.

Topics: Equipment & Supplies , Operations Management

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