It's the springtime supplier shuffle. Relationships begin to fray this time of year because business is quite slow. Nothing like not making any money to bring out the complainer in a person. Typically spring in our building is accompanied by much bickering among the tenants. We try to stay out of it. So far this year we haven't participated.
Our suppliers however are jumpy. I have mentioned before the challenges in getting goods in our location and carrying more inventory than really needed in order to not sell out of things. A strategy of defensive ordering as it were. This year I changed things. I've enrolled the entire kitchen in trying to meet food costs. It's certainly something they've been somewhat aware of but this year I've written our weekly budget on the dry erase board and had them record all invoices as they come in. I've been posting how far over or under budget we are at weeks end. It's working. There is less on the shelves. We're cutting things close and by Sunday night might be 86'd on an item, but waste is lower. It wasn't high before, but we can always improve.
Obviously this means orders are dropping for our suppliers, which makes them nervous. I don't blame them, this is nail-biting time for us all. To add to that I have different reasons for dealing with them all. On produce I have an organic farmer I've been buying from for years. Not only his stuff but his neighbors and he is also in the "chemically grown" produce procurement biz as well. I try to buy just the stuff he grows and maybe the stuff from his neighbors. In years past I've bought other things from him because the other sources didn't know quality from well... He's gotten tired and testy though and his customer service hasn't been so good for a while. I also buy from an organic produce broker. Not much, mostly very small quantities of specialty things that the farmer doesn't grow or is between crops on. I buy whatever produce the farm that picks up our compost and sells us pigs grows, right now mostly collards (sadly over), kale and lettuces. I also buy from a local produce and freight company who picks up meat and cheese in SF for us as well as produce.
So I'm doing this dance, trying to give everyone enough business to keep them in business, demanding the quality someone who is giving them all their business would be demanding and trying to keep my own costs in line. It goes OK until something goes wrong. Like me forgetting to place my meat order on Wednesday night.
In order for my friendly produce company to pick meat and cheese up for me my SF vendors have to deliver the goods to the SF produce market by 9am the day before I need the stuff. So for meat for Friday I need to get the order in by Wednesday night at the latest so the meat company can get it over to the produce market before the produce vendors close on Thursday morning and then my local company can pick up Friday morning and hit the road by 6am so they can get it to me by mid afternoon. So when I forget to place the order like I did this Wednesday I have to plead with the produce company to make a stop at Golden Gate meat, which is out of their way and an inconvenience, which in summertime when I'm giving them plenty of business, might not be a big deal. However today they were very clear about how inconvenient it was and how much business they're not getting from us.
It was a friendly exchange and they are going to make the extra stop, for which I will buy them dinner but it did get me investigating other sources. I may have a line on a supplier for meat from Creekstone Farms who is currently suing the USDA for their refusal to allow Creekstone to test every cow of theirs for BSE, or mad cow disease. And this supplier delivers to the area.
Not that I'm unhappy with either Golden Gate, or the produce people. But if I could eliminate having to coordinate their schedules it would be nice. What would be even nicer would be having a wide range of suppliers of equal quality and being able to make decisions the old fashioned way, on things like service, price and relationship.