Running a restaurant – Knowing your suppliers and ingredients

Purchasing:The key to winning at this game is to play various vendors off against each other and compare respective bargains, while in conversation you persuade each one you want them as your principal supplier.

Firstly and most obvious, choose a local operator as you can reasonably expect free delivery – subject to minimum delivery requirements. Most wholesale suppliers should offer discounts, subject naturally to a minimum order value, which are usually calculated to a scale based on total order value. Some might be open to individual negotiations, in return for your loyal custom. Tell them you are in dialogue with several rival producers, but that because of the quality of their goods or the integrity of their supply chain, they are your favourite. If it were not for the price…

Some wholesalers will have discounts on particular items; bumper 454g packs of smoked salmon and one-kilogram chicken medallions for £4.30 were two promotions which a UK-based company was publicising. These offers have limited duration, so find out when the bargain price expires and take full advantage, even crafting some menu engineering options based around them. Another supplier organised ‘food clubs’ based around industries like hotel, and pub catering, which enabled members to share information about cost-saving measures and recipes. Check whether the vendor provides newsletters or updates on their latest offers, and subscribe to information bulletins from a cross-section of suppliers.

Do not be afraid to ask questions of your supplier. Have their crops been genetically modified? This might not fit with your establishment’s ethos. If they claim their ingredients are organic, ask them which body is responsible for certifying this is true. Imports within Europe should have an EU organic certificate, with additional national guarantees, for example in the UK from the Organic Farmers & Growers. In the US, accountability lies with the Department of Agriculture.

With the recent furore over horsemeat packaged as pork and beef, it seems wise to ask your supplier how they certify the authenticity of their product. In the UK, the import of certain foodstuffs from certain non-EU countries can only enter the country through specific ports or airports approved as Designated Points of Import (DPIs), and all consignments must be accompanied by a health certificate and results of sampling and analysis. Check to see what you government’s policy is, and whether your supplier has a record of their compliance.

Most countries also have legislation in place to monitor non-animal products which might be contaminated by salmonella or aflatoxins. Central government authorities should have comprehensive lists of products requiring official controls, which occur at Designated Points of Entry Aflatoxins are naturally occurring toxic metabolites, produced by certain fungi in or on foods, during pre-harvest, storage or subsequent processing. Their incidence has been closely monitored since they were discovered in the 1960s. Potentially contaminated foodstuffs include such staples as groundnuts (peanuts) and their derived products like peanut butter, basmati rice, and even spices such as dried chillies, cayenne, paprika, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric.

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