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How to Handle a Supplier That's Never on Time

How to Handle a Supplier That's Never on Time


When you have a supplier that’s consistently late with deliveries, it can have a devastating domino effect on your foodservice operations. For one thing, it can mean downtime and lost dollars if you’re waiting on equipment to keep the kitchen running at full capacity. Not only that, but if you have to waste time tracking down late deliveries, it pulls you away from day-to-day business and impacts your productivity.

With an already packed schedule, the last thing you need is an unreliable supplier. But unfortunately, it’s not always avoidable. If you’re dealing with a supplier that’s never on time, course-correct by taking these steps.

Uncover the root cause.
Too often, if buyers are dealing with unreliable suppliers, they take a reactive approach to the problem. Don’t make this mistake. And more importantly, don’t accept that your supplier’s habitually late. Instead, be proactive and get to the bottom of the issue. Make your supplier take ownership of the late deliveries, and ask them to explain what’s causing them. Perhaps they’re over-promising on timing, or they’re dealing with an unreliable parts vendor. Whatever the case may be, if you expose the root cause of the problem, your supplier will be forced to take responsibility and figure out how to solve it.

Discuss an improvement plan.
Once you’ve uncovered the cause of their performance issues, set up a formal meeting with your supplier. Make it clear that they’re not meeting typical delivery standards, and discuss an action plan for improvement. Align on expectations for communication. Make a point to forecast your needs further in advance, so they know what’s coming down the pipeline. Request that they give regular status updates on deliveries so you’re not left guessing. Consider implementing a penalty policy for late deliveries. Once you’ve worked out the details of the plan with your supplier, designate a set time period for their performance improvement, and make it clear that there will be a performance evaluation at the end of that period. By doing this, you’ll get their attention and hold them accountable.

Take action based on results (or lack thereof).
At the end of the improvement plan period, evaluate your supplier’s performance. If they’ve consistently been delivering on time, acknowledge their improvement, as this can serve as positive reinforcement. Going forward, consider giving your supplier a monthly performance report. This lets them know how they’re being evaluated, and whether they’re meeting your expectations.

On the other hand, if your supplier still isn’t meeting expectations, it may be time to move your business elsewhere. The good thing is, by implementing a formal improvement action plan, you’ve given your supplier ample opportunity to improve. If they’re still underperforming, the consequences shouldn’t come as a surprise, since you’ve been transparent about your expectations.

Find the best from the beginning.
While these measures can help you effectively deal with an unreliable supplier, ideally you won’t have issues in the first place. If you find a first-rate supplier from the beginning, you’ll save time and spare yourself headaches, since the above steps won’t be necessary.

To make sure you’re signing on with a dependable supplier, thoroughly vet potential partners before choosing one. Use our Partner Evaluation Checklist to ensure you land a reliable, best-in-class supplier!

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