Especially in today's COVID-19 climate, trust has never been more important.

Throughout my life, I’ve been lucky to have a strong support system. As people, we need supporters, whether they be friends, family or loved ones. In business, we absolutely need them, too. The restaurant and foodservice industry is a close-knit industry, and we need to leverage everyone’s strengths to get things done the right way as quickly as possible.

Finding the right vendors to partner with takes time, consideration, and transparency. A valuable partnership includes several key pieces, including excellent communication, expertise and trust. Ultimately, vendors who want to nurture long-term partnerships are worth putting in the extra effort to pursue.

Here are a few things to think about when seeking an indispensable vendor partnership:

Work with a thought partner who can provide you value through key consumer and industry insights.

Vendors should respect you and your business and understand your goals, your priorities and your culture. While some vendors may entice you with exciting perks, it is most important to find a partner that aligns with your vision who can quickly adapt and have the courage to lead you to think differently about your business.

At CAULIPOWER, because we provide vegetable-packed, better-for-you foods, we partner with restaurants that aim to give their guests what they want: to be able to live a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying their favorite comfort foods. One of the benefits of partnering with a CPG company that has a strong branded retail and e-commerce presence are the insights and real time customer feedback that can be shared with operators. We are able to take what we learn and help our operators make quicker, more informed decisions.

Vendors should also share industry trends so they can help you make educated, data-driven decisions. Insightful partners will prove to be the most helpful when brands need to capitalize on new trends. For example, we know that cauliflower is on-trend. Grubhub reported that cauliflower crust claimed the top spot in the Taste of 2019 Year in Food Report, rising 650 percent in popularity throughout the year. Uber Eats expects the popularity of cauliflower to increase in 2020 after it took over the food scene in 2019 and Yelp reported that some of its most popular searches in 2019 were for cauliflower pizza.

As a partner, we do our best to remain on top of the latest industry trends. We use new statistics and strategic insights to make recommendations on ways to seamlessly implement plant-forward, innovative items to our partners’ menus. We help them make business decisions that are backed by data so that they can feel confident in the choices they make to stay relevant as a brand and increase sales, frequency of visits and profits.

The best vendors are creative, strategic thinkers.

Partnerships go above and beyond when both parties align strategically. The best vendors are innovative and provide customized solutions for your brand, as opposed to giving one-size-fits-all solutions. When vendors properly understand your goals, they can tailor their recommendations to fit your specific brand. With one of our partners, 1000 Degrees Pizza, we brainstormed new ways to market our cauliflower pizza crust so it could remain a top seller even during the pandemic. We developed a creative partnership that included promoting and offering DIY Pizza Kits, with regular or cauliflower crust, for guests to create at home while self-quarantined. 

The value of a partner should not only be measured monetarily.

While it’s important to create a partnership with a reasonable, fair price for the service provided, the vendor you choose should prove to be more than a transaction. The value gained from your partnership should be priceless. A true partnership should not be about getting the lowest cost. It should be about delivering what is most important to you, your employees and your business as a whole.

A few months ago, we learned that many restaurants could not react quickly enough to the changing environment. Many restaurants would have preferred to have services like online ordering or third-party delivery already in place, but during the pandemic, those become almost critical to stay in business. Now, finding the right vendor is even more important than ever before. Many restaurant support offices currently have less staff and likely need a helping hand in some of the areas where the vendor partner could become an extension of their team. We have always tried our best to be the partner that provides extensive support, including marketing, culinary innovation and guidance on operations and seamless execution. We are proud to be able to continue that support right now when our operators need it the most.

Look for a partner who is willing to share the load when you need it. The right partner will be happy to help because your business success matters to them. They will prove that the two of you are partners not just for today, but for the future.

Julie Lim is the Executive Vice President, Foodservice and Convenience for CAULIPOWER a hyper-growth disruptor to the food industry. Throughout her career, she has been passionate about helping brands, such as Starbucks, Nestle, Kraft, build brand equity in the foodservice industry while increasing sales through new product development. 

Expert Takes, Feature