Building Local B2B Relationships for Your Restaurant

I went to a village meeting recently, a meeting of village officials that are centered around the success of their local businesses.  There were also about 20 representatives attending from local businesses as well.

I have done many restaurants in this village, it’s very active, strong corporate presence, manufacturing, a convention center, and many large businesses.  There is also a very active Chamber and other groups supporting business networking and events. It is one of the more business focused suburbs around Chicago.  

This meeting just reminded me of how important it is to have someone representing your restaurant and building relationships in your local community and trade zone.  

The key to growing your restaurant’s sales includes many factors but often I see building B2B relationships within your trade zone is one that gets overlooked.  I get why, it takes resources, dedication and consistency, not to mention good leadership at both the store and above store level.

The benefits however I believe are well worth the efforts.  These benefits include not only building a strong catering business but also creates significant exposure and good will that drives customers to all of your sales channels.  

In the spirit of building relationships, a reminder from Zig Zigler.

–Zig Ziglar

Here are my top tactics for building local B2B relationships. Starting with your local outreach and engagement.

  • City or Village Website – This is a great starting point to understanding what support is offered in the community and how to engage.
    • Business Association – They typically will sponsor and run multiple different events and opportunities to engage other businesses within your community. Getting involved here is the door that opens many other opportunities.
    • Business Lists and contacts – Ask your business association for a list. A quick and easy way to learn what companies are in your trade zone
    • Economic Development Council – Another but different way to engage with community leaders and better understand where you can find the best ways to engage
  • Local Service Organizations also provide opportunities to engage within the community and are usually made of local community members.  They can help you connect with the right parties that can provide ways to support your community and in return get exposure and help promote your business. Here are some examples, locally there may be many others.
    • Jaycees
    • Rotary Club
    • VFW
  • Specific Trade Associations and Communities
    • Manufacturing is just one example – If you have a strong manufacturing presence it is likely there is an association that helps represent their interests.  Look into sponsoring an event and meet key players in this industry.
  • Colleges, Universities and Community colleges if they exist in your trade zone can be a center for many different activities and opportunities.
    • Contact Business Services as a starting point, but also look into contacting an administrative office, either may be sponsoring events that you can get involved in. 
    • There are many food opportunities here, but I find it best to make some friends first and learn what and who can help you find reciprocal ways to give and get.
  • Convention Center if it exists is another big opportunity depending on how it is structured.  I have had some good experiences as well as some difficult ones depending on how they set up their business with outside events and vendors.

There are more but start with these first and you will begin to learn and find ways to engage the community.  Remember to always have menus, business cards and promos that can drive trial and traffic to your restaurant at a visit or event.

Now I want to give you some tips to focus on with some of your existing clients and customers. The goal is to do everything possible to create the easiest, least resistant, most accommodating service possible.  The word “No” should never enter your vocabulary, instead it is yes with reasonable accommodations.  Building a relationship is about your interaction, the quantity, quality and genuineness of each. They also highly depend on your team’s quality, knowledge, and ability to connect with others.

Feedback – The first and easiest way to build a relationship is to ask your customers how you did?  How was the food, the service, the overall quality of their experience.  In the old days we all used to call, but after 10 straight voicemails everyday, email makes more sense, or automates this with a survey.  Remember the more personal the message the more responses you get.

Service Training and Standards – Look, anyone can periodically provide good service but doing it day after day at a high level is what ensures your customers know you take their business and needs seriously. You must have your processes and expectations documented.

  • Create a Service Playbook that outlines all the standards for interaction with customers.
    • How to take orders
    • In depth menu and operational knowledge
    • How to handle service issues
    • How to communicate
      • Define key engagement points
      • Create scripts or templates for each interaction
    • Marketing and sales expectations and guidelines
      • Upselling
      • Referrals
      • Canvassing
      • Inbound inquiries

Active Customers are probably where at least 50% of your existing business comes from.  Never let these customers think you take them for granted.  Do nice and unexpected things for your customers.

  1. Have a fun food and wine tasting event
  2. Bring by little food snacks to say thank you
  3. Send out a holiday thank you card and small gift
  4. Add a freebee to an order
  5. Buy a lunch box for the person ordering

Communication Builds Trust so do it as often as possible.

  • Send order confirmations 
  • Call the day of the order to confirm
  • Provide up to the minute data on delivery details
  • Send feedback
  • Send thank you emails
  • Send special offers to your top 20% clients

Building and maintaining relationships takes work and consistency.  Hire and train a resource either at the store level or for multiple stores that can spend the time to engage within your communities.  The benefits take time to develop but will pay off in many ways for years to come.


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