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Vendor bender

Good things happen when you turn the tables, bend the rules a bit, or take a contrarian point of view and throw the world a curve ball. 

Here's a suggestion for building a new customer base and creating a personal connection with the people who handle your business and process your orders.

Identify your top ten suppliers. Call the human resources department at each company and find out how many employees they have... in all departments. Then send gift certificates to your HR contact and ask them to include them, along with a cover letter from you, in the next pay envelope.

Your cover letter should do the following:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain that you value your professional relationship
  • Invite them to use the gift certificate to become more familiar with your restaurant
  • Tell them how much you value their opinion as a vendor/partner
  • Ask them to take the time to fill out a brief questionnaire which they will receive when they redeem the gift certificate.

A sample cover letter and feedback card are available for downloading.

Make the gift certificate an offer that ensures they bring at least one guest, such as a free entrée with the purchase of another entrée of equal or greater value. Limit redemption to dayparts you'd like to build up, such as Monday through Thursday lunches, and exclude tax, tip and beverages.

Don't forget the questionnaire. These individuals have a vested interest in your business and your success—their jobs depend on accounts like yours—so the feedback they give will be unique and valuable. Make sure your staff alerts you when one of the gift certificates is redeemed so you have a chance to personally introduce yourself and distribute the questionnaire. And be sure and have them sign up for your birthday or other loyalty program so you have the chance to create a repeat customer.

It's fun to turn the tables. You'll be rewarded with good vibes, good service, and goodwill ambassadors.

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