Customer Special Orders: Boon or Bust?

by Mike Starling

Wholesale Distributor Challenge:

Lots of food service distributors think that keeping the independent restaurant owner happy is the key to customer loyalty and satisfaction. One way to endear the restaurant owner to his beloved distributor (supposedly) is to provide a special-order alternative to procure product the distributor does not keep in stock in the warehouse. Distributors assume that if they provide such an alternative, the customer will view the distributor as the obvious alternative to source their special-order items from, rather than turning to other sources to procure such specialty items. Really? What has the distributor been smoking?

Part of the dilemma appears to be the size and experience of the food service distributor involved. The larger the distributor, the larger the product mix and selection, and the more likely the special-order item the client seeks will be a stocked item.

The smaller the distributor, the smaller the product mix and selection, and the higher the probability a special-order item is not stocked—and order fulfillment here entails creative solutions to fill the order and keep the client happy.

The small-to-medium-sized distributor’s motivation to provide a special order capability is revenue generation, customer retention, and customer satisfaction (and a desire to look like one of the big boys). Poorly executed and inconsistent special-order fulfillment could result in achieving none of these objectives.

The challenge lies in the small- to medium-sized food service distributor’s creative ability (and I do mean creative) to service special-order requests. Perhaps the distributor might be better off just providing a core group of quality products and services, avoiding the whole issue of special order in the first place. Many believe that failing to offer a special-order option to the client would mean lost business. Maybe?

As the old saying goes…

If you aren’t part of the solution,

Then you are part of the problem!

Search All Topics

Articles in This Series

 Call Us! 877-674-7495