Training manual

Client: Produce Marketing Association
Project:  Foodservice training manual
Chapter title:  Relationship-building tips

Forging strong relationships creates successful business alliances
between foodservice operators and distributors. Understanding
each other's challenges and daily practices is key to this process.
Here are some important tips to consider.

Learn about your distributor’s business
One of the best ways to nurture a positive operator-distributor relationship is to learn about your distributor’s
business.  A good way to do this is to visit your distributor’s facilities.  There you’ll see how your distributor
handles fresh fruits and vegetables and which items are commonly available.  You’ll also learn how quality
and availability can vary throughout the year and how this can affect your distributor’s ability to meet your
particular needs.  Taking time to learn about your distributor’s business will help you see that fresh produce,
by its vary nature, may not always conform to textbook specifications and that you need to have appropriate
expectations when it comes to ordering and receiving fresh fruits and vegetables.

Work with your distributor to develop produce specifications
Take advantage of your distributor’s product expertise to help you create produce specifications.  By working
together to develop your specifications, you and your distribute will talk the same “produce language,” which
will ensure that you receive what you ordered.

Live up to your commitments
The nature of the foodservice business dictates that shipments must arrive on time and that the items meet
the specifications made when the order was placed.  It is imperative that any promises made in terms of
delivery or specific requests be kept.

Help your customer develop his produce specifications
Use your produce knowledge to help your customer develop workable produce specifications that will meet
specific needs and can be realistically fulfilled by your distribution facility.

Help your operator customers learn more about fresh produce
Keep your customers advised of the current availability and quality of fruits and vegetables.  This will help
them understand that inevitable changes in product availability and quality may require some flexibility in
their purchasing practices.