Nelson Millán, Executive Chef of San Antonio (Texas) Country Club, welcomes professional sales reps who can provide him with new and innovative products that will help him improve his operation, his menus and himself.
Vendors, suppliers and purveyors are the back bone of any foodservice operations. So it’s incredibly important to establish a great relationship with these people in order to succeed as a chef. No matter what kitchen I have had the privilege to work in over the last 25 years, I have gone above and beyond to established a positive and productive relationship with the vendors we worked with. These individuals have been instrumental to my success by supplying me with great products and service.
Over the years I have come to know some fantastic sales reps who are professional, kind and polite. They are passionate about their products and they understand our needs and our industry. They also call or write in advance to make appointments with me and ensure I set aside the time to attend to them properly.
For as many great reps as I’ve come across, I’ve also dealt with my fair share of not-so-great reps who are annoying and have no manners whatsoever. They show up in the middle of the busiest moments of my day trying to show me a “new” product. but they seem oblivious to the fact that they have totally disrespected my time.
The all always ask me the same question, too: What product are looking for?
To be fair, there are times when I’m truly looking for a special kind of product for an event or a dish. But more often than not, I don’t know I need a certain product until I have had a chance to see it, experiment with it and test it against what we currently carry. So my response to this question is always, “When I see it, I’ll know that I need it. Until then, please keep bringing samples.”
This way, we’re better able to keep it fair to everyone. Here at the San Antonio (Texas) Country Club, we keep our doors open to any sales reps who want to show us their products on a consistent basis. We are constantly “cutting”—aka, testing products—against our current products. This process has yielded great results and we’ve often found products that are of better quality at a better price.
For as time-consuming as testing products constantly might appear to be, it’s an important exercise for our operation. It allows us to stay current and competitive, but it keeps us fiscally responsible.
Now, if we could just weed out all those not-so-great reps and only work with the fantastic ones we’d be all set.