When you’re in the restaurant industry, working with third-party vendors cuts both ways. Sometimes, they can be vital partners, freeing up you and your team to focus on your day-to-day operations. And other times, vendors may not meet your restaurants’ needs, detracting value while also coming at the cost of time and stress.
Between miscommunication and a lack of transparency, that dynamic can turn even the best collaboration into serious pain. And when you run multiple restaurants, it only takes something as little as a missed maintenance appointment to trigger a chain of unintended consequences.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. With better structure, a little diplomacy, and the right workflows, your restaurants will thrive when working with third-party vendors.
Any outsourcing contract should include a service-level agreement (SLA) that leaves no room for ambiguity. Simply put, no one can plead ignorance or blame missed action items on a misunderstanding. When both parties agree on clear terms, you can set expectations for the engagement and any comebacks if or when requirements aren’t met.
An SLA ensures that everybody knows what needs to be done, so work gets done based on a “clean bills, lasting love” principle, and you don’t feel trapped by contracts.
For a successful long-term relationship with third-party vendors, an SLA should include:
- Specifications about how regular and emergency communication happens (email, phone, text, CMMS platforms)
- Duration of the agreement, frequency of services, and time windows
- Descriptions of the services the vendor provides, including the service levels that you expect
- Details about how you can measure service level (performance metrics)
- Responsibilities of each party
- Defined Rates for unscheduled/after-hours emergency service
- Defined Not to Exceed (NTE) amounts
- Frequency and details of reporting requirements
- A protocol for making changes to the SLA when necessary
- Remedies or penalties, as well as the details of a dispute resolution or arbitration process
- An indemnification clause that protects you from litigation
Usually, third-party vendors will provide a standard SLA that may or may not include all of the above. It’s in your best interest to go through the document before signing the contract and renegotiate the agreement to make it more suitable for your restaurants’ specific needs.
A strong communication network builds upon a contractual groundwork for successful collaborations with third-party vendors. Mutually beneficial lines of communication keep everyone updated about tasks, service levels, and performance metrics.
You want to implement a communications platform to effectively alert your third-party vendors about milestones and any issues that come up at your restaurants. It’s a cost-effective way to keep track of restaurant operations and manage third-party interventions simultaneously.
Let’s take preventative maintenance as an example. If you have three scheduled tasks for the following week, your employees don’t need to take time out of their day to call third-party vendors and remind them of what needs to be done. The easiest way to handle it is by giving your collaborators access to your CMMS. They can quickly pull out information about equipment status and scheduled preventative maintenance, with no need to go through archived documents. You can even set email alerts that automatically remind your service providers about the planned intervention on time.
Moreover, when you keep all third-party vendors on the same platform, your staff can easily communicate with collaborators about any last-minute changes. They reschedule without overlapping interventions and keep track of tasks effectively.
Transparency is vital when working with third-party vendors. You need to make sure that all necessary details are correctly communicated so that both your in-house staff and external personnel know what to do.
Without a universally accessible way to assign, schedule, and manage tasks, no one inside or outside of your business can be held accountable for their responsibilities. And if you don’t keep track of the collaboration with service providers, it’s easy to run into issues or become suspicious of their work’s frequency and quality—even if scheduling, managing, and follow-up are on your plate.
In reality, it’s a big reason why three in four restaurateurs (76%) are actively looking for labor management tools to add clarity to their restaurant operations and simplify task management.
Digital tools are essential to communicate, organize, keep track of tasks, and share insights directly with your third-party vendors. This way, you can optimize schedules to know in advance when service is needed and plan accordingly.
When you work with third-party vendors, business outcomes depend on how organized you are. If you fully understand the frequency and scope of your efforts, it becomes easy to track progress, build effective workflows, and foster value-rich and mutually successful relationships with service providers.