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The most important (but not foolproof) way to create a good relationship between yourself, your suppliers, and your employees is to treat them both, as much as possible, as members of a team.
With regard to suppliers, the idea of supply chain management is based on the concept that suppliers should perceive a connection between their interests and yours. You should not treat them as if your only connection is on a transaction-to-transaction basis. Instead, there should be constant communication in which both sides' needs and issues are raised and addressed.
The same basic dynamic holds for employee relations as well. Relations with your employees will be better if they feel their interests align with yours. Therefore, it is important to treat them (insofar as is possible) as valued members of a team, not simply as the "hired help."
Thus, constant communication, based on the idea of making your interests coincide with theirs, is the key to good relations with employees and suppliers.
The principles involved in having a good relationship with both suppliers and employees are the same whether you are opening a restaurant, store, or shoe-shine business. They're actually pretty easy to follow, as well, which is why it is so surprising that many "bosses" turn out to be jerks.
From a supplier angle, the best way to keep them happy is to make sure you pay them on time and by the method that they prefer. Suppliers need sufficient time to create and deliver shipments. They need the business to be open and available at times during which they are able to get products to you. They need, depending on the level of service they provide, easy access to storage areas. In some cases, with some businesses, they may even need access to a loading dock (not as likely in a restaurant.) Buy as much from the same supplier as possible, and buy the largest quantity that you can can make use of to minimize trips. The single biggest way to make a supplier love you, though, is to pay them.
When it comes to employees, common sense can easily rule. Employees like to be treated fairly. Here are some ways to increase the odds of retaining contented, productive employees:
- Give your employees the respect they deserve by treating them as valuable. That doesn't mean an employee never needs to be "talked to," but it does mean that such conversations are handled in a way that preserves the employees dignity as much as possible.
- Pay them fairly, based on wages prevalent in the area.
- Give them input into the processes and procedures of the restaurant. Who better knows what works and doesn't than the people who do the job?
- Be understanding. Employees are not robots. They have families, needs, and wants. Be as flexible as possible when addressing the requests of employees and try to do anything reasonable.
- Treat your employees, to a degree, like part of a valuable team. It's amazing how hard people will work when they feel like they are part of a "family."
- Do the unexpected. Take employees out as a group, give out free movie passes, etc.
- Remember important dates for employees. Nothing goes further than simply know it's a waiter's birthday without them having to tell you.
- Anticipate trouble. If an employee is behaving in odd ways, try to find out way. The manager isn't a counselor, but an employee will be far more loyal to a manager that knows them well enough to notice if something is wrong.
- Allow your employees to work toward their goals. See if they want to work toward different jobs in the restaurant. Promote from within.
- Listen to them, even when they are just griping.
- Provide good discounts for them and their families to eat. Treat them like VIPs when they come in.
- Provide college reimbursement. This is a great incentive, provides a smarter employee for you, and helps "lock" good employees in.
- Realize that even as the owner/manager, you aren't all knowing. Your employees may have great ideas or better ways of doing things than you've thought of. Ask for these!
These are just some ideas, and I am sure there are many more that could be listed. Treat employees and suppliers well during the bad times and they'll be even more loyal and helpful during the good.
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