How to nail supplier relationships (with bar owner and podcaster Zach Mack)

Last updated November 28, 2022 · By Dylan Blake

Supplier relationships are hard. Deliveries go wrong, a keg doesn't show, the wrong wine gets delivered. It's frustrating, especially since you're relying on accuracy and efficiency to run your bar or restaurant effectively.

So, what should you do when it goes wrong? How can you prevent it from going wrong in the first place? And where is that box of Cab you ordered from your distributor 6 months ago that was allegedly "delivered"?

Veteran bar owner and industry expert Zach Mack knows his way around these problems. In the below excerpts from our conversation with Zach, we cover:

  • What to do when a delivery goes wrong
  • When to cut ties with a supplier
  • How to make sure you're first in line for limited releases
  • The first things you should do when starting a new supplier relationship

Cultivate legit personal relationships with your suppliers

Takehome: Know them on a first-name basis. Show up at their taproom (if it's a brewery) and make sure they know you're there. Make it easy for them to reach out and be in touch. If they know you, they'll want to include you on all their communications.

Attend events—but the right ones—to maximize in person interactions

Takehome: You can't be at every event, so make the ones you attend count.

For example, a lot of the industry will attend bar/restaurant anniversary parties, so it's a great place to meet and network with a bunch of folks at once. If you want to carry more of a brewery's beer, go to their tap takeover at another bar and talk to them.

How do you know where to go? Keep an eye on social media to see when and where these events are happening.

Mom's principle: Never be a pushover, but always be easy to work with

Takehome: Spread the love for your distributor reps when you can—they've got a tough job. It isn't necessarily a quid pro quo, but if you look out for them, they're more likely to look out for you.

Be the place reps want to hang out at after their shifts

Takehome: Don't ask too much of them, don't get mad at them when something goes wrong (it wasn't their fault!). If something broke and a rep's there, they can help you out. Bonus: you'll get to know them better.

When and how to reset a rep or distributor relationship

Takehome: Be honest with them and be respectful, but it's totally within your rights to pull back on some orders if you're feeling taken advantage of. And that conversation is much easier if you've got a good relationship with them to start with.


More about Mr. Zach Mack

Zach is a force in the NYC bar and restaurant world.

We at BeerMenus know him best from his Manhattan bar Alphabet City Beer Co., which he started back in 2012 with partner David Hitchner. But he owns a couple other places around NYC, too—Taco Vista and Governors Island Beer Co.—and seems to be working on a new project whenever I talk to him.

He also co-hosts an weekly podcast for Back of House called So You Want to Run a Restaurant. SYWTRAR explores the trials, triumphs, and technical difficulties of running a successful restaurant in the always changing, ever-more-competitive North American food and beverage landscape.

Suffice to say Zach knows his stuff. For more from Zach, follow him on LinkedIn/Twitter/Instagram or send him an email at zachmack [at] gmail.com.

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