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Five tips on how to work with suppliers

Digby Vollrath, Co-founder & CEO of Feast It shares his top five tips on working with suppliers; covering how to pick the right supplier and maintaining consistent standards.

From the inception of Feast It back in 2017, we knew that the key to building a marketplace that added genuine value to the consumer was a quality-first approach. We always wanted to be much more than simply an aggregator of thousands of suppliers – what we call the ‘yellow pages experience’. Instead, we wanted to create an experience where you knew that no matter who you booked through Feast It, they would do a brilliant job.

"We wanted to create an experience where you knew that no matter who you booked through Feast It, they would do a brilliant job."

Fast-forward two and a half years and we’ve fed over 1.4 million people at events ranging from Glastonbury, London Pride, Secret Cinema as well as thousands of weddings, birthdays and just about everything in-between. In that time, we’re incredibly proud to have kept a customer NPS of over 84 (versus the hospitality industry’s average of 4), and an average supplier rating of 4.98/5. We feel that our greatest success is creating a quality-first, managed marketplace at scale.

Here are five tips on how we’ve made it work for us, which I hope will be useful for you to apply to your own business:

1. Codify your supplier standards

We try and be as objective as possible when it comes to curating suppliers, but the reality is there’s always going to be a bit of art and instinct when it comes to playing critic.

We think hard about where we can draw the line between the objective requirement of every supplier having the highest possible hygiene ratings, insurance documentation etc, and then the more subjective matter of what makes one burger fundamentally more delicious than the next.

We believe we’re able to blend the two very effectively. Strict rules around documentation, and a company-wide curation committee that can judge suppliers on unquantifiable aspects, such as how good their setup looks, their passion for their product and ultimately whether the food they produce is to the very highest standard. Essentially, what takes a supplier from being ‘good’ to what we call ‘Feast It Brilliant’.

2. In events, quality extends beyond just the core product

What we’re selling extends beyond our suppliers’ products. The suppliers themselves are a huge part of what our customers are purchasing. It doesn’t really matter how tasty the food is if the supplier you’ve chosen is half an hour late or is rude to your guests.

This means that we have to judge our suppliers on aspects such as reliability and politeness, which may not be easy to gauge before we’ve done events with them. Thus, a very important part of the signup process involves researching some of the past events they’ve worked on, to make sure that their standards are up to ours.

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3. Build a bot: Use tech along with human insight

When building a two-sided marketplace, we feel it’s just as important to service your suppliers as it is your customers. When we look to grow our amazing base of suppliers, we only bring on those who we think could grow their business as a result of working with us. We only make money on commission from successful bookings, so it’s absolutely no use for us to be working with suppliers who are unlikely to receive bookings through the platform.

To that end, we’ve built an internal bot, called “Robot Rebecca” (now RoBex) who works to match our suppliers with the right customers, whilst letting us spot where we are falling short. RoBex will immediately work out the best-suited suppliers to an enquiry as soon as it comes in and reaches out to them to ask them to submit a quote.

4. Learn from your suppliers

Ultimately, your marketplace is only going to work if suppliers enjoy engaging with the product. For example, we have to remember that our suppliers are fairly time-poor and often on the move, so it’s vital that we listen to their recommendations when it comes to the product.

We’ll always email our suppliers to inform them of product changes, beta features on the site for them to check out, plus we run monthly coffee mornings which allow us to engage with our suppliers in-person.

5. Learn, adapt, and help your suppliers do the same

Finally, we believe that education needs to work both ways. We make sure we work closely with our suppliers to help them refine their offering, so that ultimately, they can gain more bookings.

That may mean advising them to add a certain item to their menu, develop a set up that enables them to work indoors or utilise a professional photographer to improve the look of their profile.

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Important Note:
Asto does not provide advice. You should not take anything in this content as any form of investment, tax, financial, legal or other advice. We have provided this content for your information only. You should not rely on it. Asto is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of this information. You should seek independent advice as necessary.