5 Questions to Ask About Your Business Partnerships

Posted by Stan Frankenthaler, Dunkin’ Brands February 06, 2014

Tagged in COEX Foodservice Operators Operator Collaboration Model

Frankenthaler _Stan - DunkinStan Frankenthaler is vice president of innovation and executive corporate chef at Dunkin' Brands. He is highly engaged in the foodservice industry and has served as a co-chair of IFMA's Chain Operators Exchange in 2013, as well as an active participant of IFMA's Operator/Manufacturer Collaboration initiative. 


There are different types of relationships between foodservice supply chain partners; though there is no common definition and clarity around what they are and the roles and expectations of each. Partners are engaged in a business process; though in foodservice there is lack of common understanding and best practices. And all partners possess their unique view of the world. All this results in inefficiency and ineffectiveness, leaving one or both parties dissatisfied. Missed opportunities abound. 

I've had the pleasure of being part of many very fruitful relationships during my time at Dunkin' Brands. However, over the years, I have also witnessed the challenges. Through my work on IFMA's Operator/Manufacturer Collaboration Committee and as a 2013 co-chair of the Chain Operators Exchange (COEX), a foodservice forum designed to support operators and facilitate collaboration between operators and our suppliers, I've learned a lot about what questions we need to ask ourselves when exploring prospective or further developing current relationships. 

5 Key Questions 

  1. What type of relationship am I looking to create?  There are four types of relationships - beginning with the basic, somewhat transactional "Supplier" relationship, advancing through the "Preferred" and "Collaborative," to the "Strategic" relationship. Every relationship is different, so it's important to determine what type of relationship you're seeking and what your company's rules are. Then gauge whether or not that partner can meet your goals.
  2. What is the business process I am engaging the partner in?  There are four core steps in the process, beginning with "Relationship Definition, then moving sequentially through "Situation Analysis" and "Plan Development" to "Execution". It takes time to move through these stages - with each type of project requiring differing amounts of time per stage. This can sometimes be ill defined and frustrate the partnership.
  3. How do/can/should relationships change over time? Relationships between manufacturers and foodservice operators are not static. They are more cross functional than ever. The R&D and culinary groups are involved… there are many consumer insights from both sides and, of course, commercialization, QA and supply. Even marketing likes to get in on things these days! As the individual situations of each brand changes, their relationships with partners will change as well. What is fascinating are the intricacies in evolving the relationship and the opportunity to make it purposeful and calculated vs. by chance.
  4. Are we speaking the same language? As many operators can relate to, I go from meeting to meeting with suppliers and it's like we're speaking a different language. I would imagine suppliers conversely experience this same feeling. This lack of commonality creates major disconnects.
  5. Are we viewing the industry through the same lens? Rarely. And it's no longer good enough to just focus on day parts and segments. A more meaningful approach to reaching consumers begins with understanding "eater types" and the need states and occasions that bring them to foodservice. If we as an industry begin viewing the consumer through the same lens, we can better work with our partners to drive guests into our establishments.

To learn more about best practices for operator/supplier collaboration, join me at COEX, March 2-5 in Las Vegas. 

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