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Finding the Right GPO for You in 2023

You’ve likely heard of GPOs in passing. Maybe you heard about a competitor joining one, or perhaps you saw an industry leader speak about how a membership transformed their profit margins. The value of joining a group purchasing organization (GPO) is undeniable, but many caterers often get stuck because of decision paralysis.

After all, business owners are understandably protective of their companies. Who’s to say a seemingly-legit GPO isn’t actually a scam? What if you end up locked into an unsavory agreement that limits the way you do business?

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So instead of signing up for a GPO, it’s easier to stick to what has worked in the past. You can’t go wrong with ‘business as usual.’

But what if such inaction is leaking thousands of dollars from your bottom line each year? Fortunately, great GPOs are free to join.

If 2023 is the year you decide to put your profits first, follow these steps to find a reputable GPO that helps you achieve your goals.

Say no to rigid contracts

Entering a strict agreement can do more harm than good, so look for GPOs that provide flexibility to purchase as much (or as little) and as often (or as infrequently) as you like. 

“Don’t let your GPO box you in with restrictions,” notes Paul Buchness of Lighthouse Catering. “Adding multiple streams of income should include savings on purchasing.”

Before agreeing to anything, review the policies and check for unreasonable restrictions. If you notice terms that lock you in for a set frequency, purchase amount, or membership duration, consider it a red flag and look for another GPO that allows you to call the shots in your business.

Inquire about suppliers

When you source food directly, you get a chance to build trust and establish a long-term relationship with your suppliers. You become familiar with their offerings, order timing, food quality, and other details that help your catering business run like clockwork.

Luckily, joining a GPO doesn’t mean letting go of that knowledge and control. If anything, GPO membership opens up opportunities to procure new inventory and try new brands—but only if you do your homework.

While researching catering GPOs, be sure to ask about the suppliers they use to ensure food is sourced safely and responsibly. Then, if necessary, spend some time researching those suppliers to confirm reliability and trustworthiness.

Get familiar with customer service

Your ideal GPO is one that will provide you with support that helps your business grow—not just with cost savings but with valuable insights and personalized sourcing. Need to find a specific brand or a hard-to-find product? The member success team should be able to help!

When comparing GPOs, connect with a customer service representative to ask questions and get a taste of the support you’ll receive as a member. For example, are there ‘off hours’ during which you can’t reach anyone? Or is there a turnaround time that leaves you answerless for several days?

Look for a GPO that is attentive, informative, and professional. When the time comes for you to call on them, you want to know that they’re ready and able to solve your problems.

By leveraging the power of collective purchasing, GPOs can save your catering business thousands of dollars with advantageous bulk pricing. But such benefits are only worthwhile if you find an organization that prioritizes your business needs and supports your growth, so do your research and pick wisely! 


Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the VP Sales for SB Value located in Charlotte, NC. Clint, a former professional race car driver, was one of the top motorsports promoters in the country by the age of 35. Clint used that experience and passion for business to launch his second career in a sales and marketing. Outside of work Clint enjoys spending time on his family farm and coaching his two daughters softball teams. Clint is also an avid cook and self proclaimed badminton superstar.