Will's Blog

Choosing a Coffee Supplier? Key Questions and Avoidable Mistakes

on Apr 08, 2024

Choosing the right wholesale coffee supplier for your business can be daunting – especially in Australia where we’re spoiled for choice. At Will & Co, we believe it’s about so much more than price, beans and machines. The best suppliers are those who truly care about the businesses and people they partner with.

Whether you’re opening a new hospo business or you’ve been in the game for a while and are looking to switch things up, we’re here to help guide you through that process. 

Recently, we shared a blog that walks through why choosing the right wholesale coffee supplier matters and five important matters to consider.

This time around, we’re highlighting two things:

  1. Important questions to ask and why; and 
  2. Common mistakes to avoid as you decide on the perfect coffee wholesaler for you. 

Questions to Ask a Potential Coffee Supplier

Product Quality and Consistency 

Questions to ask: 

  • What regions do you source your coffee beans from? 
  • How do you ensure the consistency of your coffee beans from batch to batch? 
  • How often do you roast and how do you ensure freshness from roast to delivery? 

The quality and consistency of your coffee beans is the most important thing for your coffee business. Each of the above questions will help you dive into this topic with any potential wholesale coffee supplier. 

Nine times out of 10 you’ll be serving a blend, so the origins of each roaster’s blend matters big time when it comes to quality. Sourcing from Central or South America (think Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala or Nicaragua) is a good sign, as these regions deliver a smooth, consistent, full-body profile. If you use a separate blend for black coffees, consider one that includes an African origin as they typically produce more interesting and complex tasting notes. If alternative brewing is your jam, ask whether they have a single origin program. 

It's also important to ask about their quality control processes – for example how often do they test samples from their green bean suppliers, how do they ensure they’re removing any potential foreign objects, and how do they drive consistency with their roasting process. Speaking of roasting, it’s good to understand how often they roast and how that’s tied to their delivery schedules. This will help you understand how fresh the coffee will be upon arrival and if it’s feasible to order more when you’re running low.

Equipment and Extras 

Questions to ask: 

  • Do you lease or sell coffee equipment? If so, what types and brands? 
  • Do you offer equipment for alternative brewing?  
  • Are there opportunities to customise the equipment? 
  • Besides coffee, do you supply other products like teas, syrups and merchandise? 

Next to a quality product, your brewing equipment is what will set your café up for success. Ask what equipment is available, from espresso machines and grinders to puq presses and milk jugglers, whether they lease or sell, and how that impacts your agreement and pricing.

If your espresso machine is going to be on display, ask about customisation and branding to help it make a statement. And for alternative brewing aficionados, don’t forget to enquire about their single origin program and gear to help bring that to life.

Some roasters have a portfolio that extends beyond coffee into teas, syrups, waters and more. This can make for a super convenient (and economical) way for you to manage orders, cutting down on the number of suppliers you need to coordinate with.

Also find out whether they offer retail products, like at-home coffee products and merchandise, for you to sell in store.

Pricing and Agreements 

Questions to ask: 

  • What is your pricing structure and overall value proposition? 
  • Do you charge for processing and delivery?  
  • Do you require a minimum order quantity? 
  • What is your agreement structure? If you run on longer-term contracts, what are the terms? 

When it comes to pricing, remember that it’s about more than the cost per kilo of beans. Ask about the supplier’s full value proposition to understand what the price per kilo really means. Does it include equipment, servicing and marketing support? Are there additional costs for processing and delivery?

While you’re at it, ask about minimum order requirements, stretch goals and agreements. It’s okay to be timid about agreements, but don’t use that as a reason to turn down a potential partner.

Contracts can be a great way for suppliers to offer a better price and are designed with both parties in mind – they motivate the roaster to better support your business and give you a way to hold your partner accountable to what they promise.

Support and Training 

Questions to ask: 

  • Do you offer training for baristas – if so, what types? 
  • What kind of service support do you provide if there are issues or questions? 
It’s not only a question of whether they offer barista training – it’s a question of how often (just once, annually, whenever you need it?) and whether training is customised or one-size-fits-all. Make sure you understand if it covers all the bases from equipment overviews and basic brewing to troubleshooting issues and advanced latte art classes.

On top of that, ask what kind of service support they provide for equipment issues and questions – do they rely on guides, or can you pick up the phone and call someone?

At Will & Co, we offer 24/7 on-call technical support and are only ever a phone call away, but we also aim to teach your team key troubleshooting techniques to get you back on your brew game quicker. 

Branding and Marketing

Questions to ask: 

  • What promotional signage do you have on offer? 
  • Do you offer any marketing support? 
  • Are there opportunities to collaborate on events or promotions? 

As a bare minimum, most roasters will provide a-frames, umbrellas, and wind breaks with their branding. Ask if these materials are included, or whether they’re cost extra. 

Speaking of extras, find out if co-branded signage is an option, and whether they do any digital or broader media campaigns to support their café partners (these things are all part of Will & Co’s offering). This might be on the rare side of things, but if you’re looking for a top-tier supplier it’s a good question to ask. 

Lastly, enquire about whether they would support local events or promotions your business is involved in (if that’s important to you). This is another great question to find out how deep the partnership with your roaster really runs. 


Questions to ask: 

  • How important is product innovation to your business? 
  • How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in the coffee industry? 

Our world is always changing, and as a result, businesses need to be too. To support your coffee offering into the future, ask about how the roaster approaches product innovation – and how important it is to them. Do they keep a pulse on the latest trends and innovations in the coffee industry, and how do they integrate those into their business in a way that supports their café partners?  

Whether it’s developing new formats for you to sell to customers in-store, adjusting or developing new blends to meet a new market, or offering new equipment with advanced technology features, your wholesale coffee supplier should be ready to innovate. 

4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Deciding on a Coffee Supplier 

Now that you’re more aware of the key questions to ask wholesale coffee suppliers, here are some pitfalls to avoid during the decision-making process to ensure you’re selecting the right partner: 

1. Are They All Talk, No Action?

A supplier might say all the right things, but do they practise what they preach? Have a look at who else partners with that roaster and whether their business values align with yours. Can you find examples of what the roaster is promising that already exist in the market? If not, be cautious.

2. Price Versus Value

A low price isn’t always the best choice. Though not always true, price is often reflective of quality; cheaper can mean an inferior product, less support, lower-quality equipment – the list goes on. Oftentimes, lower-price partnerships come with more headaches, so consider what value you’ll receive from the price you’ve agreed to pay. 

3. Communication is Key

If something seems off, or isn’t at the level of quality you expected, communicate that early and give the roaster the best chance to address it. Otherwise, the issue may fester and cause greater issues that could have been avoided. 

4. Confusing Over-Saturated for Popular, or Popular for Good

Just because you see a certain brand of coffee everywhere, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for you. Sometimes, going with a unique roaster in an over-saturated area can quickly work in your favour as your point of difference. It’s also important to remember that, just because they’re everywhere, doesn’t mean they’re the best or the right partner for you. They could simply offer a good price or be less selective about who they partner with. 

All That Being Said...

As intimidating as searching for a new wholesale coffee supplier can be, we hope these questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid help make the process even just a little bit easier. 

When you find the right partner, we reckon you’ll know. Why? Because it won’t seem intimidating – it'll just make sense.  

Remember – at the end of the day, the right supplier for you will genuinely care about you and your business, creating a true partnership. 

Why not get in touch with our wholesale coffee team if you’re keen to chat.