Our Takeaways on Our Recent Brands 2020 Foodservice Immersion Tour

In March, Foodservice Immersion™ and CSSI Marketing + Culinary led a group of foodservice professionals on a carefully planned tour and program highlighting the hottest new restaurant and food concepts, flavor profiles, fusion foods, and new experimentation at independent operators, and local and national chains.

Read our newsletter (link below) for coverage of some of our site visits plus industry insight.

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How Can Foodservice Suppliers Reach Operators?

A question from suppliers that comes up frequently in our Foodservice Immersion™ programs is, “How can I reach operators with information and new products?”

1.     First of all, have a good knowledge about each foodservice segment, and the differences between those operators. School foodservice directors have different needs for information than do independent restaurant operators. (Shameless self-promotion: Foodservice Immersion™ is a great way to get this overview!)

2.     Listen to your distributors. What information do they ask for? Do they need a single-page sell sheet? Don’t limit yourself in materials: Some operators may want something in print, and others may respond better to digital. Does it need to have menu suggestions for your product? Does it need to have detailed nutrition information? Do they need samples (probably so)? Do they need specific carton pack sizes? And don’t forget to include that distributors SKUs or product codes. Make sure you include photos of the applications of your product—a picture IS worth a thousand words, and will spark your operator’s creativity.  Remember that each operator segment may use your product differently-- "keep it simple" with focus on the key applications for each segment.

3.     Motivate your distributors. Offer a sales contest for distributor sales reps who place product with operators. Remember, though, to back up that contest with information the operator can use to effectively menu your items.

4.     Listen to your brokers. What information do they ask for? Probably very similar to what we suggested above: appropriate information and samples. Ask what else they need to do their jobs well, and how you can support them.

5.     Pay attention to the media that operators read or watch. What do hotel foodservice operators read? Independent restaurant operators? Hospital foodservice directors? They all have different interests and customer bases, and probably read or watch different media.

6.     Finally, pay attention when you are out and about. Do you have a favorite restaurant? Ask the owner or chef! They would love to tell you what would make their job and business better. Other industries utilize distributors and brokers and sales reps—how do they communicate and reach their customers?

When in doubt, do it the simple way: Just ask the person you are trying to reach.

For more information on Foodservice Immersion™, the only on-site training and development program for foodservice suppliers, visit our website: www.fs-immersion.com, and visit our blog.

The Hidden Issue with Products: Operator Storage

To Foodservice Immersion attendees, one of the most surprising parts of the behind-the-scenes tour is the operator’s storage area. Our attendees simply can’t believe that a multi-million dollar foodservice operation devotes such a tiny amount of space to storage.

But, it makes sense when they stop to think about it. What smart businessperson would want to tie up cash flow with inventory that sits for weeks or months at a time? And who would want to take away valuable selling space—seating, take-out, prep areas—to do so?

Thinking about how operators use their storage space in real life is essential for the success of food manufacturers’ new and perennial products.  Every inch of the operator’s storage space has to work, and work efficiently. In their storage areas not only are there health codes that have to be met, but also inventories that must be done, and labor expended to get product in and out and arranged.

If an operator finds that a product hampers these efforts, they simply won’t order it. If they find a product’s packaging frustrating, they won’t order it more than once, if at all.

What are some common issues operators have with manufacturers’ packaging?

·      It doesn’t fit on their shelves.
·      It’s difficult to open.
·      It’s hard to rotate product.
·      It doesn’t have easily visible correct and helpful labeling.
·      It’s difficult to get the entire food product out of the packaging.

How can manufacturers meet operators’ storage needs? First, of course, make sure that product packaging satisfies the above issues. But also consider just how the operator actually uses that product.

·      Is there a way the product’s packaging can aid in preparation?
·      Can it be streamlined to take up less space?
·      Will the product in its packaging be used front of house—in a buffet, for example?
·      Is the product likely to be transferred from the original master packaging into the kitchen’s smaller and use-oriented containers? If so, is there a way the manufacturer can help that process?
·      Does the case pack meet the operator’s expected turnover for that product?
·      Is the case size a convenient size to fit on storage shelves? Is the weight easily handled? The packaging not too awkward to handle?

Communication between manufacturers, distributors, and operators is essential to enable product to move smoothly throughout the supply chain. Take the opportunity to speak with operators, visit their locations, and ask for a tour. As part of the Foodservice Immersion program we visit all major operator segments and in doing so we Q&A with operators, and tour all areas of the locations. We have found operators to be more than willing—eager, even--to share both what does and what doesn’t work for them.