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:, and visit our blog.