One of the really cool parts of my job is that I get to speak with so many people in different facets of the industry. Many of them are successful in segments other than foodservice. They can be startups from other countries looking to break into the US market, established ingredient companies who sell to industrial or to retail customers, equipment companies who are integral to product innovation, commodity boards, or finished goods manufacturers and even branded companies. While some of these work within foodservice, they often can’t seem to unlock the kind of growth and relationships they really deserve. I think this is due to a lack of insights in this unique sector of the industry, as well as the correct process and approach to providing the right presentation to the customer showcasing your unique value.
These organizations usually have a similar conversation with me when we first speak. They have great products but are not sure exactly where or how to start or truly know what is expected of them. Some Many have tried to enter the foodservice industry through a type of shotgun approach by meeting with accounts through friends or brokers who have relationships with the expectation of getting an order that day but the instead the opposite occurs. They end up discouraged and their success in foodservice remains an enigma. When a company looks to engage me, if they don’t want any consultation or strategy and they just want to use my relationships or network to just “open doors” for them and get meetings right away, I’ll try to explain this to them. This Ready-Fire-Aim approach simply doesn’t work and for the chain this is a waste of time.
So what approach may be more successful?
I certainly understand business pressures and the desire for growth, and you should believe in your products and their ability to earn the right to be on menus at large chains. However, what most people don’t take the time to do is really understand the what that dream customer wants, how they operate, and why they should even care about your product! They can’t succinctly describe why they belong on the menu, from the customer’s point of view.
Enter the development of a foodservice strategy. With a foodservice strategy you’re looking to cover a variety of points. Here are just a few:
Q: Who do we target across the top 200 chains and why?
Q: What are the customer expectations of world class suppliers at the highest levels?
Q: What is our unique value proposition and why should they buy from us?
Q: Do I understand how products get to market and at which points in the process I should be providing help?
Q: What are the unique needs of the foodservice industry and how is that different from the markets I currently serve? Will the same approach really work?
Q: Do we act like a finished goods supplier or ingredient supplier?
Q: What innovation products and manufacturing solutions might we need to get this done?
Q: How do we leverage existing capabilities and programs to accelerate success?
Q: What resource gaps might we have (ex. Consumer insights) that we’ll need for a relevant presentation?
Q: How do we do our homework the right way on these customers?
Q: Do we have the right applications support?
Q: How do we tie this up into a comprehensive and simple report we can share internally to get leadership and the team on the same page?
From my years seeing suppliers come in and present to us at Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, it was immediately apparent who had their strategy together and who was just taking a Ready-Fire-Aim approach. The good ones knew exactly who they were and they brought value. They understood us as a customer. They had world class salespeople. The product applications were stellar. They’d been to our restaurants and understood our operations. They were easy to work with!
Every time I write about fundamentals, I feel like it’s almost overly simplistic. That’s the challenge with fundamentals. They’re simple, but hard to do consistently well. Take a look at the questions above and really challenge yourself to know if you’re doing all the right things to unlock success at your dream accounts. Improving your performance in these areas help you create a course for success in foodservice. If you’d like to talk further about this please reach out directly, or check out my online self-paced course Turbocharge Your Foodservice Sales.