Category Archives: Catering Marketing – Internal

Our community is confused about restaurant takeout & catering – Segment Markets

blog-marketsegment1-150110I’m flying at 35,000 feet enjoying the modern miracle of Wifi on airplanes. I just spent the last week of my life visiting restaurant companies in the Northeast corner of the US.  I feel honoured to be called upon by some of the biggest restaurant companies in the world to help them with their catering and off premise business operations.  I am very lucky to do the work that comes with my job as Founder & CEO at MonkeyMedia Software and The Catering Institute.

I have been thinking deeply about catering & takeout out of restaurants for the last two decades.  I’ve written about it, made videos about it, presented at conferences about it and have been evangelizing to our community that our consumers will continue to demand services for our restaurant brands  where they Live, Work & Play.  The off premise business opportunity for restaurants will continue to grow and increase in complexity.

In my world, I see complex manufacturing dynamics in all of the restaurants I spend time in.  The way I see it, when it comes to feeding our customers where they Live, Work and Play, there are only two core service channels. (Takeout and Catering).

Now, to be clear, what I am proposing is a framework for every restaurant to consider when it comes to segmenting it’s markets, so that our operations can adapt to the complexity of order entry, conversation, manufacturing and distribution.  Depending on the service channel for off-premise restaurant services & products, our operations will react and behave differently based on the occasion and order dynamics.  Saying that, here’s the rub…. Our customers are not experts!  We are!  The look to us to tell them what to order when.  And so, we will only succeed with flawless execution and our customers expect us to know our business better than them.  And so, as experts, we have to recommend the right things, for the right occasion, every single time.

There is a lot to discuss here, and I am going to self publish and essay on this topic where it will be available at the Catering Institute, because I think this is the single biggest challenge that our restaurant community faces when it comes to maximizing transaction volume for our off-premise sales opportunities.

Here is what I want to say…… Language matters!  And it matters a lot.  If our operations are unclear on how to direct our guests based on their service demand and feeding occasion, then can you imagine how confused our guests are going to be when they place their orders?  I can tell you that serving multiple markets out of a single restaurant is absolutely daunting.  But, it’s also absolutely possible!

So, as you open the doors to your restaurant(s) tomorrow, I want you to think about segmenting your takeout and catering opportunities based on the market and consumer demand for more products & services for your brand.

Dine In, Takeout, Delivery, Curbside, Catering, Event Catering, Food Trucks, Online Ordering, and Group Ordering are all examples of market segmentations and the use of language.  There are probably 100’s more that we have not thought about yet!  Now you can see the complexity here!  To many things going on at once, and not enough team members inside our organizations that understand the dynamics.  This lack of understanding leads to chaos inside our organizations.  We have to work on this together.

To me, it’s about feeding your customers where they Live, Work & Play.  It’s about getting your customers to spend more money with your brand more often.  It’s about making your brand loyalists aware of these horizontal services and getting them to think of you at the right time, for the right occasion.

Takeout and Catering are closely related cousins.  Both can be available for pickup or delivery.  Both of these order types can be placed online, through mobile devices, through kiosks, in-store or on the telephone.

So, I ask you, how are you segmenting those services in your restaurants and what are the best practices for the order to cash cycle of each type of transaction?  I can tell you, if you don’t frame the conversation properly for your customers, they are going to walk away with a negative experience.

From what I see every single day in the field, few brands, if any are doing a good job at explaining this to their internal teams or to their customers.  And so, the result is confusing and less than stellar.

Until we take the time to properly segment our markets, and develop language internally and externally that makes sense, we will continue to make it hard on ourselves.

I am going to spend some time thinking more about what I can do to help our community frame this dynamic properly so that we can set ourselves up for success and grow the off-premise sales channel for restaurants.

I’d love to hear from you on this topic.


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Travelin’ Brand by Sam Smith – Good Article about Restaurant Catering

Increase Catering Sales

The article “Travelin’ Brand” in the February Issue of Restaurant Business is very thoughtful.  As I have been pursuing the restaurant catering conversation for the last 16 years, I find it very refreshing to see other writers covering the subject matter.

So many of our customers and friends at MonkeyMedia Software and The MMS Catering Institute ask about the “size of the prize”.  While I am not convinced that the numbers presented in the article are perfectly defined, I think it is a great step towards helping our restaurant community understand the subtleties of the marketplace.

The following link will provide you with digital access to the article which begins on Page 47.

Great Job Sam Smith and kudos to Restaurant Business Magazine for providing coverage on such an important topic.

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5 ways to market your restaurant catering holiday program

Worry Free
As we close out 2013, let’s focus on how our restaurant community can ramp up catering sales during the holiday season. This is the time of year when your holiday catering-specific marketing materials become crucial to your fourth quarter catering sales performance. There is a direct correlation, but you have to make some noise.

During this time of year especially, as a restaurant operator, you really need to zero in on your customers and why your catering products and services are different from those of your competitors. Remember, catering out of your restaurant(s) is a different business than your in-store operation and not just an “add-on” service. You must be specific and thoughtful. Focus in on your brand promise.

In order to really drive incremental, higher-margin catering sales during the holiday season, you will need to develop marketing materials that are very visible to your in-store guests, as well as your store team members. Use existing real estate, people, and most important, your in-store customers by making it easy for them to make your catering business a success this season. There is a lot of money on the table within your existing customer base. They are all thinking about food options for their upcoming gatherings, and their options are plentiful. Your company should be the clear choice for them.

Focus on feeding your customers where they live, work and play, such as holiday office parties, at-home gatherings or off-site holiday events. Zero in on how your products and services will help your community this season.

Here are 5 ways you can focus your marketing efforts to capture holiday catering sales

1. Tell your catering story. Your catering story can be told using all of your preferred advertising methods, designed to showcase your brand and team as THE catering experts. Share a list of all of the organizations using your catering services each and every day. Make that list visible to your current in-store customers and find an area in your store to post “today’s deliveries.” Make it a BIG sign…. Digital would be cool… This will drive customer inquiry and increased demand for your holiday catering needs. But don’t forget, you’d better have a solid catering expert in-house to help the customer.

2. Develop and showcase your holiday catering menu. Your holiday menu should be different/complementary to your current catering menu. I’d recommend that you simply do “one holiday catering product or package” alongside your regular catering menu. Focus on a category. Just be clear that it is a limited time offer (LTO).

3. Train your people to speak and write the language of restaurant catering. This is true whether you’re gearing up for holiday catering sales or looking to build momentum with your current program. The most valuable marketing tool available to you as a restaurant operator is your people. Train your people at the operations level to tell your catering story to the public. Your front-line people should be able to direct your catering customers to the right team of catering people within your organization at the right moment, where that catering team will ensure that your customer’s expectations are set properly for guaranteed service execution.

4. Don’t discount and tell your customers why. Do not use discounting or couponing to incentivize your customer to use your catering services. There are just to many hidden costs behind the catering transaction to give away money while doing it. Just focus on doing a good job and your customers will always come back for more because catering is a stress driven transaction. If you do have to negotiate something to get the order, use your judgment based on the size of the order. Remind your customers why you don’t offer discounts on catering orders.

5. Document holiday policies and procedures for your team and your customers. Assuming that you have a day-to-day catering and off-premise business strategy in place, the holiday season will place increased stress on your catering operations teams. Your catering strategy at holiday time should provide a logical plan for this seasonal spike in sales. Include provisions for additional hired holiday help and support. Align your holiday catering strategy with your existing plan and then be very specific with a separate policy and procedure guideline focused specifically on your holiday catering customer.

The holidays should be remembered as a time of festivity with co-workers, friends and family. Give your catering customers an experience to remember and they’ll have even more to celebrate, as well as tell all their friends what a great catering experience you were able to provide.

Let’s talk catering!

Learn More From our Catering Institute

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