Tag Archives: Catering

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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For Restaurant Catering To Succeed, We need Executive Alignment

 

Let’s Talk Catering!

imagesHere at the Catering Institute and MonkeyMedia Software, we work with the most amazing restaurant companies in America.  I am always dissecting new ways of doing things, and always looking at ways of how to make catering work in restaurants.  After all, a restaurant is a complex manufacturing plant!  Adding more revenue channels is complicated.

The single most important lesson I have learned is that we need executive alignment to make catering work inside these complex operations.  It requires commitment.

So, here are 5 things to think about as you consider growing catering sales.

1.  Slow Down – We have to take the time to understand the 360 degree strategy of takeout, delivery and catering.  They are all closely related.  They are interdependent on each other.

2.  Plan – We have to take the time to make a proper plan.  We ALL need to do a better job at that.  Planning is hard for everyone.

3.  Menu Differentiation – We need to focus on markets.  The market for these services is different from our current restaurant products and services.

4.  Sales – We have to become very active in our selling process.  It needs to become part of our culture at all touch points of our companies.

5.  Patience – All great things take time.  Growing catering out of our restaurants is a major commitment and it will take investment and time.

Of course, I could make a list of a hundred more ideas… just call me at 604-831-7422 if you want to chat more.

I am living and breathing this material all day long!

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The Best Reward And Loyalty Programs for your Catering Customers

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Here is an article I wrote that was recently published in Franchise Grade –

When it comes to catering out of restaurants, our industry still has trouble defining who our target customers are. At a surface level we continue to think of our catering customers as professionals, such as sales representatives, administrative assistants and pharmaceutical representatives, that are all in need of an exceptional off-premise catering experience where they live, work and play.

While that is true, I’d like to provide you with a different perspective.

I’d like you to consider that your catering customers are no different than your in-store customers. All your in-store customers can purchase or influence the ordering of catering. The thing is, your in-store customers are a diverse group of decision makers, and each of them has a need to feed others in their lives. We have discussed over and over that restaurants need to focus on a single consumer who is loyal to a brand, but is making different buying decisions depending on their needs at that time.

With that framework in mind, I’d like you to reconsider what the right strategy is when it comes to rewarding your customers for catering versus in-store transactions.

We all know that frequency builds routine habits and we also know that restaurant reward and loyalty programs drive increased frequency into your restaurant locations. Just check out the myriad of great reward and loyalty solutions now available in the marketplace. They all focus on the retail transaction, although that is now changing.

From the perspective of your catering clients, if you focus your operations on “flawless execution” the more your customers will trust that you can provide professional and reliable catering services. As a reward, theywill refer you to their colleagues, friends and families.

Commonly used rewards tactics are a way to “surprise and delight”your catering customers in the same way consumers strive to receive their Starbucks Gold cards or MyPanera cash rewards. However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind that are relevant to catering rewards tactics.

1. Rewards can build on loyalty, but a brand must deliver all-around value, service and flawless execution.

2. Be careful navigating your ‘kick-back’ perception. This is a delicate dance.

3. Decouple your catering rewards program from your in-store loyalty program.

4. Provide reward options that include free product for personal or catering transactions.

5. Provide loyalty redemption options that include 3rd party gift benefits, such as prepaid Visa cards.

6. Provide your customers with the option to select which program they prefer

While a lot of brands use existing retail rewards programs to service catering customers we must remember that a catering transaction is not the same as a take out transaction. Catering is its own business and every aspect of that business needs to be treated separately when it comes to loyalty and rewards. You need to create and implement a different program for your catering transactions because the key business drivers are completely different.

Your strategic goal should be to maintain loyalty and frequency over the long term because you’re selling much more than the specific benefits your customers need. You are selling value, reliability and convenience, not price.

Surprise and delight your customers as it pertains to loyalty and think about a layered approach based on dollars spent. And remember: To be effective in surprise and delight, you really need to know your customer. Establish initial and valuable trust in the beginning of your catering relationships and offer rewards also based on referrals as an effective way to meet and acquire new guests.

Stop thinking about the relationship with your customer as a transactional one and offer rewards that showcase their incentives each month. Once you do, you will be better able to evoke an emotional response from the reward because you are reaching your clients by offering items that mean more to them. Make it personal.

Today, we’re living in a world where customers are extremely social and technology allows them to be social on a scalable basis. Social allows marketers to tap into a customer networks in the real sense, which also drives referrals.

Customers love when a brand understands them. So give them something your catering customers can’t resist. This will increase frequency and, in turn, your catering profits.

Let’s talk catering!

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