The Takeout, Delivery & Catering Show – A podcast for Foodservice Operators

Hi there,

Well, I finally have my studio going again and I’m really excited to be working on some brand new content to help foodservice operators get their minds wrapped around their Takeout, Delivery & Catering Strategies.

My work for the last 20 years through MonkeyMedia Software, The Catering Institute and Off-Premise Insights has been focused on helping Restaurant & Foodservice Operators to understand the paradigm shift of managing a new operating model to incorporate off premises sales.

Please feel free to send me your feedback.

Here is a link to my show.  We have completed 27 episodes or you to listen to. Hope you enjoy!

You can listen here.


Erle’s Top 13 Reasons Why a Restaurant Catering Operation Fails

Erle Dardick, CEO & Founder of the Catering Institute and MonkeyMedia Software

I was looking at some old files today and then I found this fun image that my friend Mike Tyler made for me a few years ago!  Those were from the days long before the Catering Institute!  Life is so much different today…. As the Catering Institute continues to evolve, so do I!

Today at the institute, we have successfully trained more than 2000 satisfied foodservice students using our various classes and curriculum.  We have also had tens of thousands of restaurateurs download our various resources, articles, essays and webinars.  Check out this video to see how much fun we have during our training sessions.

Much of my work these days in our software division,  MonkeyMedia Software ,is to remind and teach our team to remain true to the key principles that we have documented using the business framework of the ‘5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Catering‘.

The way I see it, our software division has a core client responsibility.  They must use the 89 characteristics of the 5 Pillars to benchmark the operations.   (Call me at 604-831-7422 if you’d like to discuss the characteristics).  Using our scoring systems allows the group to decide as to whether or not a restaurant company is ready to implement our world class technology into restaurant operations.  We have so much experience now to know that  companies that are trying to implement sophisticated technology on top of poor business processes, are not suited for a successful implementation.  They must score high on the 89 characteristics that we have documented to succeed with software implementation.

And so of course the story goes.  It is the 89 characteristics that the Catering Institute will to continue to work on…..

And so, this leads me to today’s list of reasons why I believe off-premise programs fail.  I’m sure there are dozens more that we could add.  Here goes…..

1.  Lack of a documented takeout, delivery & catering strategy 

2.  Inability to establish standard operating procedures.  Management of off-premise business by “seat of the pants”

3.  Frequent critical incidents “putting out fires is common practice”

4.  No focus on takeout, delivery & catering as its own business unit

5.  Lack of investment

6.  Lack of  leadership and catering business experience

7.  No Separation of Menu Items between takeout and catering

8.  No differentiation in packaging between takeout and catering

9.  Too many service gaps

10.  Lack of catering authenticity

11.  Lack of management commitment to catering

12.  Lack of operational evaluation tools

13.  Inability to start entrepreneurial businesses 

A paradigm shift for growing catering sales in a franchise ecosystem


Growing restaurant catering sales inside a franchise ecosystem

Through my work at MonkeyMedia Software , I’m inspired to write this essay to address the ongoing confusion, distress, frustration and communication disconnect that I often see inside many franchise systems that I work with, when it comes to growing catering sales on top of current franchisee assets.

I feel obligated to share these thoughts with our restaurant community, because I have been very fortunate to not only come to understand the business challenges, but in fact, I have been given the opportunity to solve for these business challenges through my work in the restaurant industry.

 I am not trying to lay blame on these issues.  I simply wish to bring visibility to the reasons why I think things might be the way they are when it comes to growing catering sales, and I wish to propose a solution or perspective that perhaps we may not have considered.

 I hope you will send me your thoughts on the subject matter below.

There are no secrets, but intellectual property counts

It’s no big secret that the franchising model for growing restaurant companies continues to be a key driver in our industry. Just look around. Everyone is franchising. After all, who wouldn’t want to collect an ongoing annuity based royalty for the licensing of valuable intellectual property?  The restaurant industry is no different from the music industry, the movie industry or even the software industry.  It’s an industry full of creativity, processes, proprietary flavors and culture. It only makes good business sense to leverage those items  across the globe . At least, it looks that way on paper. It’s easy, right?  The plan is critical.

A franchisee is an important animal in the restaurant industry.  Why?

Read the whole essay here

Building Catering Sales with Social Media – Dan Kim, Founder of Red Mango

At MonkeyMedia Software’s Catering Institute we are ALWAYS looking for ways to help our restaurant community grow catering sales.

Truth is, I am so lucky as CEO of MonkeyMedia Software mostly because I get to collaborate with the most talented and generous people in our industry!  So, you can imagine how proud I am to announce our special guest for our upcoming webinar!

Our “Catering Makes Sense” Webinar Series has been growing and growing!  Hundreds of people attend our webinars each and every time.  Well, coming on February 6th, 2013, we have a wonderful social media opportunity!  Please join us!

Hear Dan Kim speak about a social media strategy to grow catering sales!
Hear Dan Kim speak about a social media strategy to grow catering sales!

If you’d like to register, or you have a team member who would like to register, just follow this link:

REGISTER HERE TODAY…..But hurry!  There are only 75 seats left!

 I have always maintained that the all aspects of our restaurant operations will “collide” with the catering and off premise sales channels as the market changes and grows.  That’s a good thing!

I am firmly believe in using Social Media as a tool to grow sales, as I have in my own business.  The content that I create continues to provide a creative outlet which is so important for my own personal development process.  Now that I have been using my own social media strategy and the dividends have paid off, not only do I understand the tools better, but I am certain of the Return on Investment.  Social Media is an important strategy for any brand.

And so, just like every other sales channel, Social Media can drive catering customers to your brand in ways that as a community, we have not even begun to explore yet.

It is with great pride, that I get to send this invitation today for you to register your teams for our upcoming Webinar on February, 6, 2013 at 3PM EST.

“Catering to Social Media” with Special Guest, Dan Kim, Founder at Red Mango Yogurt.  Check out Dan’s Twitter page @dankimredmango or @monkeymedia for more…….

If you’d like to register, or you have a team member who would like to register, just follow this link:

REGISTER HERE TODAY…..But hurry!  There are only 75 seats left!

I hope to see you there!


If you’d like to check out our past Webinars, just follow this link!  We cover all kinds of wonderful topics.  Here are some past webinars:

Culture trumps Strategy! – What I learned from Ben & Jerry’s

Well, I’m back in Vancouver after what has been an amazing road trip. Austin, Dallas and Vegas. The whole trip was fantastic!

I love working in the field with MonkeyMedia Software’s customers, especially with the franchisees and their employees. I enjoy working on the front line with customers, and I especially love helping our young restaurant community members to “up their game” in the world of catering. Lucky for me, I now have this wonderful opportunity to really do the work I love!

I was invited to speak at the Ben & Jerry’s Global Franchisee Meeting 2013 about catering and off-premise for their brand. I’d like to share with you what I learned as I continue on this very personal journey. My visit with the Ben & Jerry’s family was very special, completely unique and transformative in many ways.

Ben, Erle and Jerry.
Ben, Erle and Jerry.

Let me just say that what I learned the most from this experience is that culture trumps strategy every single time. You see, Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever, a large multi-national conglomerate with business interests all over the globe. But no matter, as part of their mission statement, activism is part of the plan for B&J. They have a corporate campaign running called “Get the dough out of politics“.

It’s been that way since the beginning.

So, you can imagine how nervous a multi-national conglomerate can get when their brand ambassadors push the limits of the campaign by standing up for something like this… Check out Ben and Jerry’s Talk about creative! Watch this video to learn more about their current crusade. It’s bold and brave, that’s for sure. I admire them for their conviction.

Remember, this video below is not endorsed by the company. It is a personal project close to Ben Cohen’s heart. Nothing to do with the company!

As I immersed myself into the franchisee system, I was greeted with open arms, a high level of trust and a willingness to share and learn. And so, I made sure I spent time trying to understand their ways. I joined in on their activities, attended their education sessions and spent time speaking to their group about catering and the work that MonkeyMedia Software is doing to help our customers grow the off premise sales channel.

This was truly a unique life experience. You see, even though they are owned by such a large corporation, they have gone a long way to make sure that they remain responsible social citizens, as Ben and Jerry have always done. They are serious about their ongoing activism and their business culture is one of the most unique that I may have ever experienced.

I met wonderful, smart, hardworking and honest people throughout all levels of their organization. I am impressed by their sense of who they are, what they stand for and the responsibility that they take to make a difference in their communities that they serve. Independence lives strong and the culture runs deep in their DNA. The have a deep belief system.

Now that I have met so many people in the Ben & Jerry’s family, I am touched deeply by their passion and their unwavering focus about sticking to their core values. The culture that Ben & Jerry established early on, lives more strongly today and they have an incredible desire to act towards the common good, while maintaining an economic model that allows them to stay in business.

As with all companies at this scale, they do have a business strategy that is sound. However, finding the balance between the conservative ownership of Unilever and the activism for positive change that runs deep in their brand culture, is not an easy thing. They have chosen the hard path where others would have packed up and gone home long ago.

For me, their heritage and culture is so rich, that in fact, it completely trumps the business strategy. These people are connecting emotionally in their communities and their group understands that waking up in the morning to do important work is not just about money. They acknowledge that it needs to be there, but that in fact it is a byproduct of their group’s higher purpose.

I learned alot this past weekend. What a gift that Ben & Jerry’s gave me this week!

Thanks guys. I appreciate your trust. I am forever touched by the caring you have for our planet. Thanks for having me!

Looking forward to growing catering sales with your group!

The Restaurant Operator – in 1946 – And now here we are, 66 years later. ($2B to $688B in sales in 66 years)

I am so deep into my documentary project, Back To Basics.  I love it!  It’s a wonderful project.  So many stories to be told, and so many opportunities abound in the fantastic restaurant industry.  Thing is, it’s BIG and getting BIGGER!  Much bigger.  It needs more now.

I am learning an incredible amount about the history of our industry.  The explosive growth. The environmental impact of our industry.  The early entrepreneurs.  Ah…. the early entrepreneurs.  We owe them so much.  They were real pioneers.

Well, I can see clearly these days.  The restaurant business offers many opportunities to anyone who chooses it as their life’s work.  It’s always been that way.  Full of opportunity.  Check out this film from 1946 that we found.  It’s fantastic in a simple most basic way.

Over the last few months, we have had some wonderful developments for this project.  As you may know, we are donating the proceeds to the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s Prostart program  A very important program for our future.  We must invest in our youth.  We must show them a path to success.  We must act now as a community.  That will be the only way that we can build a sustainable business.

13 Million American Workers; 688 Billion Dollars plugged into the economy.  Yes, the restaurant industry is very, very important.  Don’t fool yourself.  It’s a BIG part of American Culture and it needs to be preserved if it is to survive.

Here is a snippet of what the film will be about:

I’d like to start by introducing you to Lorenzo Torres a young man who grew up on the streets of Dallas, TX and was yearning to capture the Great American Dream but didn’t quite know how to go about it.  As we follow Lorenzo’s life we experience his struggle as he seeks and finds his inspiration from 15 of the greatest leaders this industry has to offer.

(See the prospectus Here)

We watch as he navigates the minefields of corporate america, we listen as he learns the valuable lessons of success from those who have set the industry standards and we feel his joy as he works his way towards greatness of his own.
This film is a celebration of the Restaurant industry who has had many voices carrying torches – some soft/some loud – some positive/ much negative, especially from those voices from the outside the industry.  Yes, our industry has been given a bad wrap by the external media.
This is an inside story that will positively travel beyond our four walls, the definitive industry documentary – the first, first-class take – on what it takes to succeed in this business.
Through the use of preeminent restaurant professionals as engaging “storytellers” with additional historical perspectives, we will reveal a tale of affirming “life recipes” that give hope and inspiration to current and future generations of industry students, our co-workers and industry clients, leaving no doubt that no matter where you find yourself, the restaurant industry has always, and forever will be, home to great beginnings and second chances – home to the The American Dream.

Well, there are 35 people working hard on this project (all volunteers)  and our community  has an incredible opportunity here.  These volunteers have brought the project to life and we are ready to roll cameras.  The thing is, we need to be realistic about funding it properly now, if we want to do it with big hollywood resources.   So we do it right.  It’s only going to happen once.  And although, we can ‘bootstrap it’, my guts are telling me not to do that, but in fact to rally our village for some help.  The power of the group will yield us a far better result.  So, consider this.

This “vision” of bringing the restaurant industry to life began as a small twinkle in my eye and knowing me as you do, you know how I can take a single idea and grow it to something great  just by shear strength of will.

But strength of will alone will not get this job done, so I need your help.  I have consulted  a very talented Los Angeles-based director, producer and writer who produces television shows (60 Minutes), and directs non-profit documentaries and films,  to take this film to the next level and make it an industry icon for the ages forward.   By doing this, we have raised the project to a whole new level.  One that not even I could have conceived.  Yes, this is a Hollywood film now.  We have access to the most professional, talented people in the world of film making.  And if we are certain, we will jump on this.  Anything less now, will not be putting our best foot forward.
With that opportunity, comes a team of professional film makers to get this done right.  Thing is, it’s no longer a basement project.  It’s going to take some money and muscle and  I cannot manage it myself.  I need support.  So, like any leader, I am just simply asking for help.  I read somewhere that great leaders do that.  They ask for help when they need it.
I wish to reach out to our entire restaurant community to help me finish this film.  
In the weeks to come, we are opening a bank account for donations at NRAEF, and if you are interested in making a financial contribution to this cause, you will become part of this historical project.  
No donation is too small, and we will have a few key spots open for major sponsorship of the project.

Well, the thing is….. It’s big.  Bigger than all of us.  And to do it right, it needs support.  So, to that end, I have decided to open up the opportunity to our entire community to help fund this very important project.  The funding will go towards the film and all of the expenses required to produce it.  All donations will be provided tax receipts through the NRAEF and funds will be earmarked for the production of Back To Basics – The future of the US restaurant industry in a global economy.

Check out the prospectus here.

In addition we will be offering a few Top Level Sponsorships for the project which will get your company the following:
*Placement in the credits of the film
*Exclusive Sponsorship of one or more marketing events leading up to the premiere
*A special invitation to a Red Carpet Industry Star Studded Private Screening to coincide with the NRA show ( 2014) 
*An ad in a quarterly update to our followers, supporters and more importantly of all our CEO Storytellers. 
*A special Thank You Plaque to be presented to you by one of our superstars at our premiere event
*Mention in press releases and PR campaigns 

I hope you will join me on my mission to complete this project.  Your donations will be managed by the NRAEF, through their 501(c)3.    Also,  you can reach Marla Topliff, the president of Rosati’s Pizza to learn more about the benefits of your financial support.

In conclusion, what started off as a tiny idea, has now blossomed into a wonderful hollywood opportunity and all the net proceeds of this film will be going to support Prostart in our community.  Because of the size of this opportunity, I can’t do it alone.  It takes a community.  Please let me know if you or your company would be willing to help.

To get the ball rolling, Panera Bread, through the trust and kindness of Ron Shaich,  has contributed $10,000 already and MonkeyMedia Software has contributed $5,000.

Send me a note at or call me at 604-831-7422 anytime if you have any questions or if you’d like more details.  I hope you will consider helping us to bring this project to the finish line.  Together we can achieve more.

Thanks for considering…..

Consider Hiring a Sales Professional to Grow Catering Sales!

At MonkeyMedia Software, we believe in people like Brian Tucker. I’ve never met Brian, but from what I know about him I can see that he’s a Sales Professional. I believe that sales systems need to be learned, applied and monitored to grow catering sales. There are 1000’s of sales systems you can consider. But I like Brian’s approach. It applies to any business. It’s scalable, and predictable and it works! Heck… I’m even recommending it for our sales team at MonkeyMedia Software!

If you think about it, the restaurant industry has done an amazing job in terms of its success and scale at filling the demand for its retail services. It’s taken generations, but we have certainly become world-class retailers. We are masters at getting our customers to come to us! It’s a big decision for them to actually consider our restaurants as a destination in their day.

Like all markets, they eventually segment, and along the way we must innovate and grow by exploring and mastering new service markets. For today’s discussion, I’d really like to focus on the ‘catering’ sales channel. It’s beautiful in so many ways, but mostly because you can get a retail dollar out of ‘manufacturing plant’ rents. Allow me to explain further.

As restaurateurs, we all face the same challenge. How do we grow sales? How do we especially do that in competitive markets combined with a sluggish economy?

I say we do it by going back inside our companies. I say we do it by making a conscious and concerted effort to create and implement “active selling systems”. We need to go deeper into our communities and we must hear what our customers are asking for. The data is clear. They want healthier food, at good prices and the convenience of getting it fast. If you can bring the food to them, they’ll consider it a bonus! But it’s just not that simple. Why? Because our customers are so smart, so sophisticated, that unless we become definitive in our actions, they just won’t respond.

On top of that, consumers want choice and alternative services from their favorite restaurants. Each one of our customers is making complex buying decisions every day when it comes to restaurant services. Yet, I see this complexity as an incredible opportunity for the restaurant industry. Why? Because at our root, we are manufacturers. As manufacturers, we have incredible flexibility in our operations.

As a matter of fact, my intuition tells me that it might be in the best interest of the restaurant community to ‘raise the complexity’ of our customers’ food buying options. I say, we focus our energy toward gaining more of the consumers’ grocery dollars. Not all of those dollars, but at least some of them. The question is, which dollars and how do we get them?

Active selling. Professional selling. Old school. Other industries have been doing it for years. Why aren’t we?

In my view, up to this point in history, as restaurant operators we have failed as a group to maximize the use of our existing assets. And yet right in front of us, there is a market opportunity in catering and off-premise sales worth billions of dollars in incremental revenue for the restaurant industry. The data is not clear yet, but it will be soon. You’ll see.

So, what can we do beginning tomorrow at every restaurant, in every city in the world? Something practical, inexpensive and something that will provide a fantastic ROI.

Begin to shift considerable focus and energy toward all of the activities of where your current, past and future customers live, work and play. Design a marketing campaign and menu for each of those occasions. After all, more services means more sales, but only if we are going to do it right! Once we have the experience scripted, you will be in a position to sell. Actively sell. Yes. Professional sales tactics will work to build meaningful and ongoing relationships with our customers. And if we do it right, they will spend more time and money with us.

More well-known brands have the benefit of a built-in following of loyal customers, and because of this consumers will continue to trust and believe in the brand promise and products – whether consumed in-store, at the office or at home. That’s a really big thing for everyone.

What makes the case for catering even more compelling is that this off-premise increase in sales will complement the ‘swells’ of our daily operations. In this business, your products and services are out the door before your restaurant day part gets into gear! That’s a really big thing as well. As catering and off-premise sales become a larger part of our sales mix, we will come to understand that we have in fact altered the unit economics of each one of our restaurants. This is where “manufacturing rents” come in.

In an industry that has been built on “A Locations” for retail traffic, we will soon realize that in fact, we can now consider “offbeat” locations which are less expensive per square foot because we can get a retail dollar out the back door. Don’t underestimate this idea. It’s big.

Now, before you go running into that BIG catering wall in front of you don’t get confused between takeout, dine-in, curbside, and catering. These are all very different products and services and your customers will come for each of these reasons if you do a good job at designing the experiences. Oh, and did I mention that you will have to build a professional sales team. Call Brian. He’ll explain more.

Focus on the language. That’s the hardest part.

Takeout AND catering can be offered for BOTH pickup AND delivery. Oh yeah. And don’t underestimate the complexity of distribution. That complexity is a good thing because not only will your customers spend more money with you but also your food will be out the door on its way to your customers long before your retail business gets slammed for the day. So you can actually do both. The distribution part of your services will be critical for customers because if you take it to them, it means they don’t have to go get it! That’s convenience and has a lot of value to a lot of people.

Let’s consider the consumer mindset towards catering as an ‘off premise’ experience for family gatherings, athletic events, birthday parties and office meetings, just as some examples. If you really take time to think about all the possible occasions, you’ll fall off your chair!

Each of these occasions can be a segment of the catering market from the perspective of the restaurateur. The decision by our customers’ to purchase our products and services will completely depend on our ability provide a predictable and scalable experience, to fill the desire of that customer for that occasion. So, what’s the experience? A ‘one size fits all’ approach? That just won’t work.

To grow catering sales, find new markets within your existing geographical location and communicate a new message to those markets. To do this, you must change your language, move your products around, change your manufacturing process and make catering a compelling experience for your employees and your customers.

The restaurateurs that I know that are doing it properly are seeing sales traction like they’ve never seen before! That only comes through conversation and slowing down long enough to ask your customers what they want from your brand.

Sometimes, they don’t know what they want until you tell them! Professional selling works in this business. Start tomorrow.

Let’s talk catering!