How to Grow Catering Sales: A Franchisee’s Perspective

Franchisee/Franchisor

It’s no secret that the franchise model for growing restaurant companies continues to be a key driver in the restaurant industry. The restaurant industry is no different than other industries such as the music industry, the movie industry or even the software industry. Ours is an industry full of creativity, processes, proprietary flavors and company cultures. It makes good business sense for our industry to leverage that intellectual property across the globe through franchising. Like any business, a restaurant’s strategic plan is critical.

A franchisee is a very important community member within the restaurant industry. Happy franchisees promote positive energy. Happy franchisees invest in their restaurant operations. Happy franchisees will strive to meet restaurant brand standards. Happy franchisees care about results. And happy franchisees make more money!

Yes, when franchisees make money we have a healthy franchising ecosystem that thrives, prospers and grows for many generations forward. And so, that is why a franchisee is so important to our restaurant community.

Thinking about restaurant catering as a franchisee, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to understand the perspective of restaurant catering from the franchisor’s perspective. This is very important because, well frankly, they need your help to do catering right. What follows is my perspective on the franchisee/franchisor relationship and how it impacts the decisions that need to be made around catering out of franchisee locations.

As we all know, the franchising business is only successful if the franchisees believe they are getting timely services from the franchisors. Good franchisors understand this service dilemma and go out of their way to make sure they invest in the proper infrastructure to provide services to their franchisee community. When it comes to franchising, the franchisor is the seller and the franchisee is the buyer. It’s no different when it comes to catering out of franchise ecosystems.

As a franchisee, please consider how rapidly the market for healthy and convenient food is growing. Franchisors everywhere are in a constant race to position their restaurant brands in front of consumers, and demands and tastes are shifting every day.

Because catering out of restaurants has primarily been an industry afterthought, many franchisors have neglected to make this important sales channel part of their brand’s core business strategy. And the ones that have are still in the early days of our industry’s evolution.

As a franchisee, your job is to help your franchisors understand your needs. Because catering is tied to the business strategy of your restaurant, it requires attention at the most strategic level of the brand you represent. You need support to execute the catering operation with precision.

In many franchise systems, good franchisee operators went ahead with catering services in earnest. Why? Because catering out of restaurants is simply smart business. Catering makes you more money.

Every restaurant franchisee today has customers asking for catering services. In addition, every restaurant franchisee needs more sales to help make this week’s payroll. Saying no to customers is never an option for any growing venture. Good franchisees find a way to do it.

And so, as the telephone rings more and more for these services, we must raise our service to a standard that can be measured and ultimately improved. That is the only way to yield more sales and we need to get better at it.

On this franchisee-catering journey, we must deeply understand the subtlety in restaurant operations when it comes to catering. It requires a sturdy organizational foundation at the executive level committed to solid catering leadership and enterprise-level catering alignment. No business can advance without clear leadership, financial accountability and a vision for future growth. Therefore, franchisees must work together with their franchisors on restaurant catering to implement a scalable business focused on incremental sales. Franchisors can utilize the scale and resources of the full ecosystem to drive more sales for everyone by representing the brand properly in the marketplace.

As part of this strategic alignment exercise, franchisees must include their restaurant unit managers and their community team members. If employees at the restaurant level are not trained around your designed catering culture, that culture will cease to exist and your catering program will fail.

To get everyone in your operation on the same page — whether you have one restaurant or 100 — here are 4 characteristics of organizational restaurant catering alignment that should be agreed upon and communicated to the rest of your restaurants and your franchisors:

1. Sales Goals: A clear and concise sales goal must be posted publicly and promoted visibly within all areas of your restaurants. Growing catering sales takes a full team commitment to selling.

2. Financial Investment and Resources: Restaurant catering represents a high-margin sales opportunity. A few small investments in the right places will yield incremental sales with few incremental costs. These investments need to be well defined, qualified, quantified and committed to.

3. A Commitment To Training & Standardization: People development is a key aspect to succeeding in your restaurant catering division. It takes ongoing people development to solve catering problems.

4. Coordinated Action Through Conscious Leadership: Results in an aligned customer service action throughout every department of your organization. Catering team ambassadors in every department all working together for seamless execution of catering, while maintaining existing business operations.

Let’s talk catering!

Restaurant Catering Tip: Stay in Shape

Been having fun with my restaurant catering tips!  We can all use operational fitness, even my team at MonkeyMedia Software and the MMS Catering Institute.

Call our MMS Catering Institute to set your catering standards!

1-877-6MONKEY

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 www.stampstampede.org. 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 Ghosts In the Wall

I originally wrote this entry about 8 months ago. It was inspired through a visit that I made to a very large public company in the restaurant community. I left the name of the organization off the post, so as not to make anyone feel bad. But truth be told, I left their facilities feeling very sad. I hope you enjoy the post below:

Journal Entry – August, 2011

I am so fortunate to have been provided the opportunity to serve as CEO at MonkeyMedia Software.

It’s my job to provide direction for the company, to help steer it to a hopeful but uncertain victory.

I get to meet great leaders and the people they serve. In each case, in companies both large and small, there are fantastic people trying so hard to please their customers, their managers and their owners. Everyone is working hard.

As I travel to boardrooms, I am amazed at the cultural differences that differ from company to company.

Many of these companies have been hit hard during these recessionary times. Yes, the food business has suffered in recent times.

I find it so interesting, that when a business is in decline, and cost cutting continues to be one of the main initiatives, the fear that is cultivated for the surviving members of the team is overbearing. Devastating, scary and quite frightening really. Emotions run high, work is piled on, and projects are under-resourced. Hiring freezes paralyze them; is anything getting done?

You can walk down the hallowed halls of these buildings, that were once filled with entrepreneurial spirit, the culture of growth and a true belief system. As the years have passed, Wall Street has stepped in. Although we should also feel grateful to Wall Street for providing us with financial vehicles for growth, I feel that at the same time, it is appropriate for us to be angry with them for killing the entrepreneurial spirit while focused on shareholder value.

After all, during these last 6 or 7 decades of growth our ancestors had to believe, right? Otherwise, how did they get up in the morning and go to work? Their passion was alive! Where else do you get the fuel from if not from believing? Wasn’t it hard times for them too? Hasn’t it always been hard?

For me, it is sad to see the “ghosts in the walls.” The words and images of a growing culture. One that had direction, hope and prospects for the “sky is the limit”.

As I walk down some of these halls, the once vibrant philosophical management style, has now turned over 3 times in recent years. You can sense that the mission statement so proudly displayed on the walls during the building years, are now just empty words in this time of decline. Nobody even reads the words. They are just invisible and part of the background noise. The words are not relevant, not being lived. The management teams in their ivory towers have stopped walking the talk. They have simply focused on share price, with no sense of any real higher purpose. It’s not their fault really because they too are just trying to feed their families. They are people too. Victims of Wall Street as well. They are forced to abandon suffering markets and focus on new growth opportunities overseas. Shouldn’t they fix their challenges at home first? Don’t they have a responsibility to their adoring brand fans? Their employees and franchisees? The people who have mortgaged their homes and depend on the success of these businesses? Where is their moral compass?

I feel as if the words I am reading on the walls, were written by past leaders who are now just “Ghosts in the Walls.” Just ghosts. Not the haunted kind; just the forgotten kind.

Well, I can tell you, there are companies that are trying hard to fix themselves. Leadership with new blood. Even so the battle is uphill as the future remains so uncertain. But hasn’t it always been uncertain? Isn’t that just the way it is? After all, nothing good can last just as nothing bad can last. It is forever changing.

One thing that worries me. We are forgetting all the good people who came before us in these workplaces. The people who experienced the early years. The entrepreneurial years. The exciting years.

And so, now that times are tougher, we sometimes remain disrespectful to our ancestors. The ghosts in the wall, as I see it. These people of the past made great contributions. They were relevant in their time. They worked hard, just like you and I. Their stories were bought by Wall Street who used their brand equity to grow bigger. But at what expense?

So why is it that instead of setting market trends, we don’t have the guts? We accept that the economy is bad and that there is nothing we can do about it. So, we show up to work, hoping it will change on its own, or even worse, we think new leadership will know what to do. We watch as they run for the hills and open new stores in emerging markets because Wall Street demands it. We follow them because we believe they know what to do.

Well guess what? They don’t know what to do! When a business is sick, it is sick. To bring it back to health, you have to change it; and quickly.

Well, it’s tough for anyone to fix broken companies, with broken promises. Distrust runs high.

I urge you to listen to the voices of the ghosts in the walls. That’s where the answers are. The ones that were there before you.

Our company ancestors have seen it all. They too rode the wild roller coaster of business. So, honor them. Tomorrow when you go to work, try and connect to your company ancestors. Ask THEM the hard questions.

I promise you they will tell you the answers. Just look on your walls. Read the old signs, the aging clippings and the wins and milestones that were celebrated over the years. Also, make sure you refer to the failures, there is alot to learn there. Reconnect with the culture, the passion, the spirit. The early days. Go back to the basics. It always works.

Now is the time for change. To get smarter, more committed, retrenched. How else do we manoever through the mired complexities?

As my friend Tom Feltenstein often says, change is good, you go first!

Only the entrepreneurial companies will survive. Just look at our great brands that are succeeding today. Behind each of them, is a great entrepreneurial leader. For them, there never was a “recession”. For them, it’s just a time of change, just like any other day at work. They don’t focus on share price. Just on their passion and beliefs.

They listen to and consult the ghosts in their walls.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Blown away by the quality of leadership in our multi-unit restaurant community

Last week in Scottsdale, Arizona I had the good fortune of attending the Restaurant Leadership Conference for 2012. I had so much fun, especially with sharing my dream about Ray Kroc in this Video!  For those of you that missed it, just before the Bill Strickland presentation, I’ll share it here just for fun.  I’ll come back to Bill Strickland in a bit.

So, I have to say, that I am blown away by our community!  Really blown away! I think many of the attendees were.  And so, as I returned to Vancouver, It really got me thinking.  I mean, REALLY got me thinking.

Here’s the thing.  Of the 30% of attendees that I was lucky enough to meet, to greet and to make some acquaintance,  I felt that the quality of the our conversations were insightful, optimistic, kind and generous.   Those conversations were a gift for me on a personal level.  These gatherings are so important for all of us, because the food business is about people.  Making connections.  Intellectual, spiritual and emotional.  It’s just about the people.

So I started thinking more about that.  I really started to zero in on the quality of the  Keynote Speakers this year. Not that previous years have been anything to sneeze at; but this year, it was different.

Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo 

Joshua Olshansky Managing Director and Head of Consumer Retail Practice, Golden Gate Capital

Herman Cain Former President/CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Former Chairman, NRA

Howard Stoeckel CEO, Wawa Inc.

Ronald M. Shaich Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Panera Bread

Edward H. Rensi Former President & CEO, McDonald’s USA; Co-operator, Tom & Eddie’s.  

Seeing that this was a Leadership conference, I studied these leaders.  I observed, I listened and I learned.  I saw how each of them really connects with their audience when they are speaking.  They spoke with high energy, intense belief and a passion towards a higher purpose in their work.  It was fascinating for me to watch.  I was mesmerized.  Impressed.  And most of all, I was learning.  

“That’s it!”, I thought to myself.  “It’s the learning!  The intellectual connections!  The idea of advancement!  Of making our industry better, so we, as people can be better!”.  Well, at least that was part of it for me.

So I started thinking more about that. 

Then I thought about the followers under these great leaders and within that following is yet even more leadership.  As a matter of fact, each facet of our business operations needs to have solid leadership.  And so, I started to wonder where exactly that begins and ends, from an organizational perspective.

Then I thought to myself that not all people can be or even want to be leaders.  Or do they?  I mean, if leadership remains a key theme throughout the entire culture of our organizations, then clearly if we can be leaders in our markets, then all of the people who work for us will feel like leaders.  So, it’s not necessarily about individuals as much as it is about whole organizations, industry’s and communities.

I want to call out two particular things I learned from the conference.

1.  Ron Shaich spoke on the topic of Conscious Capitalism.  Ron’s message struck me hard.  It’s brilliant and he has taken this perspective and applied it to the Panera Cares concept.  Here is a video that I found on Ron’s fantastic and creative effort towards making a difference in the communities he serves.

When I heard this perspective, I felt like I was watching a master, an artist.  I was watching a man that had so much trust in the human spirit, that he risked his neck on a new idea.  One that everyone called crazy.  And guess what?  It’s working.  The communities are embracing this new economic model and while that is happening, less privileged people are eating great food at Panera.  Getting respect and the end result is that these communities are healthier and those that are suffering from hunger, are getting food.  This approach to our community issues is not only brilliant, it serves shareholders as well.  This presentation really blew me away at the conference.

2.  The second most important presentation for me was from Bill Strickland.  Bill was so effective in his presentation, that he had most of the room shedding tears.  Why?  Because of his authenticity in his mission and his ability to connect with the human emotion.  For those of you that missed Bill’s presentation, I am including a clip that I found.  

I was so moved by Bill Strickland’s work, that I decided to learn more about his education perspectives.  He is building a facility in Vancouver and my plan is to get involved, from the beginning.  To bring purpose to others, to wake with intention and to be involved in impacting the human emotion in a positive and purposeful way.  

I took away a feeling of hope from these speakers.  That in fact, we can do more in our professional careers to make a difference.  To really make the world a better place instead of just living to increase shareholder value.  I love that idea.  Build it and they will come.  If you look after your customers, and you create the right environment, behaviour will change.  Profits?  Well, according to Ron and Bill, if you don’t focus on them, and you just focus on your “higher purpose” as an organization, the money will come.

I woke up very grateful to these two leaders today.  I want to thank them both for the gift they gave me in Scottsdale last week.  I encourage each of you to learn more from these great human beings.

The Leadership of Ray Kroc and his drive to Catering Sales!

I decided to write this blog in advance of the upcoming Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale from March 25-28, 2012.

In preparation for the conference, I have been reading everything that I can about Ray Kroc these days. As I dig deeper and deeper into his story, I become more fascinated with his meticulous attention to detail. Like all entrepreneurs, he struggled to make his venture work. He went through the growing pains, set the culture and set a clear direction for his people. He fought hard.

As an entrepreneur and working on my 9th business, I can identify with his relentless desire to succeed. He was a fantastic businessman and very passionate about getting it right.

I found this really cool video, made by a few creative high school students, Zac Smith, Michael Warren, Jason Kiracofe and Daniel Alweis. I have embedded the video here for all of you to peruse. Good job on the school project boys. I think it tells a lot about who he was and what he was about.

I wonder if Ray were here today, what he might tell us about the current state of our multi-unit restaurant industry? I wonder if he would be happy with the outcome of what McDonald’s stands for today. Would he be proud? I wonder what he would say about McDonald’s building a catering revenue channel for his brand? I had a dream this week that Ray read my book. He loved it. Thanks Ray. I appreciate the support.

From what I have read, and as I have come to know him through other people’s words, his own book, Grinding it Out, and the number of videos and articles that are available on his leadership and management style, I would venture to say that Ray would have mixed emotions today based on where his brand stands. Sure, he might be proud of the stock price. Or would he? I think he would be horrified at all the negative tweets and comments. Knowing Ray, he would do something amazing to set it all on the right track. Just as great leaders like Howard Schultz or Ron Shaich have done with both Starbucks and Panera. Oh, and if Ray saw the traction that Panera is getting on their catering operations, he would want a piece of that market for sure. Because that’s what he was about. Being in front.

In the beginning, for Ray, and for all our leaders, it was all about looking after his customers. He wanted growth, but not at the expense of diluting his brand and experience. Of course, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the world was a different place. I am certain that had Ray known that his McDonald’s would eventually become the fast food giant that it became, he only would have wanted it to do so if it was in the best interest of his customers.

He had a vision for the business, for the systems, for the experience and for his internal culture. He could not see the negative impact ahead on the dietary issues of fast food on our children and our communities. I have no doubt, that had he seen that, he might have managed it differently. I am certain, that if he were with us today, he would be working very hard to fix it.

Today, as McDonald’s continues to be the largest hamburger chain in the world, it still amazes me that even though the culture of Ray Kroc may just be a ghost in the wall, the organization continues to try to adopt to the ever changing needs our consumers. In my opinion, McDonald’s has done a superb job at trying to keep up with the trends, trying to morph their menus towards the more current fast casual type model.

Of course, to move a system this large to a new model, is not only difficult, but it requires a tremendous amount of investment and gumption. McDonald’s may not be the healthiest choice in the market place yet, but I predict that in the next 10 years, they will move into the top position of the fast casual market. They will do it, because they have the real estate, the brand and their consumers are going to only shop there if they continue to adapt to the ever changing dietary needs. Especially in North America.

So, this brings me to my next question? Will McDonald’s offer catering services that are scaleable across the brand? What will the program look like? I believe that they already have, but they have not hired the right leadership to take them the rest of the way. I found this little nugget in the United Kingdom that really convinced me.

Is McDonald’s Fast Casual?

Well, it all starts with the Deli doesn’t it? Well, at least that’s how it started for me!

Then as I dug further, I found this:

So, you tell me! What kind of leadership will it take for our multi-unit restaurant community to finally decide to take catering as a serious business? Especially in the QSR segment. If you have a powerful brand, and you tell your customers that you offer alternative services, they will buy from you. We already know that. So, the next question I have is “can they execute?”.

I believe that if any of our community leaders decide to pursue catering as a serious business, then they would in fact see a lift in their sales that our industry has not seen since the day’s of franchising and drive-thru. But, it doesn’t matter what I believe. Or does it? Because like Ray Kroc, I too am an entrepreneur. And so, I will live or die by my conviction and my leadership. And so, as I put this article to rest, I call out to all of you in a restaurant leadership position to really take a hard look at the facts. Catering is here to stay. If we don’t do it, the grocery segment will (as they already are).

Ray would want us to compete and compete hard.

I believe that catering offers our multi-unit restaurant community a true opportunity to grow. So much so, that I put it on Video, wrote a book and am betting my entire future on this transformative idea. This video is 3 years old. So, it’s now 15 years.

Tell me. What do you think? I hope you can share your thoughts with me. This is a great debate!