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!