BEWARE: 3rd Party Food Delivery Services are being fuelled by a Technology Goldrush

images-1OK.  So we all know that delivery for restaurants is complicated!  But wait a minute!  Are we talking about “takeout delivery” or “catering delivery”?  Does it even matter?  I think it does, and I will tell you why.

As I woke up today scouring the industry trade publications, I couldn’t help but notice all the rage about 3rd party delivery services for restaurants.   What’s even more concerning, are the crazy valuations that these 3rd party delivery companies are getting, because they have convinced investors that “their technology” is going to disrupt the entire space.  Disrupt the space?  Really?  I doubt it…….

Just read this article in tech crunch – “The Billion Dollar Delivery Wars

Or just watch this crazy video about Munchery that was on Mad Money. I mean, an $85 Million Valuation?  How is Munchery Different than any restaurant?  Remember, this is a “trend”, and all trends come to an end.  Don’t they?

Check out these crazy valuations of technology driven on-demand services for restaurants:

By contrast, I really love this article in Forbes.  “Call Food Delivery Startups by their real name.  Restaurants.”

This whole market is being driven by software development.  I know, because my team has been developing real software solutions for the restaurant space for almost 20 years.  I read another article recently about “Gold Rush Software Development”.  See the paragraph below…..

“Gold rush software development is a high risk activity. The practices employed during a software gold rush are usually associated with hacking rather than engineering: small team sizes, informal processes, long hours, little documentation, bare-bones quality assurance practices—practices I refer to collectively as “commitment-based development” (Rapid Development, Microsoft Press 1996). Use of these practices puts all but the smallest software projects at high risk of failure.”

The odds of striking it rich during a software gold rush are about as good as they were during the California gold rush—for every success story, there are hundreds or even thousands of projects that bust out. But the failures aren’t nearly as interesting as the successes, and so we don’t hear very much about them. As with the California gold rush, projects run with commitment-based development are successful just often enough, and are so enormously lucrative when they do succeed, that they convince software developers that such high-risk practices can work, thus keeping the entrepreneurial dream alive. 

And so, this really got me thinking about how all this is going to impact our community?   What happens to the restaurateur during this process?  All the hard-working entrepreneurs, franchisors, franchises and independents.   The people who have mortgaged their homes to open their restaurants?  They are being bombarded by slick sales people who say they are adding value to the transaction process.  Well, be careful, that’s all I can say.  These companies do not understand your restaurant operations.

Not only is our community overwhelmed by this “technology gold rush”, but in fact, they are putting  our businesses at risk.  As a restaurateur, if you are approached by the plethora of 3rd party delivery companies that are promising you the moon and “riches”, BEWARE.  They are simply interested in the valuations that they are going to get in the market by investors who think that they are going to get rich in the process.  They are completely disconnected to the impact that their promises will have on your restaurants execution and reputation.  The one you have worked your whole life for.

At MonkeyMedia Software and The Catering Institute, we spend all our time focused on restaurant operations and adding value to our customers by making sure we are creating products and services that are logical.  I am proud of my team for staying focused on our vision of helping restaurants to grow sales and increase profits in the off-premise space.  Takeout and Catering for pickup and Delivery.

My advice to all the restaurants out there that have to deal with this Gold Rush?  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Focus on the basics.  They always work.

Thanks for listening.

 

Schlotzsky’s names MonkeyMedia Software as Vendor of the Year!

 

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http://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/schlotzsky-s-names-monkeymedia-vendor-year

Very proud of my team today at MonkeyMedia Software where we implement Monkey, the #1 Cloud Platform for Takeout, Delivery & Catering.

Thank you to Schlotzsky’s for this wonderful honour.

 

 

Catering Sales Tactics you should try tomorrow!

All Proceeds of the Book Go To Share Our Strength

When we talk about the 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Catering at the MMS Catering Institute, active selling is the one pillar of focus that has the power to truly lead your restaurant catering business forward. To properly service your catering customers, your catering sales team needs to become very good at business-to-business selling. You will need to build key relationships within your community and its corporate sector, and you will need to become experts at feeding your customers where they live, work and play.

Every day, in every city across North America, people are having meetings, celebrations, seminars and many other types of events that require catering services. To reach these potential catering opportunities, your sales team(s) must understand the following key catering sales tactics that are designed to showcase your team as brand ambassadors for your catering products and services throughout the communities you serve.

1. Sample selling: The Promo Package. Being in the food business, the best way for people to get to know your products and services is to provide tasting samples to those you are trying to sell to. This can be done through your delivery drivers, who are already out in the community canvassing for leads while they are looking for new businesses to sell to.

Your sample offering should be in a fixed package and should be consistent each and every time. Keep in mind that the objective of this sales effort is not to buy your prospects breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is simply to introduce them to your products and services. Deliver these sample packages at off-peak hours and establish policies and procedures for your sample-selling program. Promotional packages should always be scheduled around your main meal times and the package you send should be standardized across all your restaurants.

If you do a good job of packaging your sampler product, you will get your prospects to think of your brand the next time they need catering services. When this happens, make sure your internal catering team members are experts at taking catering orders and executing those orders in a way that leaves your customers satisfied and happy.

2. Cold calling and telephone work. While cold calling is an old-school method of sales, in the case of selling catering services it really works. If you have a well-known brand in your community, cold calling can be an effective and powerful tool for lead generation and market awareness. Train your catering sales team on the art of cold calling and give them a sales script they can follow. If you’re an operator with 100+ units, consider outsourcing your cold calling services to a lead generation company. There are many to choose from.

Cold calls and traditional telephone work are great ways to find out information about your potential catering clients. Telephone work is also a great way to keep up with your current customer database. This serves a different purpose than cold calls because it’s about rewarding your customers who are already using your catering services. For example, if you reach out to a customer who hasn’t ordered from you for a while, you can find out why and whether or not they had a bad experience from you or perhaps they moved to another company. If the catering client has moved on, find out who the new person is and re-start the connection by offering them a promotional sample package. Additionally, you can now call your previous contact with the aim of re-establishing the relationship as well, at their new place of employment.

Keeping on top of these changes takes ongoing effort, but I cannot say enough about the positive benefits you will receive by being diligent and consistent on the phone. The telephone remains an important tool for your brand and you should not be afraid to use it.

3. Traditional Advertising. This medium is being utilized more and more by major brands looking to increase the visibility of their off-premise catering programs. If you already have a successful brand, you know about all of the avenues of traditional advertising available to you. Use billboard, radio and/or television ads to deliver a strong brand message surrounding your restaurant’s catering program. Make sure each ad has a direct call to action and watch the top-line sales of your catering program grow.

4. Walk-in catering sales. While your walk-in catering customers have the potential to disrupt the flow of your in-store operation, you don’t want to lose out on this customer opportunity. To make sure your walk-in catering clients are well serviced, you need to make a decision on how to best handle these sales at the store-level.

The best model when this happens is to direct your customers to an in-store catering specialist who is trained and able to handle these customers with care and accuracy. By redirecting walk-in catering clients to a single point of contact within your 4 walls, you will substantially raise the catering service bar and will have a much better chance at providing a predictable, consistent and scalable catering process. This leads to more trust, which is a key component toward closing a catering sale.

5. Referrals. In many cases, word of mouth is the No. 1 sales tool when it comes to acquiring new catering customers. It is simple to acquire referrals and is extremely effective when prospecting for new customers. As part of your standard customer service process, make a follow-up call for every catering order that is delivered. Ask for more business, and more importantly; ask them to send you a referral!

The goal of this call is to thank your catering customer for their order and to find out if there are any issues that need to be addressed. If the customer is satisfied with the services that your company provided, take the next step and ask for referrals. And if the referral turns into a relationship, take the time to thank your original customer and then give them some kind of compensation for the business. This will encourage them to let others know how great your brand is and creates another opportunity for cross-pollinating your retail business with your catering operations. If you compensate them with a gift card for your retail locations, you continue the sales cycle and drive more traffic into your stores.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

The 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Catering: A New Commitment for 2015

Get Catering and Grow Sales Books going out the door.
Get Catering and Grow Sales Books going out the door.

It’s been almost four years since I wrote my book, Get Catering and Grow Sales: A strategic perspective for the multi-unit restaurant executive.

I remember how much I disliked it after I wrote it!  I thought to myself that I could have done so much better.  If not for one of my team members at MonkeyMedia Software who grabbed the manuscript and hired an editor to help finish it, I never would have published it.  It’s amazing how we are always hardest on ourselves.  Our own worst critic!

To my good fortune, turns out that the book is pretty popular with the restaurant community.  10,000 copies in print and distributed is not a bad run.

As we begin 2015, I am reflecting on what it is that I need to focus on this year.  So much is going on, and business is brisk both at MonkeyMedia Software, the Catering Institute and our new media division, Catering Insights.  These divisions are all focused on catering and off-premise sales in our foodservice community.  There is so much for all of us to learn in this part of the restaurant business.  I am committed to try and provide more leadership in this area as best I can.

Since writing the book, I have continued to develop an organizational framework that I call the 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant CateringTM.  This framework is meant to provide a working model for restaurant brands to use as a compass while considering their takeout, delivery and catering business strategies.  I have come to learn that without these pillars, there is little hope for our community to succeed in this business channel.

And so, 2015 is the year that I will renew my commitment to the restaurant community to further develop the concepts of the 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant CateringTM.  I plan on writing more and making videos to help educate our community on these concepts.

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.

 

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!

Think “Carpe Diem: Seize the Day” when it comes to catering!

Carpe Diem - Seize The Day

When I was a kid in Montreal, Canada I used to walk around the block knocking on doors and ask to shovel sidewalks and driveways to make a few quarters. On one occasion, I actually shovelled the snow on my neighbours walkway before I knocked on the door.  Luckily, I got paid anyways!  Not bad considering I was only 10 years old at the time.

In 1734, Richard Cantillon defined entrepreneurs as “non-fixed income earners who pay known costs of production but earn uncertain incomes”.   I mention this because shoveling snow in those days, was the beginning of when I got the buzz of providing services for an uncertain reward.

And while an element of risk is a fundamental part of entrepreneurism, I believe that the true essence of being an entrepreneur is carpe diem.

Carpe diem, to seize the day, is an old Latin saying that is commonly used in English and is a very important aspect of all business. In business, windows of opportunity rarely stay open for long so every second counts.

At MonkeyMedia Software and the MMS Catering Institute we do our best to take hold of every moment because we know that you can never get back wasted time.

Catering is the restaurant industry’s equivalent of carpe diem because, very much like a certain young kid walking around shoveling driveways, it brings our services directly to the customer.

When you wake tomorrow, think carpe diem when it comes to catering out of your restaurants!