Marketing on the road and in-house.
J. Kings Food Service Professionals
ID ranking: 35th largest distributor in the U.S.
Accounts: 1,700 in eastern New York and New Jersey
2007 sales: $169 million
If you’d been in Long Island, New York, just before Memorial Day, you might have seen an interesting sight: box trucks driving around with ads for local restaurants plastered on their sides.
It was all part of a new marketing program from J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a Long Island-based
broadliner, aimed at driving business to its customers from Montauk Point to New Jersey.
In addition to their mobile advertising campaign—which included four trucks with the restaurant logos printed on them—the distributor is also advertising its restaurant accounts in local newspapers and television commercials and on a special Web site, as well as producing marketing materials like napkins and glasses printed with their logos.
Six top executives of the firm, led by John King—founder and self-proclaimed “chief customer service officer”—presented the plan to operators last spring. According to Sinead Corcoran, director of marketing, the reaction “was tremendous. Customers love the campaign.”
“We’re very serious about this,” says Corcoran. “We’re in the trenches with our customers, and we want to make sure that they see how strongly we feel about this. That’s why it was important for us to have the top executives launch the program.”
The campaign kicked off on eastern Long Island, in the North and South Fork, the Hamptons, Montauk and Fire Island. Inasmuch as these are beach communities, Corcoran says the company selected this geographic area first because it is targeting consumers that have decided to stay close to home this summer because skyrocketing gasoline costs have curtailed their travel plans.
Assisting this push is a Web site sponsored by the distributorship and dubbed “Great Restaurants,” located at www.greatrestaurantsny.com, which includes a directory of participating restaurants.
To participate in the program, an operator has to designate J. Kings as its primary vendor by procuring at least 80 percent of its needs from it. So far, she notes, 80 operators have signed on, including white tablecloth restaurants, steakhouses, family dining facilities and clam bars.
In September, the distributorship will be expanding this program to Nassau County, Queens and west to New Jersey.“We want Great Restaurants New York to be a resource for consumers even after the economy improves,” says Corcoran. “We’re building this program to last. Eventually we want to incorporate a reservations feature on the Web site.”
A new farmers market
Part of J. King’s Great Restaurants campaign is an effort to help operators source fresh produce from local farmers.
“We’re educating our operator-customers about what’s in season and offering them recipes and applications,” said Sinead Corcoran, director of marketing. “We want to make chefs aware that locally grown tomatoes are bursting with flavor now and that’s what they should have on their menus. Most chefs are recognizing that.”
In late June, the distributorship unveiled an open-air fresh produce farmers market for operators and chefs that will eventually feature some 35 local farms. “Our goal in creating the Long Island Farmers Market is to make it as easy as possible for operators and chefs to have access to the outstanding array of fresh, high-quality produce grown here on local farms,” explained founder John King.
An added benefit of the local sourcing initiative is that the distributorship directly controls food safety. The reason is that J. Kings demands that the farmers that are participating in the program comply with good agricultural practices and have provided it with appropriate documentation. Eight farmers were denied access to the market because they lacked food-safety compliance paperwork.
There is also the potential for cost savings for operators, King says.
“When we pick up produce from local farmers, we’re backhauling it to our distribution center from a delivery to an operator. As a result we don’t have $6 to $7 of freight charges per case built in as do products from California, which today are more competitively priced due to volume. There may be a time when fresh and local may be less expensive than California. Our local initiative will help us deal with high food and fuel costs,” King says. Part of J. King’s Great Restaurants campaign is an effort to help operators source fresh produce from local farmers.