Creating Unique Approaches to Foodservice

I am happy to be working with the staff of ID Access on providing distributors, manufacturers, and associations with articles that I am hopeful all will find beneficial.

{mosimage}For years, ID has been a leader in not only representing foodservice distribution but also the entire foodservice industry. In the weeks and months to come, I hope that you read this column and consider how these strategies can make your company more productive, efficient, and competitive.

The foodservice industry continues to grow in size and importance with the foodservice distributor being a very critical component of this growth. Delivery of food to independents and chains, commercial or non-commercial units, or even the retail channel on a timely and error-free basis is paramount in serving the need of the ultimate consumer.

Today, competition within foodservice distribution is at an all-time high. Delivering the right product and the right time at a competitive price is not only the key objective of the distributor but also an expectation of the operator-customer. The choice of which distributor to use as the primary or secondary supplier, or not use at all, will be made due to services that go beyond delivery at a good price. Rather, distributors will win business by offering the customer insight on operations, products, or new processes. Truly being a partner in the operator's business.

In the upcoming months, I will offer ideas that can help distributors not only differentiate themselves but also create the business development, strategic direction, and marketing programs that are both efficient and cost effective. From our own experience and expertise as well as that of are partner companies, these articles will hopefully create some opportunities where not only the distributor can benefit but so too can their key manufacturer suppliers in better reaching the operator and building the business.

The topics and articles that will be coming in the months ahead include:

Education and Training using E-Learning. With the critical need to educate DSRs, inside sales reps, the customer, or even the restaurant patron, it becomes important to develop training programs that can deliver on the objective of having informed sales or customers in a manner that is cost effective, easily communicated, and easy to edit or change. The "right" e-learning tool might just be the answer. One that understands the time constraint of the DSR versus the "need to know."

Purchasing Programs. Products purchased by the distributor are often times based on markets that are shaped by weather, demand/surplus, government programs, and other external forces. Understanding and using purchasing programs that may be based on future or contracts may allow for pricing structure that can be applied to lower annual food costs while allowing the operator to better set menu prices that will not fluctuate.

Using the Web for Collateral. Fact sheets, advertising materials, or educational forms can be distributor customized and printed on demand via a customized approach, allowing for one to one million pieces, saving on expensive warehousing and outdated materials.

Minimizing Travel Expenses through Web Conferencing. Using the web to conduct presentations, sales meetings, PR events, or other communication needs has quickly become the choice over costly travel expenses, delayed or cancelled flights, or simply too much time away from the office. Consider a web conferencing program that can reach selected operator targets discussing a new product, an operational issue, or other event that would really differentiate the distributor.

Creating the Most Effective PR Campaigns. Distributors are no different from other companies in the foodservice industry and must effectively communicate their companies and the services offered. Spreading the word, be it to the general industry, restaurant patrons, or selected targets, takes careful preparation to reach the appropriate target group, with the right message, using the right vehicle.

Food Safety and Security. Utilizing modern technology to address safety and security concerns that may include traceback, electronic HACCP, security checklists, or improved personnel programs, will minimize the risk involved in these areas.

Sampling for Genuine Customer Feedback. A simple sample program can be more effective with up front research to select specific targets, an approved warehouse for creating sampling, and follow up to determine likes and dislikes will go a long ways in creating new customers.

Fuel Saving/Purchasing Programs. While the recent slight decrease in oil and natural gas prices is not expected to stay, a long term energy program that includes both energy saving tips along with fuel/energy purchasing programs using futures and contracts will save significant long term monies.

More Efficient Market Research to Determine Needs. The use of improved quantitative and qualitative feedback can help make better decisions, reaching the masses or a specific target segment in order to better identify unique sales and marketing opportunities. Menu analysis can qualify opportunities within foodservice and beyond.

The Value of Branding at Retail and Foodservice. Today, the issue of store or distributor brands versus national brands will define sales and marketing strategies for all marketing activities.

Opportunities that Exist in Retail. The retail industry offers foodservice distributors a totally new market for food and non-food sales. Retail over the past few years have created in-store foodservice units and have deli operations that must run similar to those of a restaurant. In addition, these outlets are in need of assistance in operations to effectively achieve profitable results. Certainly an exciting market for foodservice distribution.

Mergers and Acquisitions. Identifying which company offers the most lucrative fit for an existing firm or finding the best solution for financing will determine the level of profitability.

If at any time, readers of ID Access/ID Report have any questions on articles or specific topics, please feel free to contact The Editor or me directly at (608) 798-1444 or Tom@marketingcpts.com.

Tom O'Connell is president of Marketing Concepts, Inc., and a member of the ID Editorial Advisory Board. O'Connell has 30 years of experience in the foodservice and food processing channels. Prior to starting Marketing Concepts more than 13 years ago, he was vice president of marketing for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, creating innovative marketing programs for generic promotion. Prior to that, O'Connell was service as vice president of sales for a major food processor. Through years of experience and hundreds of key contacts within the industry, he has gained an expertise in the food industry that has earned the respect of distributor, operators, and manufacturers alike. As president of Marketing Concepts, he is responsible for overseeing the management and execution of a unique firm that offers strategic direction, business development, market research, and marketing direction/execution. O'Connell, who coordinated the execution of ID Update 2003, has earned several awards from the industry for his unique programs, tactics, and overall thinking, has served in an advisory capacity to numerous foodservice associations.


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