As part of the recent NAMA OneShow, I made a presentation on how foodservice can benefit your business. The theme of my talk was that a company in the vending business can "prospect" its clients with a view to adding some type of food services (and/or coffee service) in order to generate more revenue.
The first step is to understand that yesterday's business strategy will probably not work today -- as the old ad said, "It's not your father's Oldsmobile" -- and Oldsmobiles aren't even made any more. Change is necessary and paramount to survive and grow in the present economy.
Today's challenges are clear: Businesses are closing and downsizing; there are literally no subsidies, there is much more competition (from gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants and even party stores, all offering some type of food and beverage today); costs are continuing to rise; and your clients are demanding that you do more with less.
You have to take all of these lemons and turn them into lemonade, or, in your case, new business opportunities. The first step, a very important one, is to develop a plan.
This plan does not have to be 100 pages long, but it must meet a few fundamental criteria if it's to guide you in making the decisions needed to move forward. Remember: proper planning=positive performance!
My formula for developing such a plan is the application of "5WH + $." First you must decide the five Ws and the H -- Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. When you are comfortable with all of the answers to these questions, you proceed to calculate the cost and potential revenue of the plan.
Keep in mind that you are in the people business, so even if the formula above looks good, it will not work without the support of your customers and employees.
When dealing with your customers and employees, always remember that the one thing that they value most is time. This applies to:
• Scheduling for employees.
• Wait time for your customers.
• Don't forget: time management for you.
If you are currently in the vending business, it is relatively easy to add OCS as another service you can offer your customers. If you are in the vending business and have a commissary, the next step would be to add catering and onsite food services.
Realizing the challenges I stated above, the one area that still has great potential for foodservice is office buildings -- the ones that are too small to have cafeterias, but large enough to justify setting up mobile foodservice businesses in the lobby. I am not talking about catering trucks in the parking lot, but a portable "quick service" indoors. I detailed ideas for office building opportunities in my VT article headlined "On The Road: Commissary Operators Enjoy Opportunities To Build Sales" (see VT, Nov. 2008).
For you to grow your business, it is absolutely necessary to have at least one salesperson dedicated to the task. Word of mouth and reputation are important, but not sufficient to compete in today's competitive market. You can start with a part-time person who, hopefully, will provide enough new business to become full-time. This is the person who can "hit the pavement" and make calls to cultivate leads that will eventually generate new business.
Opportunities for getting into or expanding your foodservice business are all around you. In addition to pursuing office buildings without cafeterias but large enough (150 people or more) to set up temporary daily foodservices, look at other potential markets such as Meals on Wheels, daycare for kids and adult retirement facilities, charter and private schools, gas stations and party stores. In most of these venues, you would provide packaged food and beverage items in a program that requires a driver simply to drop off the order.
I hear regularly from operator clients who say that they bid on business but their prices were too high. Well, this happens sometime. But remember: "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten!" Quality makes the difference, and there should be no compromise.
So in closing, get that salesperson out there selling your products and services in venues that are still growing and have a need for some type of contract food or beverage service.
JERRY McVETY is founder of McVety & Associates, an international foodservice and hospitality consulting firm. He has held a variety of executive positions in the foodservice industry. McVety, a Knowledge Source Partner in the National Automatic Merchandising Association, is also an active speaker on the industry lecture circuit. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org