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Back to Basics: Brand Content in a Labor-Crunched Foodservice Market

Back to Basics: Brand Content in a Labor-Crunched Foodservice Market

Operators from all walks of foodservice life are facing unprecedented labor shortages. Here’s how to reach them.

Across a diverse range of viewpoints, geographic reach, and culinary philosophies, a full 72% of restaurant operators rate recruitment and retention of workforce as their No. 1 challenge, according to the National Restaurant Association.

With this need comes the opportunity – we’d even say responsibility – for suppliers to the foodservice industry to put practical solutions in the hands of operators.

And that takes nimble innovation and on-point communication. Here are top considerations and tips for promoting the most timely solutions you have on deck.

Understand the short of it.

The overwhelming labor shortage is coloring every conversation with operators because it’s the first thing they have to address day in, day out. While Instagram-worthy dishes and cutting-edge culinary content continue to be driving desires, speaking to such aspirations needs to be framed with a practical edge.

Tune your marketing soundbites to the labor reality.

The bottom line is that branded content and communications must reflect the environment that foodservice operators are facing today. Operators need to know upfront that you understand their immediate challenge – akin to conducting a symphony with two string players – while never ignoring the larger art that moves them.


Here are four key areas where we are seeing the foodservice supplier industry adapt, innovate, and be the kind of problem-solvers that are a lifeline for foodservice. Helping operators accomplish more with less.

1. Build recipe applications designed around efficiency.

Many full-service restaurants have simplified their menus to ease the workload on short-staffed kitchens and to streamline their takeout and delivery model. Products with multiple applications have always been important to chefs and operators to save on valuable storage space, but simple products that can flex to multiple dishes carry a critical benefit for today’s operator.

Calls to action:

  • Highlight the culinary versatility of your star portfolio players in brand communications. For example, how to blend popular ingredients to create other useful and innovative ingredients.
  • Share easier recipe concepts using simplified ingredients.
  • Create a recipe series revolving around repurposed ingredients.
  • Build utilitarian content that illustrates how popular ingredients/products can be combined to create something new and fresh.

2. Highlight products that save labor.

No surprise here! Commercial and non-commercial foodservice operators need product solutions that will save them time and eliminate costly staff training. Highlight those value-added or ready-to-serve products in your portfolio. The time is ripe for products that reduce prep time in the kitchen while helping operators ensure a consistent menu experience time after time, location after location. Think pre-peeled potatoes, par-baked breads, and even prepared entrees that are easily customizable.

While some chefs may never budge on their scratch-made recipes, many operators are moving away from scratch in favor of speed-scratch items – products that don’t compromise on quality but improve a kitchen staff’s ability to start a recipe quickly and consistently without the prep and trained labor of scratch cooking.

Calls to action:

  • Lead with culinarily-charged details that prove quality is uncompromised.
  • Highlight speed-scratch recipes that combine a base of ready-made product with an in-house flourish.
  • Pack in multi-use containers that reduce waste yet maintain brand standards.
  • Expand frozen product lines, as operators seek to avoid run-out.
  • Advise on product and menu innovations that will meet the demands of the urban-to-suburban consumer migration.

3. Offer training and systems that eliminate guesswork.

Take the burden of time off the operator by creating product training and recipe content that can be easily consumed on the fly in the back-of-house. Think prep, storage, cooking, and plating. Anything that a stretched-thin line cook might need to know to effectively work with your product.

Calls to action:

  • Share 30-second how-to videos for your top products.
  • Build a digital training hub that can be accessed by reps doing product demos, or by staff in the kitchen.
  • Advise operators on how to split their lines to service both off-premise and dine-in – and how to create easy transitions to a single line during slower time periods, avoiding the need for additional steps to complete orders.
  • Create color-coding ideas for the operator’s kitchen to ease confusion across distribution needs: what’s on-premise versus off-premise, what’s 3rd party, etc.
  • Provide on-the-wall posters for key product safety and efficiency steps.
  • Build “Request a sample” buttons onto platforms that your customers and qualified leads already access.
  • Set up easy automatic payment options – making the buyer journey from product awareness to sampling to purchasing to training as seamless as possible when time is tight.

4. Help them calculate profitability.

Foodservice is a game won and lost in the margins. Operators are making buying decisions based on saving pennies per serving. Help operators do the math to show how your products make cents.

Calls to action:

  • Include profitability calculators in printed point-of-sale, product splash pages, and app-accessible content.
  • Start a “how much could you save” challenge to build awareness on how daily savings can impact a year’s profitability.

NK is here to help you help operators. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. today.


Posted in: Thoughts
August 30, 2021

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