Foodservice success isn’t built in a day. There are five foundational pillars that need to be addressed early on and continually optimized to prop your brand up for sustainable growth.
1. Brand and Product Positioning
First you need to figure how your brand fits into the potential market opportunity. What pain points are you solving and for whom? Consider the full foodservice landscape. For example, is this a grab-and-go offering that can transition seamlessly into a front-of-house cooler, or a new ingredient that will be used back-of-house by commercial chefs? Is your product packaging optimized for this environment? Are you selling to independent restaurant owners? C&U foodservice directors? Registered dietician nutritionists? All of this, and more, is critical when crafting and communicating a relevant and believable brand messaging strategy for foodservice.
94% of all foodservice operations are purchasing at least some of their product from broadline distributors (Datassential 2022). They like the convenience of ordering from one place and the consistent pricing and delivery process. Distributor sales reps are also the number one means through which operators discover new products. That said, major broadline distributors like Sysco, US Foods, and Performance Foodservice have zero incentive to stock your product until you give them one – either financially or through real customer demand. Alternative options like Dot Foods can help make your product accessible prior to forcing distribution with a large customer order.
3. Sales and Pricing Strategy
The foodservice buying cycle and route to market is less structured than CPG. It’s more complex with multiple touchpoints. Expect to make calls to Dot, calls to broadliners, calls to GPOs, calls to chain outlets, calls to high-value customers, etc. The process is time- and resource-intensive and requires dedicated internal (and eventually external) resources. And with profitability as a top motivator for operators, pricing is almost everything. Consider what your competition is doing and price your brand to compete.
4. Culinary Applications and Functionality
The primary driver for operators is providing what their customers want – which of course looks different for every operation. You’ll need to identify appropriate culinary trends and leverage them intelligently in a way that’s true for your product and that adds incredible value to the chef or operator. Consider the product format (ingredient, component, build, grab-and-go), the functionality and utility in the kitchen, specific menu applications across segments and dayparts, and insights to help buyers understand and effectively menu your product to their customers.
5. Marketing Ecosystem
While distribution is critical for sustained foodservice success, the DSR cannot be relied on to generate demand for your brand. You need to meet your customers where they are with a message they can’t ignore. This is the point where we recommend looking at an integrated mix of Owned, Paid, and Earned channels that align with your overall goals, budget, and target audience. All of this is unified through a cohesive creative platform. Take note, the majority of foodservice buyers have been in the industry for over 20 years – they know the language and so should your brand!