Expert Interview – Creating Buzz-worthy Social Marketing

On a recent visit to New York, I had the chance to have lunch with Marcus Byrd, Marketing Manager at Dos Toros. Originally from California, Marcus heads up the marketing department for this rapidly growing fast-casual restaurant concept with locations in New York City and Chicago. 

LC: Wow, this food is fantastic! Tell me about this place!

MB: Dos Toros is a fast-casual taqueria that was founded by two brothers, Oliver and Leo Kremer, from California with a simple dream, to bring the best of the San Francisco taqueria experience to the rest of the country. We proudly cook our recipes from scratch using the finest ingredients and naturally raised proteins. Working together, our terrific and talented team strives to deliver uncompromising excellence, one burrito at a time.

LC: As Marketing Manager, what is your role?

MB: I head up marketing for all of Dos Toros’ 16 locations. I’m also from the Bay Area and share the distinct passion of bringing best-in-class flavor to the rest of the country. I lead the company’s press, brand and influencer relations, as well as development of in-store, digital and social content strategies, new restaurant opening strategies, and social corporate responsibility initiatives. Over the years I’ve been at Dos Toros, we’ve seen hockey stick growth, just opening our 16th location this month.

LC: You wear a lot of hats! How big is your team?

MB: Our team is lean! We have a Senior Designer and a Marketing Coordinator.

LC:  What are some of the most effective methods you’ve used for promoting Dos Toros?

MB: Some of the best tools for promoting Dos Toros have been our Community Partnerships and our New Restaurant Opening strategy. At Dos Toros we firmly believe the product speaks for itself and encouraging first-hand experiences is paramount to converting new customers. Community events such as partnering with local high schools and colleges, tastings with local businesses, and promoting corporate social responsibility are all ways we can showcase Dos Toros to potential guests. Additionally, our new location launch strategy has been very effective in spreading the word among potential guests who are hyper-local to our spaces. We host a $1 Burrito Day for every store opening, which immediately creates a seismic buzz in the surrounding neighborhood. We serve upwards of 2,000 guests on our opening days. The influx of carry-out bags printed with the Dos Toros logo is perhaps the most effective in terms of word-of-mouth!

LC: I love your Instagram posts. How big a role does social media play in your marketing programs?

MB: Social media has been incredibly cost effective in developing avenues to reach guests in their natural environments. By integrating ourselves into our communities’ Instagram and Facebook feeds, we strive to create valuable touchpoints to incite future purchasing behavior. We also work on encouraging mentions in daily media outlets, via PR and partnerships.  We have really treated Instagram as our go to platform for Dos Toros news because of the highly visual nature of the food industry, and our appetites! New store openings, new products, discounts and promotions are all premiered on Instagram first. While we also utilize Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter as well, Instagram has emerged as our highest engaged platform due to the craveable nature of the food we sell and Instagram’s incredible rise in popularity among the 18-35 metropolitan crowd.

LC: Well, it works! I am always hungry after seeing your posts. You use lots of images and videos on social media. What is your process for planning the photo and video shoots? Is it very formal and planned out or more spontaneous?

MB: Our photography style is a healthy mix of both ad hoc and formal.  We have a content calendar with certain events and holidays planned out 2-4 weeks in advance to ensure we source the appropriate content, however part of the beauty of social media is its spontaneous and viral nature. For example, we try to leverage the current cultural zeitgeist by paying attention to the trending memes and putting a @DosToros or @PintoTheBurrito spin on it. Likewise, our Instagram stories garner thousands of views and have proven a great way to report live from the kitchen or charity event, as the case may be.

LC:  What are some tips you can share with other restauranteurs that want to amp-up their marketing programs?

MB: I’m always focused on our two core audiences, our guests and our internal team, and how we connect with them. The internal impact on our Dos Toros team of big marketing pushes is a big consideration in the way we game plan incoming promotions. Secondly, I think marketers need to be adventurous but also realistic in how their customers receive information. A traditional email list may work better for some brands than putting a heavy emphasis on social media. Marketers should always be analyzing and assessing what the right tailored approach is, and that comes from a keen understanding of exactly who their audience is.

LC:  Can you share any plans for Dos Toros in the coming year?

MB: Dos Toros is headed for a record year in 2018! We just opened our 16th location and 2nd in Chicago at 300 S Wacker. We have another slated to open in the market this summer as part of the Wells St. Market food hall. We have tons of things up our sleeve, so you’ll just have to follow us on social media to see how the rest of 2018 rolls out, pun intended.

LC: Thanks for taking the time to share the Dos Toros story and your marketing expertise.

MB: My pleasure! And, I’m glad you enjoyed your lunch!

To learn more about Dos Toros visit www.dostoros.com or follow them on Instagram @DosToros.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Expert Interview – The Internet of Things for Facilities Management

There is a great deal of excitement these days about IoT, the Internet of Things, and how it can improve productivity in the workplace. IoT revolves around increased and instant machine-to-machine communication, cloud computing, and data-gathering sensors that provide critical information. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I spoke with April Bertram, Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions at GOJO, a global leader in hygiene solutions.

LC: Tell me about your role at GOJO.

AB: I’ve been with GOJO for almost ten years. I started in product management and then moved into a role where I managed the entire product development process and the company’s innovation portfolio. In my new role as Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions, I focus on building and testing new IoT technology platforms and business models to meet the needs of our healthcare and commercial building markets. My role also focuses on partnership development for future technologies and platforms.

LC: What is the SMARTLINK™ platform?

AB: The SMARTLINK™ platform has multiple capabilities, from monitoring hand hygiene in a healthcare environment at a group or individual badge-based level, to an integrated observation app that streamlines and digitizes the direct observation process. We know that behavior change requires more than just access to data, so we provide clinician-based consulting services to assist with program implementation and hand hygiene improvement plans.

AB: Our newest addition to the platform is Service Alerts that provides all types of facilities, across commercial building and healthcare environments, the ability to monitor restroom traffic, soap and sanitizer refill and dispenser status.

LC: What changes have you seen take place in the industry over the last several years?

AB: Changes in the industry have been significant, from industry consolidation to new technologies emerging that will have an impact on everyone across the value chain. Digital disruption is occurring, and we are working closely with our customers to ensure they are on the leading edge, having the right knowledge, products and technologies in place.

 LC: What are some of the challenges our mutual customers face and how do your IoT systems provide solutions?

AB: It can be a challenge for larger healthcare and commercial facilities to proactively keep up with dispenser servicing, always ensuring product is available for occupants and patrons, especially in high-traffic environments. Many times, product is discarded early in effort to avoid an outage or reduce complaints. Our Service Alerts platform gives them insight on which dispensers require refills and when, reducing excess waste and consumable refill costs. Our technology partnerships have enabled us to deliver predictive analytics and we can provide our customer with the exact date that the product needs replaced. This aides in creating better service routes and ordering the right levels of inventory at the right time.

AB: Service labor is always a constraint in the commercial building industry, and today, the industry is faced with a retiring workforce, a changing skillset, rising labor costs and government regulations, which all can impact the ability to effectively service a building. This leaves many looking for ways to build efficiencies. Our dispenser data combined with restroom traffic information enables them to operate more efficiently and deliver a higher level of satisfaction with the same resources.

LC: That is truly a value-added solution! Reducing waste and increasing efficiencies are excellent benefits for many types of facilities.

LC: What new innovations are you working on now?

AB: We are exploring how we can use technology to further support inventory management; for example, automatic ordering technology based on actual usage. This helps to mitigate inventory management inefficiencies and ensures a business is never without soap and hand sanitizer. We are continually advancing our restroom open-platform strategy and building strategic relationships to create a bundle of best-in-class solutions for distribution, building service contractors, facility managers and our end user customers.

LC: What do you see happening in the industry over the next few years?

AB: It’s not a far stretch to assume most devices, in all industries, will be connected in some form or another. However, we really need to see standards emerge so manufacturers and customers alike can simplify the implementation process. Today, there are many ways to connect devices from the protocols to the physical infrastructure required. Each building and customer has different connection and security requirements. This alone makes the selection process a challenge. Once standards exist, everyone will be on the same playing field and it will be easier for customers to select products, install and derive the benefits from them.

AB: I do envision that technology cost curves will continue to drop and customers will be able to achieve a solid ROI on broader IoT implementations. Today, we are seeing smaller scale implementations for learning. While the technology may advance and costs curves may come down, there will still be a challenge with implementation and really changing behavior of those consuming the data. It’s yet to be seen how much organizations will invest to really use the data to rework their processes to become more efficient. I think this will be the single most important factor for adoption in the next five years. I don’t think all buildings will be categorized as truly smart in the next five years, but they will certainly be smarter and on a great trajectory down this path.

LC: That makes sense, as with most technological advancements.

AB: As you can see, the world of IoT is diverse and rapidly changing and an evolution from individual, closed IoT platforms to an open architecture platform will be important to provide customers with best-in-class choices of restroom consumables and deliver a building’s facilities team with broader insights to effectively manage the restroom and building via a single, integrated interface.

 LC: What advice can you share for our readers that want to use new technology to help manage their facilities more efficiently?

 AB: First, determine what problems you are trying to solve. Solutions may have similar broad claims, but facilities really need to make sure the solution, data output and ways to consume the data solve the key problems and don’t increase complexities.

AB: Next, make sure the solutions are scalable if the facility decides to move beyond a pilot implementation. Start by connecting with your IT team. Understand your building’s security requirements and the right questions to ask once you start evaluating solutions. If the facility is using this data to make real-time decisions, they need to better understand data accuracy requirements to accomplish their objectives. Any margin of error rate defeats the purpose of installing the system.

AB: Most importantly, expect that the facility will not only need to train staff on the technology, but change processes and workflows. This is probably the hardest part of implementation. Time for continual training and coaching is required.

LC: I’m really glad you pointed that out. Internal communications and employee engagement are so important to the adoption of any change.

LC: Hand hygiene is crucial in healthcare. What is the most important thing a healthcare facility can do to improve their protocol using an IoT solution?

AB: The primary reason for implementing an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system is that it allows for the collection of robust data that is statistically significant, unbiased and actionable. In a recent study, we found that visual observation was capturing .02% of the hand hygiene opportunities that were monitored by the SMARTLINK™ system. If hospitals are only seeing a fraction of what’s going on, they can’t identify when and where there is risk to patient safety.

AB: The data analytics are used to identify a performance baseline and to measure the impact of interventions and behavior change techniques. Customizable reports allow for the data to be sliced and analyzed from many different angles. For example, performance data shown hourly can provide insights for nurse managers that could lead to reminding the staff to perform hand hygiene during the busiest hours of the day.

AB: Education is a large factor in the success of an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system. As I mentioned earlier, we offer Clinician-Based Support, a service where expert clinicians help with the education and roll-out of the new system. They conduct on-site, in-servicing of the technology to ensure the staff understands their hospital’s hand hygiene protocols and how the system works to measure performance against those protocols. These clinicians work to debunk myths and to provide just-in-time coaching to ensure staff is complying with the hand hygiene guidelines.

AB: Hospitals should understand how the system works and how hand hygiene performance rates are generated. Educating on how the system works to capture the hand hygiene events and opportunities leads to greater acceptance by all.

LC: Thanks, April, for taking the time to share how the Internet of Things is impacting the facilities maintenance and healthcare industries. This is fascinating information!

AB: Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

For more information about GOJO® SMARTLINK™ technology and the healthcare study referenced   visit www.GOJO.com/SMARTLINK

 

 

 

Expert Interview – Catering to your Customers’ Needs

Catering is the fastest growing segment in the foodservice industry and is currently a $55 Billion marketplace with average annual growth between 4% – 6%. For this edition of The Expert Interview I spoke with Kathy Deignan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing & New Product Development at Sabert Corporation.

LC: How long have you been in the foodservice industry and what types of positions have you held during that time?

KD: I have been in the foodservice industry for over 25 years.  I have been with Sabert for 14 years and prior to that I was with Sweetheart Cup Company where I held leadership positions in both Sales and Marketing.  I began my career in Operations as a supervisor in a manufacturing plant to gain a complete understanding of how products are made.

LC: Catering packaging is an important focus for Sabert. Has that always been the case?

KD: Catering is our heritage at Sabert. Our company was founded 35 years ago with innovative catering products as our foundation.  We are rooted in the marketplace and we keep the consumer experience at the heart of everything we do allowing us to create products that enhance and advance the way people enjoy food.

LC: Tell me about the catering market, the types of operators and their specific needs.

KD: The two main segments are business and social catering.  In both segments, to achieve guest satisfaction operators must sell stress-free and predictable experiences to both business and social consumer.

Catering to business consumers is an opportunity to impress clients and bring style to the boardroom. Office life presents a chance for operators to create a brand experience that can translate across different business occasions.  Given the often-short window to break for lunch or a snack, the goal of the operator is to offer a convenient catering experience.  The corporate catering consumer values an experience that is easy to order, serve, eat and clean.

For the social catering consumers living busy lifestyles, bringing the convenience of catering home during the week presents new opportunities for operators.  Operators who put forward catering programs that align with everyday celebrated occasions will cash-in with the social consumer.  Packaging can help drive menu development and operators can create different menu options for a variety of different serving sizes.

LC: What are the changes in the catering market that you’ve seen over the last few years?

KD: The biggest shift is the exponential growth of delivery. 57% of consumers received their order delivered either by the foodservice establishment or via a third-party provider versus picking their order up themselves. With catering consumers demanding more delivery services, third-party providers are rising to answer the challenge.

An even more interesting change we have seen is that about 81% of consumers who order from restaurants for catering selected a trusted brand chain restaurant. Brand recognition attracts young consumers and serves a double benefit, inspiring confidence in the customer placing the order and the guest who sees the brand name.

LC: What are the latest trends in catering?

KD: The biggest trend we have is the boost of social catering. Weeknight dinnertime presents an incremental revenue opportunity for operators to put forward catering packages that align with everyday occasions. For households, multi-serve and family-style catering packages can bridge the gap between individual takeout meals and large-party catering events. With today’s consumer socially engaged and focused on sharing experiences, catering offers the unique ability to bring people together, enjoy food and create photo-shareable experiences.

LC: Instagram-worthy meals. I enjoy sharing those images myself.

KD: On the other hand, inferior packaging can adversely affect the operators’ brand with consumers sharing negative experiences socially as well.

LC: Can you explain more about the importance of packaging from the customers’ point of view?

KD: The catering industry is agile by nature due to ever-evolving customer interests and needs. Packaging plays several roles in a catering occasion. We have noticed that consumers do not just rely on packaging to securely transport the food from the foodservice establishment to the venue, nearly 50% of consumers use the packaging to serve the meal and over 33% also used the original packaging to store left overs.  Because packaging may be used at multiple points during the dining occasion, attractive and well-designed packaging for transport, serving and storage is extremely beneficial to the consumer.

LC: What advice can you give a caterer that would help them save time, money and/or increase sales?

KD: The path to incremental catering revenue is through existing customers, at least initially.  Operators who focus on activating catering revenue from loyal customers will find they can grow catering sales quickly and steadily.  Layering a catering program on top of an established dine-in or take-out business gives existing customers easier access to a brand they already know and trust. Through catering, current customers can now share and experience the brand across a more diversified variety of everyday occasions elevating the brand to a new level.

Developing a catering program and menu isn’t enough. Operators really cash in and score more orders by providing a full service, stress free environment and offering the right disposable tabletop and serving utensils with their catering orders. Nearly 70% of consumers are upset if their catering order does not include the necessary disposable cutlery, plates and serving utensils with 25% admitting that it’s a deal breaker and would never order catering again if they did not receive those items with their order. Offering a complete catering program that includes the right disposable items will contribute positively to customer satisfaction. To take the catering experience to the next level, operators can also use disposable serving items to create different levels of consumption experiences. The ability to offer a variety of different tabletop and serving utensil items helps catering programs align with more occasion types. On top of that, it adds a layer of customization allowing consumers the ability to create elaborate tablescapes and upscale presentations as they please.

LC: What do you think the future holds for the catering segment?

KD: As we look at trends from years past, we are already starting to see what the next 5 years in catering and packaging will look like. With the rapid growth of convenience and delivery, we continue to invest in the importance of tailor-made packaging for specific food temperatures and needs. For example, 3 out of 4 consumers typically receive their hot food hot and serve within 30 minutes. This trend indicates packaging that can serve multiple people and present hot food immediately is an essential part of the catering piece. Durable packaging designed for hot food, like the polypropylene options available in our Collections product line allow guests to customize their individual meal and encourage consumers to order catering more frequently.

One trend operators can expect to see for years to come is the need for sustainable options in all aspects of catering programs. From food to packaging and tableware, we can expect to see the importance of responsibly made products increase in years to come.

LC: Any last advice for our readers?

KD: Consumers look for the full-service experience and prefer to work with operators that allow for customization, sustainability and offer a stress-free, seamless experience. Operators should work with packaging providers that offer them that same seamless experience and understand the consumers need and experience.

LC: Thanks, Kathy!

KD: Thanks for having me.

For more information about Sabert’s catering packaging, visit www.Sabert.com and contact your Imperial Dade representative for a personal consultation regarding your catering operation.  

 

Expert Interview – Packaging Matters

Packaging is critical to protecting goods as they move through the supply chain to the final consumer. The industrial packaging market is currently a $112 billion industry and expected to grow to $139 billion in the next 4 years. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I met up with Richard Clarke Jr, GM of Imperial Dade’s Tampa Division. Richard has over 40 years of experience in packaging distribution.

LC: How did you get started in the industry?

RC: In 1975, I went to work for my family’s 64 year-old distribution company, Peninsular Paper Company, one day after I graduated from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. During my tenure I have worked in the warehouse, driven a truck route, worked the inside sales desk, worked as an outside sales rep, worked as a specialist sales rep for large accounts, worked as a buyer, worked as a sales manager, and then became President of the company overseeing 100% of our operations along with my dad. Imperial Dade acquired our company in May of 2017 and I am now the General Manager of the Tampa Division.

LC: Sounds like you held every position in the company at some point in your career.

RC: Yes, and it helps as I understand how every role, in some way, touches our customers.

LC: What type of products are considered industrial packaging?

RC: Industrial packaging is usually a form of packaging designed to package products for resale. Some examples include foam trays, molded fiber trays, clear plastic packaging, overwrap and other sealing films, shrink films, etc. It can also be packaging items designed to protect and enhance the appearance of the loads during production and especially during shipping. Examples are tape, stretch wrap, pallet interleavers, kraft wrap, corner boards, specialty bags, and specialty labeling.

LC: What types of businesses use these items?

RC: Any business who produces anything and ships it anywhere needs Industrial packaging to protect their product during the handling and shipping process. They use tape to seal their boxes, stretch wrap and corner board to unitize the load, labels to denote production codes and routing information.

RC: Food processors such as commercial bakeries, produce and meat processors also use industrial packaging products to prepare a product for resale.

LC: Why is the packaging important to those businesses?

RC: They cannot sell their products if not packaged properly. They can often increase sales if the packaging enhances the appearance and better merchandises their products. This has always been true in the supermarket business. Food that is packaged attractively and displayed near check-out will sell faster.

LC: What changes have you seen take place in this product segment over the years?

RC: The competitive landscape has changed quite a bit over the last few decades. In the 1970s and 80s, paper and janitorial distributors were the go-to source. Then, in the 90s, specialty packaging distributors began to develop as packaging items became more varied and complicated. Then the recession hit and many of those specialty distributors closed their doors. Now customers are coming back to broadline paper distributors, such as Imperial Dade, for their needs. This has created opportunities for us, especially with middle-market customers that rely on our expertise to help them source the right products.

LC: What are the current trends and innovations?

RC: There are quite a few. Molded-fiber trays are becoming very popular with food processors. Their customers are looking for more environmentally friendly packaging options to meet consumer preferences. The enhanced merchandizing has helped to increase sales. Special tapes and films are available for the produce industry that help protect and control ripening during transit. This reduces waste which saves money and prevents unsellable product from being thrown away.

RC: Colored sealing tapes are being used more often in warehousing operations. The colors help the operator clearly see that cartons are sealed shut. With clear or kraft-colored tape, it is not as evident and that can lead to damaged goods. Non-skid interleavers are now available that help prevent loads from shifting during transit, another way to prevent damage to inventory.

LC: What do you think the future holds for this segment?

RC: Industrial packaging will increase exponentially in importance for American manufacturers as we compete in the global market. Packaging is primarily designed to protect the product as it is shipped. Many manufacturers do not realize that the same packaging can also be used to very effectively and very inexpensively merchandise their product and thus gain more sales. A simple example of this would be to print cornerboards, or to print the tape that seals the boxes for a fraction of a cent per piece and get real advertising value. Good industrial packaging, versus poor, also shows the end-customer that the manufacturer cares and emphasizes that the manufacturer makes a quality product.

LC: What advice do you have for businesses on improving their packaging program to save time and money?

RC: Businesses that use packaging need to realize that their distributor sales rep can be a real asset to their program as a partner. A good DSR studies what products are on the market and studies his or her customer’s needs, then matches the two. I recommend that they not only show the DSR what they use but tell the DSR how they use it and what they are trying to accomplish by using it. A good DSR, one who is a partner to their customer, will then recommend products that can help their customer achieve increased profits and efficiencies.

Richard and his team are available to consult with businesses about industrial packaging programs. He can be reached at rsc.jr@imperialdade.com.  

 

Expert Interview – Dealing with Disruption in the Grocery Segment

The US retail grocery market segment is currently a $608 billion industry and growing. However disrupters including online retailers and meal-kit delivery services are creating competition for traditional supermarkets and consumer lifestyles are changing the way people shop. I spoke with two of my colleagues about this industry for this month’s Expert Interview. Bob Waxman, Director of Supermarket and Chain Store Sales and Oliver Munoz, National Account Manager, shared their insights and advice.

LC: How long have you each been in the industry?

BW: Over 35 years. I started as a sales rep for another New York-based distributor and joined Imperial Dade in 1987. Been here ever since.

OM: I’ve been with the company for 5 years focusing on sales, sourcing, and market research.

LC: What are some of the big changes you’ve seen in the grocery and supermarket industry in recent years?

OM: Mergers and acquisitions have been prevalent.

BW: I agree, consolidation of single stores and smaller chains into buying groups or larger chains has been the biggest and most defining difference. The consolidation has both added to the competitive edge as those retailers now have an expanded presence. But it’s removed some competition by lessoning the number of independents that the consumer can choose from. There is also a large European influence that has captured part of the market with the introduction of new chains.

BW: There has also been consolidation among distributors, including Imperial Dade. Fortunately, our expanded reach has opened up opportunities to partner with more customers.

OM: Non-traditional competition is also changing the landscape. Although online sales have not been a very profitable venture for most grocery retailers it is an important channel to consider. In 2017, online grocery sales were over $14 billion and that figure is expected to more than double by 2021.

LC: What the challenges that grocery operators are facing today and how do you get involved in helping solve those challenges?

BW: Economics continue to be a major concern and challenge. It is a delicate balance of image and cost that make up the dance we do every day.

OM: Costs are the big issue. In 2017, the data shows high increases in raw material costs, both for store supplies and agricultural products. These costs would have to be passed along to the consumer unless we can help find solutions. In these cases we work with manufacturers to identify alternative products that provide cost savings.

BW: We work as an agent for our customers. We listen and understand their needs. Then we work with a wide variety of manufacturers to source the best products at the best prices. We look at new products daily and stay on top of innovative ideas.

OM: For example, store-cut fresh fruit programs have been a hit in recent years. One of our customers was using an outdated container that came open easily and did not present a consistent look across the sizes offered. We introduced a square, tamper-evident container that has better clarity, an upscale look, and fit in the display case better. Their sales of increased by almost 30% following that change. Improved merchandising can be the key to driving sales and increasing profits.

BW: We also offer a variety of technology tools that help our customers manage their inventory more precisely which saves money. We help them prepare for sales and seasonal trends, as well as set controls on supply items such as gloves and bags. For some stores we offer VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) which saves on labor costs and allows store management to focus on center store profit.

LC: What are the trends you each see for the coming year?

BW: I’m seeing more interest in sustainable packaging as well as more upscale packaging. Though cost is still a concern, keeping up with or outdoing other forward thinking retailers is important to the end-customer’s experience. Prepared foods and in-store restaurants are also going to be the flavor of the year.

OM: Yes, prepared foods is likely to continue booming. I work with our customers to help them initiate or grow this key category. Also, understanding the demographics of different neighborhoods is important. Understanding the ethnic foods that consumers are looking for and merchandising them correctly leads to higher sales and customer satisfaction.

LC: Any other suggestions you can offer retail grocery operators?

OM: Consider getting into the online space by partnering with a third-party grocery delivery service. This can help fend off the competition from other online retailers and help you grow your market share by capturing new sales. This space will continue to grow, but you need volume to make if profitable. Create a consumer-friendly website that is updated regularly with special deals and informative content that is of interest to your target market. Couple that website with online-ordering capabilities, either through a third-party service or your own platform.

BW: My advice is to let us help grow your business. We have been doing this a very long time. Put our resources and economies of scale to work for you!

The dynamic duo of Bob and Oliver are available to consult with retail grocers and related businesses about supply chain programs and solutions. They can be reached at bwaxman@imperialdade.com and oliverm@imperialdade.com.

Expert Interview – Foodservice Packaging Trends

For this month’s Expert Interview I spoke with Howard Hirsch, VP of Business Development at Imperial Dade. With 25 years’ experience in the distribution industry, Howard has a great deal of knowledge about foodservice packaging.

LC: How did you get started in the industry?

HH: I graduated college in 1992. It was a Friday afternoon. On Monday at 5:30 AM, I started working in the warehouse of my family’s distribution business. I had the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business from loading trucks, making deliveries, managing inventory, and working with customers. I loved making connections with customers, listening to them tell me about their business and then helping them solve problems. Today, I enjoy mentoring the next generation of sales professionals and teaching them about our industry.

LC: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the marketplace over the last few years?

HH: The customers have immediate access to information about new products and manufacturers, domestically and world-wide. They see a photo of a product online and want to order it. However, that product may not be something that is readily available or even appropriate for their operation. My role is to educate them on the supply chain, manufacturing processes, and guide them in selecting the best product for the application.

HH: Another big change in recent years has been our customers’ interest in “going green.” That movement is still going strong with no signs of slowing down. And, there is a focus on portion control and cost-savings.

LC: Tell me more about how you do that.

HH: For example, we have a fast-casual restaurant customer. They were using a standard 32oz bowl that was too big for their salad. By sourcing a custom 28oz-30oz bowl we were able to help them reduce the package to better suit their needs. This resulted in a cost-savings on both food and packaging as well as reducing waste.

LC: What are the current trends in packaging right now?

HH: Everyone is talking about sustainability. Compostable versus recyclable products is a hot topic. The issue is that our industry and our customers are far more ahead of the curve than most municipalities. We have compostable products and our customers want to use them, but the product usually ends up in traditional garbage collection. Composting facilities are not yet available in many areas.

LC: Take-out and delivery are a big deal now. Has that trend impacted packaging choices?

HH: Yes, when food is packaged to travel and be eaten at a later time there are other considerations. A tight lid fit is important as is rigidity. Temperature and humidity are also factors. We work with our customers to find a packaging solution specific to their menu items and operational needs.

HH: Branded packaging is huge. Everyone wants it. Single-unit stores want to print everything before opening. Some restaurant concepts need to open and breathe for a while. I recommend taking a look after 60-90 days to see what’s working and what’s not. At that point in time operators can make a more educated investment in printing their packaging. In the meantime, they can use labels.

LC: Branding is key to connecting with customers, especially in crowded markets.

HH: It is their identity and how they differentiate themselves. Keep an eye out for branded bags walking down Boylston Street or Madison Avenue. If done properly, the customer will identify with the brand and feel good about carrying that bag. When it comes to food, you eat with your eyes first. Presentation and quality contribute to that first impression. Packaging, when done right, can be a powerful experience.

LC: What predictions do you have for the future of packaging over the next few years?

HH: Customized packaging, not only the printing, but the shapes, colors, and sizes. Operators are not always satisfied with what’s currently available. They want their own proprietary items designed specifically for their menu items and that enhance their customers’ experience.

LC: What advice can you share to help restauranteurs with their packaging program?

HH: Spend time on research and development. Question every aspect of your packaging. Every detail, little or big, matters. Rely on an experienced supplier to guide you. Your customer’s experience is what you need to zero in on. If you can put a quality product in a quality package you are on your way to operating a successful foodservice business.

Howard is available to consult with foodservice operators on packaging and other restaurant supply chain topics. He can be reached at hhirsch@imperialdade.com.

Expert Interview – Sustainability Programs

Print

For this month’s Expert Interview I sat down with my colleague Grace Best, LEED GA, in our Jersey City Headquarters. Grace plays several roles at Imperial Dade, one being Director of Sustainability.

LC: Tell me about your role directing Imperial Dade’s Greensafe program.

GB: The Greensafe Program is focused on our customers’ sustainability initiatives. In the world of foodservice and janitorial distribution there has been a huge push for sustainable products but there is also a lot of confusion in the marketplace. My role is to help our customers understand their product options and explain about sustainable business practices in general. I also assist with reporting requirements related to our products and services. The concept of sustainability continues to evolve so I make it a point to stay on top of the trends, regulations, and certifications and keep our sales team informed.

LC: What got you interested in sustainability?

GB: A little over 2 years ago one of our large cleaning contractors needed assistance providing reports to their customers who managed LEED Certified office buildings. These reports are required for the building to meet criteria for Green Spend. This was something new for me and I decided to work with the customer to understand more about their needs. They took me under their wing and taught me about LEED Certification and green cleaning. I found it very interesting and was enjoying the challenge so I decided to take the exam and become a LEED Accredited Professional.

LC: Tell me more about the Green Spend and how that ties into LEED Certification.

GB: Green Spend reporting is needed to make sure that a building’s maintenance supplies are compliant with the LEED guidelines. This may include a third-party certification such as EcoLogo or a certain amount of post-consumer recycled content. For example, one of the largest buildings in New York City was up for LEED Certification. They were within their performance period which means that during that time their purchases of sustainable supplies must be at a particular level. Although the building is not our direct client, I worked with the cleaning contractor and carefully monitored their purchases each month to ensure they hit the mark. They were very appreciative of the extra attention I gave them during this process and presented me with their annual Client Focus Award.

LC: Congratulations! Sounds like you found your calling.

GB: I did and the timing was perfect. In New York City the foodservice industry was also focusing on sustainability. I was able to assist clients with their packaging options, explain the differences between compostable vs. recyclable products and show them how they could lower their carbon footprint. It was a new concept for many of the restaurants at that time and it was new education for me that I found really exciting. There is always something new to learn and then teach others.

LC: What are some common misconceptions that people have about sustainability?

GB: The biggest misconception is that by purchasing a sustainable product, they are now a sustainable business. This is difficult for people to understand. If a fast-casual restaurant chain wants to start implementing compostable products into their locations, they then must implement a new trash program. This includes having different trash cans on site clearly labeled for landfill, recyclable, and compostable trash. Then to take this a step further, they must locate compost facilities and hire another carrier to pick up the compostable items. The process truly goes full circle and it does require extra time, effort, and sometimes upfront costs. Our job is to explain all of the steps required and help the customer implement their program successfully.

LC: What are the current trends in sustainable foodservice and janitorial supplies?

GB: Right now the trend in sustainable foodservice supplies is pulp. Whether it is pulp bowls, plates or containers, even portion cups, its pulp. Everyone is looking for the next best pulp item with a unique size so they can differentiate themselves. Luckily for us we can deliver on those requests.

In the janitorial segment the trend is cleaning contractors promoting their green- cleaning programs. We focus on helping those cleaning contractors gain clients through our Greensafe Program. This includes going over all of the green certified products we have available and selecting the correct products for the situation. It also includes procedural training, reporting, and advice on best practices.

LC: What quick tips can you offer a business to get started in implementing a sustainability program?

GB: Do your research and ask for help. Know the facts before you begin. There is a ton of information out there but sometimes the information is inaccurate or even misleading. Seek the advice of a LEED Accredited Professional or a supplier partner that has a formal sustainable supply chain program.

Grace Best and Imperial Dade’s Greensafe Specialists are available to consult with customers about sustainability programs. Grace can be reached at gbest@imperialdade.com.