Retail foodservice gears up for the holiday rush

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Photography: Shutterstock

Big family reunions and celebrations are back on the calendars this holiday season, but as kitchen fatigue from so many home-cooked meals during the pandemic persists, consumers will turn to foodservice retail for help answer the case.

Russell McVeigh, restaurant manager at Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace – a Melville, NY-based specialty grocer with nine locations in New York and New Jersey, and a 10th slated to open later this year – is ready for the rush. When it comes to retail food operations, “grocers need to be more like restaurants,” he says.

The specialist grocer prepares the 140 dishes in his in-store deli cases. “We have 30 people in our kitchens to hand bread eggplants and more,” he explains. “We don’t order anything and we are not a traditional grocery store. We offer legitimate catering with an advanced menu, ”continues McVeigh, who adds that Uncle Giuseppe’s also takes care of the rental of the servers. Three of its stores have the distinction of serving as official Hyatt caterers.

As the holiday season approaches, the retail restaurant must be ready not only with a high in-store experience, but also with a strong digital presence. The pandemic has led to an increase in online orders from Uncle Giuseppe, and as pandemic restrictions loosen and people rally again, McVeigh sees a new wave of demand for food. He predicts that 70% of holiday orders will be online this year.

Double restore without problem

Like many grocers, until recently Uncle Giuseppe kept old-fashioned catering books with handwritten orders. And if he wanted to make any additions or changes to his online dining menu, he had to make those adjustments for each individual location. It was a long and often frustrating process, McVeigh admits.

Earlier this year, Uncle Giuseppe partnered with FoodStorm, developers of a catering software management system specifically designed for the food industry. FoodStorm’s software automates the entire process of ordering, producing, paying and fulfilling catering / ready meals from a centralized system.

“While catering and prepared foods are some of a grocer’s most profitable offerings, most grocers still manage those orders using spreadsheets, paper order forms, and sticky notes,” explains FoodStorm. “Their existing e-commerce, inventory and point-of-sale systems do not support the complexities of catering and prepared foods, including management of production, ingredients, lead times and shelf life. . “

Since switching to software from FoodStorm, Uncle Giuseppe’s has doubled its online restaurant sales, McVeigh told WGB. The software provides a catering-specific e-commerce website to match the

grocery brand, order and production management, PCI compliant payment processing, CRM tools to market and grow the business, and reporting functionality with a live business dashboard.

“Previously, if the price of our potato salad changed, we had to go into the system and manually change it for eight different stores. There were also different taxes on the salad depending on where the store was, ”says McVeigh. “Now in 10 seconds we can update the price of an item in any store. “

Likewise, Uncle Giuseppe used to upload restoration photographs to his website, one image at a time for each store. Now McVeigh can instantly upload new images for any store, effortlessly giving its in-house team and customers an accurate visual representation of every catering tray.

“Being in control of what the buyer sees has been great, and the database is so easy to use, both from our side and the customer, that I don’t mind trying something new”, he adds. Thanks to the FoodStorm online ordering system, customers can also choose whether they want items to be delivered hot or cold; add a tip; and set a delivery deadline.

“There’s an exclusive view so we can go through each store’s delivery log and find out if we’ve booked for deliveries between, say, 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm. We can then adapt to only take early deliveries, ”says McVeigh. With Uncle Giuseppe’s old catering system, which relied heavily on handwritten orders, the delivery function was turned on or off. The grocer has further streamlined its delivery operations to offer twice-per-hour delivery.

Uncle Giuseppe’s catering business is currently “crushing last year’s numbers,” he says. “It’s wild. Our average orders are up $ 150 year over year, ”adds McVeigh who sees a number of contributing factors including pent-up demand, returning weddings and events, and more savings accounts. robust among consumers who spent less on food and entertainment during the COVID peak. “People are now spending faster than we can produce,” he jokes.

Uncle Giuseppe’s newly streamlined online dining offerings also allow customers to include items from multiple departments such as deli, bakery, and produce. As a result, McVeigh estimates that bakery catering sales alone will likely double this year compared to last year.

Used at thousands of locations around the world, FoodStorm processes more than $ 1.5 billion in catering and ready-meal orders for grocers, caterers and corporate restaurants.

“COVID-19 and the continuing threat from Amazon and Walmart have really forced independent grocers to differentiate themselves and offer better dining and fresh prepared food options,” said Rob Hill, CEO of FoodStorm. “Our software enables these grocers to run this important part of their business very efficiently and track everything from a central location. “

The holiday rush, managed

Aaron Stone, vice president of San Francisco Bay Area-based Mollie Stone’s Markets, and Hill of FoodStorm, recently collaborated to offer grocers tips to prepare for the holiday food rush. during the holidays. One of FoodStorm’s biggest grocery customers makes over 4,000 turkey dinners for Thanksgiving alone. Their four tips for success:

1. Create targeted menus based on customer tastes.

Consider the regional cuisines appreciated by your customers; dishes adapted to dietary restrictions and preferences; times of the year that are important to the local community; and specific events celebrated by clients.

2. Reach new customers through multiple channels.

Connect with new customers through social media, such as Google Retail, Facebook, and Instagram. Make sure your ecommerce site is always up to date and mobile-friendly, and create online and in-store email or promotion campaigns to communicate your new offers through these channels.

3. Use customer feedback to quickly pivot.

Once you’ve set up your feedback system, use it to continuously monitor your business. If customers continue to request items or changes, consider changing your offer immediately. Mollie Stone’s has done this successfully with its Thanksgiving pies by giving customers pie selection options to choose for themselves instead of offering pre-selected fixed flavors.

4. Implement technology to streamline.

Manual processes are laborious and prone to errors; using software that can automate many of these tasks allows you to focus on your core business without being dragged into repetitive and time-consuming administrative tasks.

Produce on the menu

As consumers increasingly seek healthier options in this next phase of the pandemic, including more fruits and vegetables in vacation and daily food retail operations is critical. The WGB asked three experts in the fruit and vegetable industry to share their tips for maximizing output in deli / prepared foods.

Joe Watson, Product Marketing Association (PMA)

1. Select seasonal vegetables as prepared sides that can be packaged for purchase and marketed alongside main courses and include them in the serving area as well to allow customers to select how much they want to purchase. Offering to reheat side dishes prepared for consumption on the spot is another opportunity for retailers.

2. Create a vegetarian / vegan section that will appeal to flexitarians as well. The selection does not need to be large, but rather a targeted group of products that will appeal to mainstream consumers who value these options.

3. An often overlooked opportunity is for the retail restaurant service to partner with the product sourcing team to maximize their collective volume. Product specifications can be a challenge to overcome, but the cost savings can be substantial.

Diana McClean, Senior Marketing Manager, Ocean Mist Farms

1. Add value-added / washed and ready-to-eat (or microwave) fresh produce to the deli / prepared foods section for shoppers looking for quick, balanced and complete meal solutions. Merchandising these items in one place brings them closer together in the store and in the minds of shoppers.

2. Combine value-added products with complementary ingredients to complete the meal. Fresh vegetables aren’t always a side dish, and with the addition of protein, seasonings, or a cereal salad made from the deli, a nutritious meal is just steps away.

3. Keep it simple. Use point-of-sale materials that showcase meal solutions and literally show your customers how easy it is to eat both fresh and healthy.

Megan McKenna, Senior Director of Marketing and Food Services, Watermelon Board

1. Cut the watermelons for the best yield and think of different sizes and shapes to use in dishes to surprise your customers, such as a yogurt parfait with watermelon. Learn how at www.watermelon.org.

2. Use the whole watermelon, including the rind, to reduce food waste and create new sales opportunities in accessible applications like pickles and coleslaw.

3. Although watermelon is an excellent moisturizer at 92% water, to maintain product integrity in prepared foods, consider stacking, skewering, or using more trendy kernels that allow the fruit to fit in one. salad.

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