Article contributed by CaterTrax
Capturing the (not-so) Captive Audience
The Multi-Vendor Marketplace solution could change the way the non-commercial foodservice industry operates in today’s hospitality ecosystem. The needs of consumers and operators aren’t aligning under the traditional foodservice model, and providers have an opportunity to shift their business model to cast a wider net and regain their foothold with what was once a captive audience.
Simply put, consumers continue to want more options while non-commercial foodservice providers are moving towards standardization. Across every line of business, we are seeing providers slim down and standardize menus across their fleet of sites to streamline production and significantly improve reporting capabilities and accuracy. The “e-commerce customer” knows they have access to everything they want, when they want it through their mobile device and can sometimes miss the added value, like boosted service levels, provided by this increased standardization.
The un-shocking truth is, consumers want more options. When in history have we ever seen that trend going in the opposite direction? Hospitality professionals have long been the yes-men in this equation, going above and beyond to satisfy their customers’ every need. Unfortunately, this relationship isn’t as symbiotic as we’d hope because operators more often than not put themselves out to drive customer satisfaction. So it begs the question – where do these two sides of the spectrum meet in harmony?
The simple solution on the customer-side is to take their business elsewhere, knowing that if the onsite provider doesn’t have what they’re looking for, they can find another option without leaving their desk. The good news: despite digitally expanded accessibility, consumers as a whole don’t seem more inclined to shop around. They are seeking centralized locations that aggregate the options giving foodservice providers an opportunity to create an online marketplace that will help them maintain their status as the go-to resource for their customer’s foodservice needs.
The concept of an online marketplace is not a new one – think Amazon, eBay, Airbnb and dozens more. The retail industry is used to trends like this shaking up how they do business, but as consumer behavior continues to fuel the marketplace mindset, it is beginning to slide into industries, like foodservice.
The commercial foodservice industry adopted a similar concept with ordering platforms like GrubHub and Seamless Order. These platforms have been helping retail establishments connect with what used to be the captive audiences of non-commercial operators in healthcare facilities, colleges and universities, businesses and industries, and so on.
A marketplace expands offerings past what any establishment could offer themselves. Foodservice providers can complement their menus with other establishments with a Multi-Vendor Marketplace to expand offerings while improving customer satisfaction. A marketplace solution becomes the optimal point for maximizing benefits for both operators and customers alike and puts control in the hands of the foodservice provider.
Control the Food Court: The Multi-Vendor Marketplace
For the non-commercial foodservice industry, a Multi-Vendor Marketplace looks a lot like a digital food court. The foodservice provider facilitates the food court and is in control of how it operates and all the business that flows in and out of it. When CaterTrax deployed Multi-Vendor Marketplace Solutions, they found it gave the client control over external establishments, resulting in an improved experience for the client, customers, and vendors. The client was then able to provide secure payment processing and facilitate the order to ensure all of the requirements for doing business on the campus were met.
The marketplace concept is a strategic way to collaborate with competitors that would otherwise siphon business. The foodservice operator can control transactions with external vendors, recognizing additional revenue while vendors can streamline business processes with a newly accessible market. When outside establishments operate outside the “food court” or marketplace, business filters out of the centralized location as customers seek out other options and move towards competitors and it is almost impossible for the foodservice provider to ensure vendors are following regulations. By establishing a Multi-Vendor Marketplace, the foodservice provider can manage the captive audience.
The Mechanics of a Good Multi-Vendor Marketplace
Non-commercial foodservice providers are in a unique position to deploy a Multi-Vendor Marketplace solution because the non-commercial operator owns the relationship with the institution and can provide more access to the target audience than a retail platform like GrubHub or Seamless Order can. The non-commercial foodservice provider should focus on maintaining and strengthening this relationship when deploying a Multi-Vendor Marketplace solution.
For the non-commercial foodservice provider, facilitating ordering with external vendors already reduces a significant amount of friction for all parties. It will be important for providers to deploy a solution that is straightforward and supportive.
One of the best things a marketplace solution can do is build trust. Foodservice providers are hospitality professionals, not marketplaces. If you deploy a marketplace, remember that your unique brand of hospitality is still at the forefront of everything you do. You are NOT just a marketplace and your customers are still YOUR customers. Leverage the control you have to ensure their experience is always to your standards. When you focus on fostering trust, your customers will have trust in you.
When something goes awry, you have the power to step in and ensure things are handled effectively. This is something that you’re unable to do when your customers are ordering through unapproved vendors that you have no control over. Take advantage of this opportunity to make sure all sides of the relationship stay happy and healthy.