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Is Your Computer Indispensable?

“Either a computer will become an indispensable part of your business, or you will become a dispensable part of business.” Fortune Magazine

This article appeared in The Restaurateur published by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington for its members. The article goes on to say, “If there is even a partial truth to this statement, why then the slow acceptance in the foodservice field?”

Did you miss this article? Does this sound familiar, “Today, and in the immediate future, the foodservice industry is faced with a range of problems and pressures that are changing, and will continue to change the structure of this very important segment of our national economy.” OK, I had to go into the archives of the Association to find the article that was written by John Sullivan of the National Cash Register Company in the September 1969 issue.

What follows is an overview of three companies looking to make your restaurant indispensable in 2013. It’s for you to decide if their technology is right for your business at this moment. It’s for you to take a close look at the computer that once was housed in a large temperature controlled room and has evolved though the desktop, the PC and now down to the tablet, mini tablet and now the smartphone … in the hands of the owner, the employee, the customer.

FOODEM.COM 2.0

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FOODSERVICE DISTRIBUTION

In 2009 Foodservice Monthly reported on Kash Rehman’s startup company “eFoodDistribution.com.” Rehman at that time believed a shift on the paradigm in food distribution could bring together the buyers and sellers on a single platform.

Since our first story Rehman has tweaked, revised and rebuilt his platform and made a major breakthrough with his new foodservice product foodem.com. In discussing the idea with potential vendors, Rehman had to frame the paradigm shift by supplying a convenient competitive system that in some ways takes away from the person one-on-one relationship of buyer and seller – more intensive in foodservice than in other industries.

His major funding breakthrough has come in 2013 with his Foodem.com 2.0 with the investment of $600,000 in angel funding. Foodem 2.0 provides users with a seamless food purchasing and selling experience because it implements price transparency, enables efficient ordering processes, and generates complete analytical reporting.

Impressed by the company’s revolutionary wholesale marketplace model, some of the Metropolitan D.C. area’s top food distributors have joined the platform, such as Belair Produce, Inc., Capital Meat Company, Fells Point Wholesale Meats, H&S Bakery, Metropolitan Meat, Seafood and Poultry and Profish. JR Paterakis with H&S Bakery sees the future in not only adding an online ordering system but also adding new customers at a cost less than the typical “on the street” salesperson. He sees it as a win-win situation with low risk. He seeks a seamless purchase model with transparency and privacy. Foodem.com is committed to that next step.

Since launching in a closed beta in November 2010, Foodem has united small to mid‐size food distributors, specialty food manufacturers and local farms directly with wholesale food buyers. “After working for years in the food industry, both as an operator and as a distributor, I knew first‐hand the inefficiencies of the current system, and I realized that technology was the obvious way to address these issues,” said Rehman. “We provide a user‐friendly, online option that expands opportunities for food sellers and reduces the ordering burden for food buyers.”

When Foodservice Monthly sees restaurants like RAMMY New Restaurant of the Year Mintwood Place with a recent FSM cover story on chef/partner Cedric Maupillier’s signing up, it looks like the 2.0 advances have traction in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers. FSM looks forward to covering the continued progress and measured results of its market success of foodem.com.

GiftRocker.com

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GiftRocker wallet

Alexander Robertson and his partners at GiftRocker.com look to revolutionize the gift certificate market … and more.

How it works: GiftRocker allows restaurateurs to sell gift certificates on their website and in-store. The online selling pages carry their graphics and colors keeping your brand in the spotlight. You see it’s all about the brand, your brand taking center stage. Once purchased, the gift certificates are automatically sent to your customers via email or to their iPhone if they use the GiftRocker wallet.

Money collected during the sale is deposited via ACH into your bank account.

The in-store gift cards are sold via your iPhone Shopkeeper app. The GiftRocker offering is less expensive than traditional plastic cards, eco-friendly and a ton more versatile. This may be going too fast for many restaurateurs … too far out of the box. Take a deep breath and look at their website. Look at the competitors who are taking the first step into the future. Give them a call: Liberty Tavern, Lebanese Taverna, Tony & Joes, RIS, Pizzeria Orso …

The future can be expanded to digital funds with your logo, not a dead president and event ticketing at your restaurant. You hear the terms every day … passbooks and wallets on smartphones. It’s worth a look in a smart business.

Swipely

Swipely

Swipely

With a name like Swipely, it doesn’t take much to guess the angle they come at you with as a restaurateur … the dreaded credit card processor. Dreaded in the sense that the world of credit card processing is a maze of unclear charges, ambiguity, mistrust, high rates and lawsuits.

Swipely comes in from the credit card processing side, but with major differences … they claim they will clean up your billing, explain your rate structure in language you can understand and then take the information that is available in the credit card transaction and turn it into a marketing gem for your team. Statistics can show that over 80 percent of sales in restaurants come from the plastic card … gift, credit or debit.

Swipely sent me to a customer Jennifer Motruk Loy, marketing representative for Farmers Fishers Bakers and Founding Farmers. She showed me how the information mined from every credit transaction can tell you how much each guest spends, how much they tip, when they visit and it’s all part of the information supplied by Swipely as they handle the money end for you.

Loy can track busy time segments, useful in scheduling as well as how to allocate marketing dollars and generate new ideas to boost sales when needed. A loyalty system can be created to reward the repeat customer.

Are you looking to become indispensable? I’ve given you three distinct options that not even NCR in 1969 could dream of … but they knew the endgame: be indispensable or become dispensable.

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Wshington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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