With consumer-oriented restaurant Web sites often grabbing most of the media attention in the foodservice industry, it's easy to forget that important business-to-business interactions are also occurring online further up the supply chain. But research consultants at Technomic turned their attention to foodservice manufacturers' sites, and asked their customers about their experience using them.
 
Manufacturers' Web sites are visited regularly by restaurant operators, distributor sales representatives and foodservice brokers, providing excellent opportunities to impact these customers' impressions of doing business with a particular supplier. A food manufacturer's site, if done well, was shown to positively influence decisions on integrating specific products into restaurant menus.
 
On the flip side, top complaints among manufacturers' customers often centered on issues of inadequate or hard-to-find information. Among the pet peeves frequently mentioned:
 
Inadequate product information. "Suppliers can make life difficult if they don't provide complete nutritional information, ingredients, cooking instructions and other important product details."
 
Hard to find. "It can be extremely frustrating to know that a manufacturer carries a product that can't be found on their site, either due to poor navigation or search capabilities."
 
Lack of assistance. "Suppliers should make it easier to connect quickly with a sales associate or a customer service representative by providing complete contact information."
 
"Some suppliers really stood out as having intuitive, user-friendly sites, but respondents noted that others are really missing the mark. The bottom line is that people are pressed for time and want a manufacturer's Web site to make their job easier – and if it doesn't, they are less likely to visit again," said Melissa Wilson, Technomic principal. "Given the cost associated with building a site, it's essential that suppliers really understand how they can meet their customers' needs to get the best return on their Web site investment."

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