Foodservice distributors sell more than food

Sept. 19, 2004

Any operator will tell you that the beauty of dealing with a broadline foodservice distributor is the simplicity of one-stop shopping. Fewer calls to make means the operator can get back to running the pizzeria sooner.

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SYSCO Corporation

Four years ago, Houston-based SYSCO took the one-call-covers-all notion a step further by collecting a host of restaurant operator service providers under the banner of iCare. The company reasoned that if operators appreciate getting their food and paper goods from one vendor, maybe they'd also want to buy services for human resources, credit card terminals, advertising assistance, Web site development, lending, music and payroll management.

"We are a food distributor first, but we wanted to provide services beyond just dropping the product off at the back door," said Brian Moore, SYSCO senior manager of brand development. "We want to partner with our customers to help make them successful, and that includes offering them products or services they feel they don't have time to look for."

Not to mention services that independent operators may think they can't afford, like custom radio advertising or menu layout and development.

"Just about every pizzeria you go to has the standard tri-fold menu listing everything they sell," Moore began. "The menu design service they can get through iCare analyzes their menus and improves their layout. Rather than having everything in lists, they can help guide where to place different items so they sell better."

Show me

James Tackett owns and operates East End Pizza in Paintsville, Ky. He first learned about iCare through his SYSCO rep, but said he really got an eyeful when he visited a regional SYSCO show.

Service Partners

· Amazing Mail — postcards
· IA Media Partners — advertising assistance
· NPI — in-restaurant promotions
· Focus Marketing — menu design and development
· CNS/FoodSafe — food safety audits
· The Education Interface — online training
· Environmental Biotech — drain line management
· ServeSafe — food safety
· Tariff Affiliates — utilities and phone savings
· Micros Systems — POS systems
· Ecolab — pest elimination
· Dynamic Payment Ventures — credit card processing
· Credentrust — financial services

"Being able to take it all in at one show is a big help," said Tackett, who now uses iCare's Dynamic Payment Ventures' credit card service.

"I'd been using some fly-by-night credit card company who said they'd give me a good deal, but I had nothing but trouble with them. I gave the iCare company a try, and it turned out that it's been very easy and completely trouble free."

He's also studying two iCare marketing services, Amazing Mail (direct mail producer) and radio advertising produced by IA Media Partners, as well as a POS system through iCare.

"The mailing service sounds really easy, if all I have to do is give them the zip codes and they'll do all the rest," said Tackett. "The local radio stations here do a pretty good job of making ads for me, but they never really sound like I want them to sound — like what I hear in my head and on the radio. Maybe this other company can do a better job."

Tackett may sign up for more services if he can make it to the next SYSCO show in Lexington, Ky.

"I really like having all those options in one place, but the show's on the first day of the month, which is a bad one for me," he said, laughing. "I guess it's something I might not want to miss."

Topics: Marketing , Operations Management , POS

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