Innovative Strategies: Three elements of growth
Industry veteran and longtime Canadian Vending columnist David Murphy weighs in on the areas of growth where large vending and OCS operations often fall short and smaller operations can gain an edge.
It has been five years since my exit from the foodservice profession. After having immersed myself in the building of a business, I found retirement challenging at first. But my lifelong partner at home and work kept me grounded while we raised four children. We now have four wonderful grandchildren.
Over the years as I keep in touch with many of my old friends. There have been lots of changes, yet many things have stayed the same. Five years did not change snacks, sandwiches, drinks or coffee, but there are more products and different modes of delivery.
The biggest change I’ve noticed since retiring is the huge explosion of the coffee market. I’ve seen it not only with the K-Cups but all of our comfort spots like Tim Hortons and McDonald’s where great specialty products and incentives (I tear the sticker) have increased sales. The single-cup revolution is now part of our lives and not only in homes. If a business, service provider or even your hotel does not have a single-cup machine, they now seem behind the times. This was a product that they tried to control, but after several lawsuits and harsh letters to suppliers, it just surpassed everyone’s expectations. These days the issue with the cup is not growth but the serious environment issue.
Product delivery has become a little more sophisticated, but the mode of payment in vending is much more diverse with many changes in smartphone technology over the past five years. Equipment now delivers a very wide spectrum of products but is still a long way from other countries. As some vending companies have increased sales through competitor purchasing, there always will be room for the mom-and-pop back-door operators. Most products are universal but the format is the still the same today: service is the key to success and this will never change.
To me the three elements of growth that never change are professionalism, education and service. Every small or medium operator can not only complete using this formula but also grow its business because 95 per cent of the large, multi-million-dollar operations in vending and office coffee service fails in one or more of these three pillars.
If you look like a professional, talk like a professional and act like a professional, you are now on your way. Large or small, most products on the market today are available to operators of all sales volumes. Research into the difference in purchasing margins may just surprise you: it is not much more than a 10 per cent.
So this is where the second key – education – comes in. Take advantage of the information that is available online. With a little time spent researching, you now have first-hand knowledge equal to anyone’s on the latest equipment and products. When companies acquire their competitors, it is not uncommon for them to lose between 25 and 35 per cent of their business in the first year and sometimes even more.
You may possess professionalism and education, but if you are beginning a new foodservice career or even seeking additional growth, the third element – service – helps you keep what you have and also gives you a good reputation. I have always found that immediate followup with a personal message will buy you reasonable amount of time to fix a problem. Customers just want to know you are personally reacting. Research everything you can about your clients and the individual customers as well. I know time is a factor, but I encourage you to get involved in your local community through sports, service clubs or the chamber of commerce. This is all part of the service to your customers and the community at large. Beyond that, it just feels good.
I still believe that, with research, opportunities in the vending profession are endless. Keep in mind an adage from motivational speaker Wayne Dyer: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
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