Becoming A Knowledge Factory
Operators of restaurants and foodservices today face a plethora of challenges ranging from the weak economy and customers’ need to minimize their dining out expenditures to the growing necessity of mastering social media marketing and adapting programs to include online transactions. Add in consumers’ demands for nutrition information, transparency and ever-wider menu diversity, and it’s easy to realize that operators require more support and education than ever before. This difficult situation, however, is creating new opportunities for providers of foodservice equipment and supplies.
For tears, equipment manufacturers, dealers, reps and service agents have provided customer service telephone hot lines to help operators faced with product failures, emergency parts replacements and rush orders. Some firms in the equipment distribution channel have progressed to online support by dedicating customer service personnel to their web sites. Web-based product configuration functions, though still rare, have begun to appear alongside e-commerce capabilities. These all represent enhancements in equipment suppliers’ ability to support end-users, but with operators information requirements continuing to expand, are manufacturers, distributors, salespeople and servicers doing enough to be considered reliable partners and solution providers?
It is our contention that the answer is no, that still more resources should be applied to ensuring that restaurateurs and foodservice operators are offered the tools and information they must have to respond to diners’ desires and expectations. Suppliers and sales organizations should become proactive, reaching out to existing and prospective customers to gather data on the issues they’re facing and to suggest different courses of remedial action.
Training customer support staff to educate equipment end-users about key industry trends, emerging technologies, new communication strategies and marketing programs can elevate suppliers above competitors in the opinion of operators. This is especially important because our industry already has too many companies offering nearly identical ovens, refrigerators, dish machines, ice makers, storage equipment and the like. What we lack are firms that recognize that filling information gaps is just as essential to business success as selling products that provide necessary kitchen applications. Equipment makers have excellent reasons to operate as knowledge factories, as well as product manufacturers.