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5 surprising things foodservice marketers should know about operators

Marketing is forever evolving – but there are a few constants we’ve learned after 25 years of working in foodservice advertising. Read on for 5 surprising things marketers should know about foodservice operators.

1. They don’t necessarily know who you are.

An operator’s day-to-day is busy and full of variety – from developing menus to fit their patrons’ tastes, to meeting with distributors, and making sure their operation is well-staffed and profitable – they have a lot on their plates. Even if they’re interested in interacting with someone other than just their broker or distributor, searching for manufacturers’ websites isn’t at the top of their to-do list. So, while it’s valuable to have great resources for operators on your website, it’s even more vital to find ways to establish direct-to-operator relationships so they’ll know to look to you as a resource and partner. Make sure you’re using tools like paid search, emails and digital campaigns to drive them to your website.

2. Email isn’t always the best way to reach them.

You might think that your offer or new product is so exciting that it’ll incite an operator to act the first time they see it in their email inbox, but unfortunately that’s rarely the case. According to the “Rule of 7,” your prospects need to come across your offer at least seven times before they even notice it and take action. Put yourself in front of operators in a variety of ways, multiple times. Embrace social media, email, print, direct mail and even tradeshows to establish a presence in operators’ busy headspace. Their days are full of variety – checking their phones for orders, helping out in the kitchen, interacting with patrons and brokers – so your communication should be as well.

3. They aren’t usually searching for “foodservice recipes.”

Creating recipes centered on your products is energizing for brands, but it’s not necessarily where foodservice operators look for inspiration. In fact, we often hear from operators that they are looking to the Food Network, Pinterest, their favorite bloggers and even their own grandma for their recipe research. Operators are skilled at adapting recipes to work in a foodservice setting. Instead of curating a slew of recipes for your products, consider shifting your focus more to recipe inspiration or creative ways of solving problems operators face, such as how they can menu one product multiple ways.

4. They care more about clean label than you think.

Operations that market themselves as healthy and clean are clearly committed to splurging on clean label products. While not every operation falls under this category, that doesn’t mean that the remaining operators aren’t interested in buying clean label. In our research with operators, even those who don’t emphasize these clean attributes on their menu are still interested in these products – simply because they care about the quality of ingredients and integrity of the cooking process. More times than not, they are willing to pay the extra price for a high-quality, clean product for reasons beyond their consumers simply demanding it.

5. They are always willing to try samples.

Even in the busiest of times, operators ensure that they are offering their patrons the best products on the market. So, when there’s an opportunity to test new menu items, they definitely will, especially if you make it easy for them. Given the nature of their business, operators are hands-on learners – willing to jump in as needed, create in the kitchen and run all aspects of their business. Sending free product samples is a sure way for them to experience your product and decide for themselves.

Looking to grow your foodservice business? With nearly 25 years in B2B food marketing, we bring expertise and experience to heat up your sales. Contact Anita Nelson directly at 612-353-3410 or

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