Food marketers often forget about the real competition

We food marketers love to talk about our products’ extraordinary virtues — especially when diplomatically dissing our competitor’s inferior products.  We live for “cuttings” to show how our frozen asparagus isn’t a mushy mess once thawed out — like the next guy’s offering.

But studying features and benefits is low on the list of concerns for the typical cafeteria manager or restaurant owner.  The real contest isn’t against your evil competitor’s product, it’s…


Reality slapped me in the face again during a recent video shoot at a restaurant location.  The chef and I were wrapping up when a sales rep walks in.  She interrupts our conversation to say she’s been wanting to talk to the chef about her new line of wine.

The chef politely but firmly told her to grab his card and email him to set up an appointment.

“That happens about 100 times every week,” the chef said rolling his eyes.

And when the chef isn’t fending off ill-prepared sales reps, he’s cooking three dishes simultaneously.  Or talking to customers.  Or paying a bill.  Or sitting — briefly — for a video shoot :>)

In other words, your biggest marketing competition is TIME (or lack thereof).  Some considerations:

  • Conversation starters. People who run food joints want to hear ideas on how to make their place more profitable or run better.  They’ll find time if you can arm your sales team around those topics.  More blueberries per muffin is great.  Helping develop an LTO to sell more muffins is better.
  • Avoid time distractions. The days of “reach and frequency” via constant pushing of generic ads, emails and mailers are over.  Operators like the chef mentioned above have developed an internal radar that dismisses self-serving promotions.  Which means…     
  • It’s all about him or her. They want to hear about others (like him or her ) who’ve developed a cool concept.  Or watch a quick video on increasing appetizer sales at their tavern.  Or learn a secret trick that will reduce their detergent costs regardless of the brand they use.

Time is the commodity operators not only want, but need.  So, how are you going to increase the value of time for the operator you’re trying to reach?