For as long as I’ve been around the foodservice industry, there’s always been one practical challenge for brands that want to market to operators of restaurants, school cafeterias, nursing homes or any others who manage eating establishments.
No one spot exists where operators can go see most (if not all) the foodservice-worthy products that exist.
Where’s the Wikipedia of Foodservice Products? The Library of Foodservice. The Great Foodservice Product Database in the Sky.
There is no Google-like search just for foodservice products. As great as Google is, try Googling “chicken tenders” (or another foodservice product). You’ll get buried in consumer recipes, videos, retail products and grocery store coupons. Yet, the foodservice products are buried somewhere in the 1.5 million results because Google indexes everything.
Operators are left with trolling through dozens of websites to find that one blueberry muffin product for the breakfast menu? Of course, few do this. Operators usually rely on whatever is stocked in the distributor warehouse they purchase from… even if it’s not the product they want to spec.
Well, Dave Miesse at the Association for Foodservice Distributor Representatives (AFDR) has been trying to crack this code for years. First, through a program called the AFDR Product Library. Even though the library was designed to help DSRs, operators stumble upon it daily because they can search and find products from across multiple brands.
But the catalog has relied on brands providing AFDR with their data and photos — and most importantly links to each product’s respective website page on the brand site. GS1 data won’t work because it doesn’t provide (literally) this one missing link! Needless to say, it’s been a lot of work.
Not anymore. Enter RestaurantProductFinder.com. The outgrowth of AFDR’s efforts is now evolving so it’s easy (and free) to index and find all the foodservice product data out there.
Restaurant Product Finder (RPF) is in beta mode currently with 4,000 searchable products for testing and on track to have 50,000 products by the end of the year. The beauty is brands don’t have to lift a finger to help (unless they want to!). Like Google, Restaurant Product Finder automatically indexes products found on foodservice product sites.
Dave says the goal, however, is to also make RPF a collaborative effort among manufacturers, operators, brokers, distributors… anybody who wants to provide feedback on how to make RPF better. To that end, RPF will hold 30-minute online Town Hall meetings each month to discuss the latest RPF developments and features. You can register here if interested.
Full disclosure… Dave brought me on to help in the endeavor. So, I’m a bit biased on the idea. Dave and I recently discussed the vision behind Restaurant Product Finder… all recorded and summarized in the six-minute podcast above. Enjoy!