Year in Review- 2013

Like most people with a new calendar year starting, we too have been looking back and reflecting on what we set out to accomplish in 2013 and evaluating what we were able to pull off in an ever changing business environment. Check out our INFOGRAPHIC that proudly highlights some of our accomplishments.

We are proud to be approaching our 10th anniversary for being incorporated in August, 2014. Our employees we call family; we now have more than seventy family members based out of Rochester, NY. They serve more than 5,000 clients across more than 2,500 accounts in the U.S. and Canada. Our clients processed close to $1B in Catering and Take-Out orders this past year.

Here is what some were predicting for 2013, we thought they got a few right – what do you think?

  1. Vegetables take a star turn- We saw many café and catering menus that highlighted farm fresh, local produce as main entrees and side dishes. Regardless of the industry, customers were asking for seasonal freshness.
  2. Great Grains- Polenta and couscous have been popular, but we saw even more menu items featuring quinoa.
  3. Chicken Surprise- Been around seemingly forever as main staples in buffets and sandwiches, new recipe twists were predicted with chickens. We did not see any large increase in new styles for chicken. Did we get it wrong? Did you have a new crowd pleaser? Let us hear what is popular from your menu.
  4. Snacking Nation- Who doesn’t love a mid-morning, afternoon or Tapas for lunch or dinner. This predicted trend is true and we saw many menus add in more varieties for snack size options.

So what are some saying is in store for 2014?

  1. Health Driven Dishes- not a new trend, but customers are looking for added health benefits for their diets and are still seeking our protein packed grains and local farm fresh produce.
  2. Grazing is still Growing- another trend that is continuing to gain momentum. “The small plates phenomenon … has been huge,” Ms. Kruse said. “For a customer who’s maybe a little bit unsure about (an item) and would like to give it a test run, these are nice small bites — controlled-portion, controlled-calorie, cost-controlled and really day part flexible, as well.”
  3. Technology Interface Revolution- a trend we are happy to see prevalent in the news. Many cafés are looking to cut wait times and offer loyalty programs, which are all possible with our application. Learn why our clients choose and refer us to their peers.

Happy New Year to our clients that deliver the best hospitality and the freshest dishes! Thank you for choosing CaterTrax, the technology to run your multiple-location foodservice businesses. We appreciate your loyalty to us and look forward to serving you our best in 2014.

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Has the Thanksgiving Dinner Menu changed very much since 1779?

According to a letter written by Juliana Smith to her cousin Betsey, this is what was served in New England for Thanksgiving dinner in 1779:

This blog post set out to be a bit of a history lesson about Thanksgiving dinner, but I was able to quickly find multiple recipes for what dear Juliana Smith prepared for dinner in 1779. It would seem our modern day menus have maintained their roots in tradition centuries later.  Click on the links above to see recipes for the 1779 dinner.

Join in on the conversation; we have been asking questions on our Face Book page about what people are planning on their menus. We are planning on randomly selecting a TRAXER and sending them a local food treat in honor of how thankful we are to have great clients!

Don’t fret if you are among the group of hosts and hostess that has not had time to plan their menu Maybe you just need some inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards to get your inspiration for side dishes with a twist. Don’t forget about dessert! I know in my
house pumpkin pie is something they ask me not to mess with, but there is a
Pinterest board dedicated to Thanksgiving dessert recipes with a twist. No
matter what you serve next week, it is likely similar to the menu in 1779. Food
brings friends and families together- enjoy it!

 

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Made to Order

In foodservice we didn’t sell packaged food, so it never occurred to us to sell our technology that way. Naturally we had a menu in our catering days, but customers often viewed that as a guideline.

Today we have web-based solutions for our clients to choose from that are flexible and configurable (think type of bread or condiments on a sandwich) and designed to work together (add a salad or dessert to the sandwich). And these work well for most of our clients. But some clients need us to go beyond the standard features, so we offer add-ons, managed services, and professional services (creating a custom menu for a special event).

Improving lives

Popular add-ons and services such as credit card gateways, graphic design, and interfaces may seem to stray from our core product, foodservice management technology, but they are key to our core mission—improving life for caterers and foodservice operators. We accommodate our clients’ needs because we understand that a rooms management add-on or a back-office accounting integration will make running their business easier, just as a custom menu will make a customer’s event more memorable.

Service as a Software

When we made the decision to leverage our foodservice history and experience to create an online technology system, we kept our hospitality roots intact. In fact, our family catering and restaurant tradition, going back over a century, is still very much alive today. That’s why our approach to technology is focused on service and our clients.

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Life-changing catering software

Our core mission is to improve the lives of caterers and foodservice operators. That goal is the driving force behind everything from product development to platform enhancements. Our most popular product is our Catering Solution, which makes sense as the test kitchen for the TRAX Platform recipe was our own family catering operation.

Many of the rave reviews from our TRAXERS are specifically about their experience with Catering and the impact it has on their business.

“A big plus for our business”

As Michael Murphy, General Manager of a catering operation put it, “I am a big fan of CaterTrax and it has been a big plus for our business. It enabled us to streamline our catering and be more consistent across our divisions. I love the tools for tracking sales and changes and the ease of changing menus.”

Our Catering Solution makes chaos a thing of the past, giving operators more control over their businesses. The robust backend of the system creates efficiency, improves employee morale, and helps managers make informed business decisions—all of which help increase customer satisfaction and profits. The customer-facing frontend helps clients promote their businesses and adds convenience for their customers, giving them more control over the ordering process. It’s like getting two software packages in one!

“Greatly improved our efficiency”

As Christine Peraino, Operations Manager at a hospital catering operation put it, “The CaterTrax program has greatly improved our efficiency. In the past we missed catering events, not anymore!  I like the streamlining of available items and the fact that customers are able to be more interactive with their orders.”

We love hearing from our clients; specifically we love hearing that our software is helping them run their businesses. It’s even better when we have the opportunity to meet with them and hear their stories. Recently we had the chance to speak with Anita Daniels, Catering Manager for an on-site catering operation at a large corporate office. She relived the bad old days—spending hours on the phone, chasing pieces of paper, and apologizing to customers when something eventually went wrong.

“Everything is easier”

All that changed when the Catering Solution was implemented at her location. As she put it, “Everything is easier with CaterTrax. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” Our software improved her time and order management, freeing her up to focus on providing excellent food and service. To learn more about Anita’s experience with CaterTrax, read our case study.

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We’ve made managing take-out easier than ever

The take-out industry may focus on customer convenience, but we had more than that in mind as we developed new enhancements to our Take-Out Solution. Our goal is to make offering take out easier for café operators, allowing them to capitalize on a multibillion dollar industry, increase profitability, and extend customer reach.

New enhancements to our Take-Out Solution

Take-Out Solution makes take out convenient for both customers and operators, offering order management and online ordering as well as mobile, social media, text messaging, and printer options. Today marks the formal release of new enhancements that increase the messaging capabilities and allow foodservice operators to print to multiple devices.

More printing options

Kitchen Printer, an optional add-on to the solution, allows operators to print a kitchen order for the cook and a customer receipt for the to-go container. This flexible solution even allows clients to configure when orders will print and to which printer based on when the food is due.

Now foodservice operators can route orders to specific food stations for each take-out order. For example, if a customer order was spread between a pizza station and a salad station, the printer at each station would get the appropriate part of the order. This feature increases the speed and accuracy with which orders are prepared, saving time for staff and increasing customer satisfaction.

Increased messaging capabilities

The new enhancements also provide more messaging capabilities. The mobile-friendly Take-Out Solution allows for order confirmation emails and text messages. Operators can now send automated email and text messages to let customers know when their orders are ready for pick up. This feature frees up staff to move on to the next order while ensuring customers pick up freshly prepared meals.

And these are just the latest enhancements. To learn more about what Take-Out Solution can do for you, contact us at 1(800) 975-TRAX.

 

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Online ordering that works for you

Last week we took a look at online ordering aggregators and asked the question: what’s in it for operators?  Other than giving customers an online ordering option—not much.

Aggregators are only concerned with customer convenience. When it comes to online ordering, you’re much better off having a website of your own. Not only won’t you be competing for screen time and giving away a cut of each order, but you’ll also reap the benefits of having your own online ordering solution.

Give customers control over the order process

Customers don’t just want online ordering, they expect it. With an ordering solution like Catering or Take-Out, they also get control over their orders. From their customer accounts they can manage their current and past orders. These features allow your customers to place, change, and track orders anytime, so you’ll no longer be swamped by phone calls or bogged down by pieces of paper.

As one of our clients put it, “Our customers love the fact that they can look up past orders or place a new order right on the CaterTrax website. We will get several new orders a day without having to take their order which saves us time and money.”

Customer convenience is just the tip of the ice berg

As the cliché suggests, the customer-facing ordering site should just be the visible portion of a much larger system. Our clients like their ordering websites, but they love the backend of their CaterTrax Solution. Not only can they see all of the orders placed through their website, but they can also easily manage their calendar to keep the kitchen running smoothly.

Unlike aggregators, our mission is to improve the lives of foodservice operators. That’s why we’ve packed our solutions with features like dynamic calendar views, color-coded order status pins, and the live invoice monitor to help our clients manage their day, week, and month for everything from staffing to supplies. Features like these help you increase accuracy and efficiency, which impact customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

To quote another happy client, “The tools CaterTrax offers have been a huge time saver for me. The old way required us to re-type information every time an order detail changed. With this system, my staff AND my customers get instant confirmation any time an order changes. Now everything is automatic which means fewer mistakes!”

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Aggregators don’t cater to you

Are you familiar with online ordering aggregators? Sites like GrubHub and CaterCow offer a one-stop shop for thousands of restaurants and caterers. That may be convenient for consumers, but what’s in it for operators?

Just another dish at a buffet

When a consumer visits an aggregator, they start by entering their location. From there, dozens (if not hundreds) of options appear. Consumers can then sort by type of food, price, location, and rating. If your establishment is lucky enough to appear in the filtered results, you may still be one of ten or more on a page.

It’s easy to get swallowed up or shoved aside. These sites require operators to standardize their pricing, photos, descriptions, and delivery options. The goal is to have every caterer and restaurant fit the mold and display uniformly on their site. Because what it comes down to is aggregators are catering to their customers—at the expense of the operator.

A piece of your pie

Aggregators make money off the orders placed through their sites. Restaurants and caterers are losing 14% or more on every order placed. In theory, just being on one of these sites should increase the number of orders you receive, somewhat offsetting the costs. But in reality, you’re one of many establishments on a crowded website. And even if you get the orders, you’re losing out on the deal.

Instead of reaping the rewards of online ordering, many etablishments are feeling the pinch. As one operator put it in a recent article, “It’s awesome if you’re a customer. It’s great, but in all aspects it’s killing the restaurants. It’s a model that cannot be sustained.”

No cake walk

Even with the goal of convenience, aggregators can leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth. Sometimes the site can’t always find an address and then won’t let the user place an order. I have personal experience here. When trying to place a large order with a local burrito place, I got booted when the site didn’t recognize my address. Other times orders aren’t promptly relayed to operators, resulting in frustrating delays. Or worse, the orders never go through at all.

Orders probably go through seamlessly much of the time, but why put something as important as customer experience in someone else’s hands? When things go right and orders turn out perfectly, the compliments to the chef are often misplaced, with the rave reviews landing on a third-party webpage.

It’s all about presentation

Having a web presence is essential these days, but it’s critical that you be in charge of your image and your brand. Don’t let your business be just another item on someone else’s menu. If appearing on an aggregator’s website is a part of your presence, then it should only be as a side dish. The main course should be an ordering site of your own; where you control the pricing, photos, descriptions, and delivery options. After all, it’s your business and they’re your customers.

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Service as Software

Before we got into the software business, we were hardworking foodservice professionals. Our experience in the hospitality industry (four generations of it) taught us that customer satisfaction is critical to the success of any business. Knowing who your customers are, understanding their individual needs, and keeping them happy are a way of life in this industry.

TRAX Platform began as a way to run our own catering operation more smoothly. We became more accurate and efficient, both key to delivering great products and services—and keeping customers satisfied. It became apparent that we had something really great and we decided to shift gears and start CaterTrax, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company.

At our core, we’re still hospitality people. Ours is not the story of a software company uncovering a need in the marketplace. We’re foodservice people who found a better way to run a catering business. That’s why we’re so focused on our clients and the client experience. We take the Service part of the SaaS industry very seriously—it’s central to how we run our business.

We’re here to serve you

The majority of our employees are part of the Client Services team. From menus to support, we’re all here to serve our clients. Our core objective is to improve the lives of caterers and foodservice operators. And from the feedback we’ve been getting from our TRAXERS, it looks like we’re achieving our goal.

“CaterTrax customer service is the absolute best! Your team is great; in particular, Amanda Sharpe has been so patient with us and always so helpful. Thanks so much!” – Julia Capron, Catering Team Leader

“I love the customer service, prompt responses, and follow up is amazing!” – Amanda Taylor, Administrator

“The Client Services team turnaround time exceeded any expectations I had and I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate it! “Exceeding Expectations” – that really should be you and your company’s tag line. Thank you so much again! It is this kind of Customer Service and consistent examples of excellence that would propel any company forward.” – Bill Benson, CFO

“The Support staff is phenomenal! They’re always pleasant and take care of things immediately. Thank you!” -  Sabrina Corbett, Unit Manager

Our commitment to customer service shapes the way we structure our teams, our consultative approach to designing custom solutions, and our decision to offer comprehensive, life-long training and support to our clients.

 

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Don’t take our word for it

When it comes to our most popular features, you don’t have to look much further than our TRAXER page to see why our clients love them. In March we reviewed what a survey revealed to be our top five features and we gave you an earful (or is it eyeful?) on the value of each. Now, on the heels of a new survey, it’s time for us to let our clients do the talking. Affectionately referred to as TRAXERS, our clients have a lot to say.

#1 Online Ordering

“Online ordering is more efficient and helps us manage our budgets.” – Edie Loire, Corporate Services Manager

 “CaterTrax has simplified the ordering process for the guest and the back of house for our administrative staff.” – Lebert Abreo, General Manager

“It has helped with communication when ordering. The order tracking feature is great.” – Tomicki Pierson, Administrative Assistant

“The option of ordering meals online and having them ready at lunch is a positive experience for customers.” – Gail Porter, Manager

#2 Calendar Views

“We are able to use the tool to forecast for upcoming months and update weekly. We can adjust our labor appropriately based on our catering needs by just glancing at the calendar feature.” – Bobbi Garland, Unit Manager

“I love having CaterTrax! I can glance at the month’s caterings and know what we need to order, etc. It has made people more aware.” – Manager

#3 Kitchen Sheets

We recently completed a case study focusing on how CaterTrax solutions have helped a Catering Manager at a busy on-site catering operation increase accuracy and efficiency. Here is an excerpt from that study that highlights the positive impact this feature is having.

Online orders automatically populate TRAX Platform calendars and generate corresponding kitchen sheets and invoices. Dynamic calendars allow staff to easily see the orders for the day, week, or month. Kitchen sheets make every order clear, ensuring they are prepped on time and to specifications. And editable invoices save time on billing while ensuring every item is billed correctly.

#4 Editable Invoices

“CaterTrax saves me a tremendous amount of time with billing at the end of the week.” – Deb Jenkins, General Manager

“Our monthly accounting of floor stock and catering had improved via accurate and timely billing.” – Robert Bradford, General Manager

#5 Reports

“CaterTrax is an easy system to help you be organized get reports and sales. Love it!” – Bookkeeper

“CaterTrax solutions have streamlined data hunts and search requirements for our team.  We simply search for past events, history, and sales reports.  CaterTrax takes the stress, delays, and time investment out of our routine.” – Director of Catering & Sales

A way of life

With the latest influx of feedback, we’re finding that many of our clients love their CaterTrax solution so much that they never want to give it up.

“I love it! I had never used it before this job, but don’t ever want to go back to the old-fashioned way.” – Kraig Wiant, General Manager

“I refuse to run any account as a General Manager that does not have CaterTrax. It’s just too much work to have to manually do invoices, orders, and etc. I love CaterTrax!” – Monique Rys, General Manager

“Your team is very quick to respond; and the changes throughout the system are excellent! I have used CaterTrax at my past accounts and when I arrived at my present account I requested it the first week I was here. It’s a great tool—it makes me more productive at my job.” – Jason Cook, General Manager

“Everything is easier with CaterTrax. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” – Anita Daniels, Catering Supervisor

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Meet our Training Team

No matter how user-friendly a software application is, without training and reference materials you’re probably not getting the most out of it.

That’s why we offer every client a 90 minute webinar training session with one of our specially trained representatives. Before any CaterTrax site goes live, we take the time to “sit down” in a virtual environment; this is where we get into the nitty-gritty of functionality. We even offer one complimentary 30 minute webinar training session to educate their customers on the online ordering system.

High-quality Training Talent

Our Training Team is here to teach our clients the ins and outs of their custom solution, ensuring they get the most out of it from day one. Collectively the team has over four years of experience working with CaterTrax solutions and over 21 years of training experience. The team also brings over 46 years of foodservice industry experience to the table.

Catherine has been with us over two years. She’s worked on the menus and quality control teams as well as training. Melinda also joined the CaterTrax family two years ago. Before joining the training team, she was one of our Quality Control Specialists.

In June we added two team members to the training team, Andrew as the new Training Manger and Michael as a Training Specialist. Andrew’s training experience includes sales, customer service, lead generation, and soft skills. Prior to joining the team, Michael worked in Training and Development at Disney World.

Sound Instructional Design

We’ve also added an Instructional Designer to our Product Development team. Nancy, our new Instructional Designer, brings nearly ten years of experience in training and development. Nancy will work closely with the product team to design training and materials for both our staff and for our clients. These materials will ensure our staff is providing optimum service to our clients and that our clients are getting the most out of their investment.

In addition to a great team of trainers, we offer our clients a wide range of materials, including guides, videos, and a launch kit. We also offer quarterly webinars to cover the latest platform enhancements and address any questions. We’re here for our clients on an ongoing basis, ensuring they get the most out of their CaterTrax solution.

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