Prepare for launch

Site Launch KitOne of the most common challenges our new clients face is changing customer behavior. Despite the fact that paper orders and the interruption of the ringing phone creates chaos in the kitchen and leads to mistakes, some customers can be reluctant to change the way they do things.

That’s why properly introducing your ordering site, touting its benefits, and encouraging this behavior is critical pre and post launch. Here are a few tips to help you get your customers placing orders online from the start.

Get the word out

“Build it and they will come” isn’t a reliable business strategy. The first step to getting your customers placing orders online is to let them know you have a website. We provide a variety of professionally designed, customizable site launch materials, including email templates, PowerPoint presentations, and print templates as well as a sample marketing plan. These materials can also be used post launch to help continue to drive new customers to the site.

Promote your website and your business

To support ongoing marketing efforts, we offer a variety of built-in tools, including the email message center, loyalty point programs, coupons, QR codes, and Twitter functionality. All of these tools drive traffic to your site and encourage online ordering.

Encourage good behavior

Recently a client shared an email with us that they sent to their catering customers. In it, the writer set the expectation for when and how orders should be placed and introduced fees for orders that strayed from this standard. The tone was not prohibitive; rather they emphasized the willingness to accommodate all requests. At the close of the email, the writer highlighted the points program and various discounts as a reward for customer loyalty.

Show them your wares

Site launch is a great time to hold an event showcasing your food as well as your new technology. Using the launch materials provided by CaterTrax, you can invite customers to sample your food as you demonstrate the online ordering process. And, if you make computers available, you can even let them set up their accounts.

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A point in your favor

What separates you from the competition? In foodservice, you need every advantage you can get. Even the most loyal customer isn’t 100% faithful. They may order pizza from your shop most of the time, but every so often they stray to the place down the street.

Keep them coming back

Keeping customers satisfied with great food and good service will keep them coming back, but if you want them coming back more often, it helps to add an incentive. Incentive programs go by various names—customer rewards, frequent flyer, preferred shopper—but no matter what they’re called, the concept is the same. These programs simultaneously reward loyalty and inspire customers to come back. With every purchase, customers are progressing toward a reward and it’s for something they clearly want.

Loyalty points program

That’s why we built a loyalty points feature into our platform. Our points feature allows you to set point values and how they accrue; you can even award additional points to your best customers. Knowing that they are working toward a discount on future orders gives them incentive to keep placing their orders with you.

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Let them fit you into the budget

We announced new enhancements to our Budget Management add-on today. This add-on gives your customers the option to track their budget for your services. Budget Management allows admins to set up a budget per customer or for a department that sets and tracks spending limits.

Released last year, our Budget Management tool adds even more value and convenience for your customers. We’ve added even more functionality to this powerful tool. The new reports allow admins to view a summary of active budgets.

Features and Benefits Overview

  • Budgets—site admins can set budgets based on their customer’s needs.
  • Declining Balance—the balance of each budget declines as orders are placed.
  • Payment Method—once a budget had been created for a customer, it can be selected as a payment method during the ordering process.
  • Multiple and Shared Budgets—budgets can be shared between customers and departments and a customer can be linked to more than one budget.
  • Order Management—customers can view their budgets in the order management screen.
  • Notifications—when a budget is getting below a certain amount, the customer will receive an alert.
  • Enhanced Reports—these reports allows administrators to create a summary of all active budgets, the remaining balances, and the orders that have been placed using that budget.

To learn more about the Budget Management add-on, call 1-800-975-TRAX today to schedule a personalized demonstration or request a quote.

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When service goes viral

News and what makes the news has undergone a drastic transformation in the last decade. With the rise of reality TV, smartphones, and social networks, just about anyone can create their own news story about just about anything. It’s freedom of the press gone wild, without rules or boundaries. Forget about big brother watching you, because everyone has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to the record button on their cell phones.

While in the grand scheme of things, these stories are just flashes in the pan, don’t forget that they can have a big impact in the short term. Once these stories go viral and the comments start piling up, major news outlets like CNN pick them up and damage control can become a life or death struggle.

Foodservice in the spotlight

Whether you want it or not, a customer photo or video, praise or complaint can draw the heat and light of national attention. Something as simple as a Facebook post or a Reddit contribution can quickly take off. Foodservice is not immune, in fact the intense level of interaction that caterers and cafés have with customers seems to attract this sort of viral activity. Lately, there is no shortage of news stories about encounters at foodservice establishments.

Whether the news is good

In March Chili’s touched us all when a kind-hearted waitress fixed a “broken” burger for a little girl with Autism, winning them millions of new likes on Facebook.

When Morton’s Steakhouse surprised a traveler with an airport delivery after he jokingly Tweeted an order, it was dubbed “The greatest customer service story ever told.”


Last week it was the crazy restaurant owners who took their insanity to Facebook after Gordon Ramsay walked out them on Kitchen Nightmares.

In March it was the restaurant that was took to Twitter to out and shame no shows.

In January it was the Applebee waitress who was fired after sharing a pious (and cheap) customer’s receipt, drawing negative attention to everyone involved.

Or indifferent

Sometimes the story has little to do with the business, it just happened in their establishment. Like when an immature Olive Garden customer found an odd solution to dealing with a bad date.

What can you do?

Short of banning smartphones, recording devices, and making customers sign a confidentiality agreement, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. People like to communicate and share their experiences, especially when they run on the extreme. Customers will always be the variables, but what you can do is keep the ranting to a minimum by providing an excellent experience worth raving about—whether it’s to their best friend or everyone on the Internet.

Focus on customer service—If you’re in the service industry, this should be a no brainer. You’re not always going to be a hero to a little girl or an airport traveler, but you can take steps to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations. Using systems like TRAX Platform to add customer convenience and increase efficiency and accuracy will go a long way.

Be good to your employees—The reputation of your business is often in the hands of your employees—disgruntled employees provide lousy service. And remember, as much as customers want excellent service, they also want to know you treat your staff well, too. A caterer made headlines last week for pocketing gratuities, resulting in a civil suit brought by a customer.

Don’t be crazy—This one goes without saying. Lashing out at customers and staff will definitely draw the kind of negative attention that can threaten your livelihood. And, just in general, being in good health will help you run your business.

And don’t worry, when the customer is at fault, the ever-present social reporters catch them, too.

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Our Solution-focused Website

We’ve been hard at work these past few weeks updating our website. Visually the changes aren’t too dramatic, but we’ve added some new content and functionality.

Interactive home page

Selecting one of our solution icons on the home page triggers dynamic text that provides more information and a link to the associated product page. The product pages have also been retooled to better reflect the value of our solution. Visitors can learn about the powerful back-of-the-house functionality of our platform, TRAX Platform. The platform and each ordering solutions are now presented in terms of not only the top features, but how each feature benefits foodservice operators.

On the right-hand side of the home page we’ve also added an Industries Served section. We call this interactive piece “the accordion.” When you select an industry, the accordion opens to that section and you can navigate to that page of our website.

A tour through what we can do for you

We’ve added buttons to the bottom of the page that follow visitors throughout the site. These buttons will take you to key information about our solutions.

Why CaterTrax?—this button takes you to a page that showcases the results our clients are getting and the benefits to their foodservice businesses.

Take a Tour—this button allows visitors to see what a CaterTrax ordering site looks like and how it works.

Intro to CaterTrax—this button takes you to a short video that highlights our solutions.

The CaterTrax Effect–this button takes you to a new page on our website. The CaterTrax Effect page covers our maturity model and links to our popular infographic series.

The real solution—Our people

When it comes to highlighting the power for our solutions, we couldn’t forget our most important asset—our staff. Our Company Culture page now features some of the CaterTrax family members that make it all possible. Complete with a quote and a fun fact.

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.

These are just a few of the changes and updates to our website. Be sure to take a look yourself!


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Mobile Ordering—You don’t need an app for that

Apple is currently running the 50 Billion Apps Countdown Promotion. The company is soon to hit a major milestone—50 billion downloads from the App Store—which isn’t terribly surprising. After all, their ubiquitous “There’s an app for that” slogan is pretty much on the nose. Currently, there are over one million apps available for download. Since the advent of the iPhone and the rise of the smartphone, “app” (short for application) has become a part of the vernacular and permeates popular culture.

It’s enough to make you think you need an app for your foodservice business. Especially when you consider that the popularity eCommerce continues to climb and, with the dawn of the age of the smartphone, mCommerce is close on its heels.

Shoppers prefer mobile websites

When you compare the buying habits of smartphone users, 73% shop via mobile browser. Apps certainly have their strengths: offline availability and higher interaction and longer usage rates among them. But apps are more appropriate for activities that play to those strengths, such as games, navigation, information, and management tools. On the other hand, shoppers can’t place an order unless they’re online and the only interaction they’re interested in is finding the desired items and placing their orders.

Your website needs to be as smart as their phones

There are approximately 310 million people in the United States, of them 114 million use smartphones. When you subtract children, that means nearly half of the country is using one. So, if your website offers online ordering, there is a high probability that it will be viewed on a mobile device.

Consumers are becoming less patient with sites that haven’t embraced the mobile age. An infographic from Demand Force provided the following stats:

  • 48% of users feel frustrated and annoyed when they visit sites that aren’t mobile friendly.
  • 52% of users who have bad mobile experiences are less likely to engage with companies.
  • 48% say when sites don’t work well on their smartphones, they think the companies don’t care about their business.

You can’t expect customers to pinch and zoom to navigate your ordering site. Consumers have come to expect that their favorite retailers and foodservice companies will have sites optimized for mobile devices. Studies show that 67% of mobile shoppers are more likely to buy from mobile-friendly sites. Clearly, creating a mobile-friendly version of your website can open many doors (or windows, so to speak), increasing web traffic, order numbers, and profits.

If you have an online ordering solution like the CaterTrax Take-Out Solution, your site will display beautifully on smartphones, PCs, tablets—any device with an Internet connection and browser. And TRAX Platform offers tools to help you capitalize on the mobile market, including QR codes, Twitter, and text messaging.

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Weigh Before You Scale

Once you’ve found a way to eliminate the chaos that was weighing you down and manage your business, you’ll experience a number of positive outcomes—increases in sales, satisfaction, and morale among them. With scalable, repeatable processes in place, you have time to think about the future of your catering business. When your business is successful, it’s natural to think about what comes next.

Expand in the right places

Without expanding your business in some way, there is only so far you can go. With a single location, the same number of staff, and the same menu you can certainly perform at optimal levels to maximize your profitability, but there is a limit to what you can achieve.

If you’re ready to expand, the success of what you do depends on how and why you do it. It’s important to weigh your options based on what’s right for your business. To figure out just what that is, take a look at the KPIs and business drivers of your existing operation. If you have a system like TRAX Platform in place, you can look at the data and run reports to create a growth strategy.

Once you understand what makes your business successful, you can make informed decisions about expanding it. Expansion options include:

Add new locations – build on your reputation and attract new customers by expanding into new areas.

Penetrate new markets – offer specialty menus for seasons, holidays, and events.

Expand existing operations – add staff, move to a bigger location, and/or buy more equipment to increase capacity to keep up with growing demand.

Open a new line of business – open a café to complement your catering operation and offer take out options for added customer convenience.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget that you already know your way on the road to prosperity—after all you already have a thriving business to build off of. The systems and processes you have in place can easily carry over to get your new segments off to a great start. Systems like TRAX Platform can scale with you as expand.

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How does your business grow?

Just like a garden, you need the right conditions to grow your catering business. But instead of sunlight, water, and nutrient-rich soil, you need more customers, repeat business, and bigger orders. There is one element that both gardens and business need to flourish—planning.

At a recent speaking engagement for budding entrepreneurs, our CEO, Rich Rund, pointed out, “Not all growth is good—after all, weeds can quickly grow in your garden while destroying your crop. Grow slowly, focus on today, and be selective.”

Planning for Prosperity

Growth that leads to success and prosperity requires a strategy. To plan, you need information and insight into your business. Before you can begin to increase the number of customers, repeat business, and the average order size, you need to understand your client base, your market, and the popularity and profitability of your menu. Foodservice management systems like TRAX Platform not only track all of your data, but the tools to analyze it are right at your fingertips.

Once you have the information you need, you can create a strategy to effectively:

Even if you know what you need to do to grow your catering business, you won’t get very far without a plan for how to do it. Data and reporting will help you create a strategy to that puts you on the road to prosperity.

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What does the future hold?

When the day-to-day is under control, you can run your catering business like a well-oiled machine. And the increased efficiency will give you time to think about where you want that machine to take you. Where will your business be in five years? How will it grow and change?

Don’t bother visiting a psychic or peering into a crystal ball, there’s a better way to see the future. To get on track for success, you need to look at the past and present to measure performance and identify trends.

What drives your business?

The easy answer is customers, but there is bigger picture. Look at a broader set of key performance indicators (KPI). In foodservice KPI include:

  • Average $ per order
  • Average $ per guest
  • Average $ a day
  • Average orders per day
  • Average guests per day

The same solutions you have in place to keep you on course when customers throw you for a loop should have all of the information you need. Web-based solutions like TRAX Platform can not only help you manage orders and streamline processes, they also provide dashboards and reporting that allow you to easily monitor KPI.

The idea is to begin to identify trends and get to know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. That’s not as daunting or complicated as it sounds. Basically you want to find out who is ordering what when and for how much. That will tell you who your customer base is, what your top menu items are, when your busy season is, and how much you’re making per order, per customer, and per item.

What is on the horizon?

When you know what drives your business, you can create strategies to drive success. You can make informed decisions that simultaneously reduce costs and increase profits—allowing you to plan for a prosperous future.

In business, knowing what the future holds isn’t a matter of ESP or astrology. Measuring current and past performance to identify trends will help you form a vision of the future.

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Staying Afloat

Even when you’ve got the chaos under control in your catering operation, customers will still try to bring the crazy to you. Whether it’s customers trying to nickel and dime you on extras or a hostess insisting she ordered service for 40 (not 14), sometimes customers can turn smooth sailing into stormy seas.

The customer is always right and they know it, especially in the hospitality industry. So, the cost of mistakes typically falls on the caterer. Even if what the customer claims to be your mistake is really just a last-minute change or request in disguise, chances are you’re going to give them what they want—often at a discount. And when accountability is unclear, the heroics necessary to fill these orders to customer satisfaction go unappreciated. The high stress and painfully slim margins can make you feel as though you’re drowning.

An efficient ordering system is a life saver

Customers are fickle creatures and that’s not likely to change any time soon. What’s more, if you have hospitality in your blood, you’ll always want to do what you can to meet their demands, even when they’re unreasonable. Accommodating unexpected changes and providing discounts can help you build a strong reputation and establish customer loyalty, but not if you don’t get credit for your efforts.

An efficient order management solution like TRAX Platform can be the life saver you need to stay afloat in choppy seas. Online ordering and a reliable system of record can help you establish the value of your goods and services, add accountability in ordering, and prepare for almost anything.

Establish the value: Posting prices clearly for everything from sandwich platters to set-up service will show customers that the goods and services you provide have value. It won’t stop them from looking for volume discounts or asking you to throw in the drinks for free, but when you decide to honor these requests you’ll get the credit you deserve.

Add accountability to ordering: Online ordering is a great way to add convenience for your customers. It’s also a great way to show Mrs. Smith that she did indeed order lunch for 14. Most caterers will take pity on this harried hostess and pull together service for 40 at the last minute, but now she’ll be so grateful she may tell her friends that you saved the day.

Be prepared:  With all of your orders for the past few weeks, months, and years in one system, you can start to look at trends. Whether it’s identifying your busiest season or nailing down customer behavior, you can better prepare for the future.

Staying afloat doesn’t have to be constant struggle. With a few safe guards in place, you can weather almost any storm.

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