- As they look ahead to the holiday catering season, numerous grocers are adding software that helps them digitally manage operations and offer more online buying options.
- More than a dozen grocers this summer have integrated catering- and prepared foods-specific software from FoodStorm, an Australia-based company. The latest companies to sign on include Straub's Fine Grocers and Midtowne Market in Missouri, Sunset Foods in Illinois, Joseph's Classic Market in Florida, and Town & Country Markets in California, according to a news release.
- Grocers also say they’re pushing to expand their customer base throughout the rest of the year to include more business customers and younger households.
John Acierno, director of business development at Joseph’s Classic Market in Florida, said the company’s catering department for years relied on three-ring binders full of paper-based orders and payment information to manage production.
“It's fine when it’s Tuesday in the middle of summer and you’ve got four orders. But come the holiday season, it was just becoming too much to be able to keep track of,” he said.
The grocer, which operates three stores and is opening a fourth in West Palm Beach, started using Shopify to digitally manage orders. However, using that platform required navigating multiple apps, Acierno said, and it struggled to convert orders into a production log for the catering team. Joseph’s is in the process of integrating FoodStorm’s software, which he hopes will streamline production and allow the company, which boasts a large selection of Italian prepared foods and operates its own commissary, to fill more orders.
Along with order management and production software, FoodStorm offers payment processing technology, white-label e-commerce, in-store ordering kiosks and other services ranging from ordering to fulfillment. FoodStorm is also developing new tools, like a recently introduced “abandoned cart” add-on that emails shoppers when they leave items in their digital shopping carts, said Heather Kirchner, the company’s vice president of U.S. sales.
In addition to the five grocers that were part of FoodStorm’s latest integration announcement, the technology company announced eight independent retailers in July that had signed onto its platform, including Cardiff Seaside Market in California and DeCicco & Sons in New York. FoodStorm also counts Albertsons, Mollie Stone’s and Roche Bros. among its clientele.
Incorporating catering-specific management software underscores grocers’ growing focus on managing a more profitable holiday season and beyond for the department. For many independent grocers, catering is where they can differentiate from larger competitors — a service where quality and community connections often play an outsized role.
Acierno said Joseph’s has seen an uptick in catering demand in recent months as customers grow more comfortable with in-person gatherings. Local ordinances and rising concern over the delta variant are curbing gatherings in some places, however. To serve smaller gatherings, Acierno said Joseph’s will likely offer its four-person holiday meal bundles in addition to its traditional 10-person meals.
Looking beyond the holidays, Acierno said he’s hoping to broaden his customer base. “Our average customer is about 55 years old so we're looking to tap into a younger demographic and introduce some more healthy options to the menu,” he said.
Joseph’s recently hired a new culinary director who has begun diversifying a menu traditionally focused on Italian comfort food. This includes adding more seafood options and grilled proteins in place of fried options, Acierno said. Joseph’s is aiming to reach these younger consumers with digital ads.
Business customers offer another outlet for catering operations, though that opportunity has been diminished by widespread work-from-home policies. Acierno said Joseph’s is targeting businesses near the company’s Boca Raton store, which sits near a collection of office buildings.
Kirchner said Straub’s is also looking to draw more business customers. “They're competing with restaurants locally to try to capture that lunch crowd,” she said.