– By Rob Hill, CEO of FoodStorm, shortlisted in the Catering & Hospitality category of the 2021 SaaS Awards

Now more than ever people around the world are relying on their local cafes, restaurants and grocery stores to safely serve and deliver their food needs. Additionally, this customer reliance is heavily focused on online ordering and eCommerce, which has cemented the need, no longer a want, for the food service industry to bring their operations online and become visible to the public via the internet.

Traditional eCommerce platforms not fit for service?

Traditional eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify or Squarespace, weren’t made for the hospitality industry, as large scale food production operations require very specific order management and production capabilities such as menu building, departmental and store breakouts, as well as event and delivery management. Even the most popular food ordering services, such as UberEats or DoorDash, limit businesses who offer catering, as their system is for immediate, 1-to-1 item ordering and doesn’t fit large groups and lead times.

Currently, food service businesses have enjoyed what seems like a global push to “support local” throughout the pandemic, allowing many to draw in a new, local customer base and develop positive relationships through safety practices.

Many types of businesses stand to benefit from using a catering-specific software, including: independent and event caterers, restaurants who offer catering, corporate offices with on-site catering, even schools, hospitals and aged care facilities that have in-house cafeterias.

Example of a FoodStorm catering-specific eCommerce website

Grocery and supermarket industries stand to benefit

But one specific industry that stands to massively benefit from catering-specific software is the grocery and supermarket industry. During a time when grocers are rightfully on a pedestal for being local heroes in their communities, the opportunity is now for these teams to get their offerings online and technology systems set up to capture this influx in interest and positive light.

Big-box brands such as Amazon and Walmart continue to take market share, so providing fresh prepared foods and catering can be a serious point of differentiation for independent grocers to bring customers in store. But independent grocers do not historically have the infrastructure in place to meet that demand.

Although catering and prepared foods are among a grocer’s most profitable offerings, most grocers manage these orders today using spreadsheets, paper order forms and sticky notes. Their existing inventory and POS systems don’t support the complexities of catering and prepared foods, including lead time, departmental production reports, multiple store locations, shelf life and managing ingredients. They also don’t offer a way to centralize orders from multiple channels, such as in-store, over the phone, via email and online.

Support for grocers from a husband and wife team

For grocers, catering and prepared meals are also complex to manage. For these orders, there are multiple store locations involved, various pricing, taxes, and the orders usually span multiple departments such as bakery, deli, and produce. Producing fresh food in large volumes also involves detailed planning: caterers and food service providers need to know exactly how much food needs to be made, the raw ingredients required, and when and where the food needs to be delivered. Grocers also need to support pickup of orders from customers and have their catering orders integrated with POS (point of sale) systems.

The founders of FoodStorm Catering Software saw all of these challenges caterers experience firsthand. The company was developed over a decade ago by an Australian husband and wife team, Miranda and Anthony. Miranda worked as catering manager for a utility company in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and almost every day Miranda had issues with incorrect orders arriving, orders arriving at the wrong time or not arriving at all. No caterer had online ordering and orders were placed by phone or email.

Anthony, as a software developer, saw the opportunity to build a software platform for solving the key operational issues that caterers face, and FoodStorm was born. The initial product development for FoodStorm happened through Miranda’s contacts in the Melbourne catering industry and through meetings and on-site visits, they were able to gather key requirements and design wireframes and specs for the first version of the software.

Example of the management backend FoodStorm dashboard providing catering-specific business intelligence data

A centralized system for catering technology

FoodStorm’s solution takes the whole process, from e-commerce to production, online and centralizes it in one system, making it clear for caterers of every type to know what needs to be produced on any given day. This seems simple, but catering technology has lacked other food ordering, production and delivery software, as it requires a more comprehensive features suite and has long been underserved, forcing caterers to use software not specifically made for them. This causes inefficiencies in human and technology work, breeds errors and hinders innovation, growth and visibility.

For example, grocers typically don’t have a strong online presence when it comes to catering and prepared foods, yet these items are among their most profitable. FoodStorm gives grocers an instant eCommerce presence, making it simple for their customers to place and manage orders online, as well as give easier and more ownership over updating their menus and items at any time to adapt to their customers’ needs.

FoodStorm is making a significant impact with corporate, grocery and large independent caterers around the world. Grocers such as Roche Bros, Albertsons and Mollie Stones are among the hundreds of companies globally who rely on FoodStorm to manage the entire catering and prepared food process from one central system, boosting revenue, efficiency and market share.

A significant impact on the future of catering and hospitality

FoodStorm’s significance and implications on the future of catering and hospitality will be powerful. With the rise of not just online food ordering, but eCommerce in general, the catering industry is poised to enjoy the massive consumer adoption of online ordering and inevitable boost from people wanting to gather, celebrate and attend events in a post-pandemic world.

Catering software is a natural next step in the food delivery space and FoodStorm has the leading software to help companies launch into this next phase of catering technology. FoodStorm has incorporated key features in both the end user and caterer experience that the market has come to expect and demand from SaaS solutions in this sector.

With a focus on innovation and constant evolution in the online food ordering space, a pace has been set for software features expected by end users, forcing software providers to bolster their products and help caterers compete. Bringing operations online is a must and partnering with the correct software company can ensure caterers not only survive, but thrive in 2021 and beyond.