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What's the best approach to try to pitch a service to a large chain restaurant?

I'm working on a product idea that could be very valuable to restaurants. To maximize my ROI, I was thinking to target larger chain restaurants in the hopes of signing up many locations with a single deal. What's the best way to make this happen?

1) Approach a few local restaurants in the chain directly, see if they like the idea and can maybe give me a reference to someone at "corporate" that could help facilitate a deal?

2) Go directly to "corporate"

3) Something else I'm not thinking of?

10 Replies

Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
all the above and then some. The restaurant market is tough. enterprise takes time and a lot of attention to strategy. Don't put all your eggs in just one basket: make inroads and relationships with the local divisions and look for local execs who will champion your cause (find their personal wins). do the same at corporate and also with vendors/partners who have relationships with both local and corporate. It's about relationships. As much as you'd like to think your tech will open doors, it won't - you MUST build relationships first especially if you are a startup. After you've established some strong relationships now you are still behind the curve against the established industry players. Now you must convince your supporters to stick their necks out and give you a shot so now you have to demonstrate how you will reduce risk. Risk reduction takes priority over price so keep that in mind. A startup will always be riskier than the established players so now you have to convince them that your tech (and support and speed) is so superior that it's worth the risk. Other than that... piece O cake.
Marylou Garcia
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Marylou Garcia Entrepreneur
Managing Director, Expense Reduction Analysts
Hi John,

I agree with Rob. There is no shortcut to this process. Partnering with people who are from the industry and can make introductions would make sense. However, before that, clearly articulating your value proposition to the industry is absolutely critical. If you'd like to discuss this more, please feel free to reach out to me. I might be able to provide some feedback given that this was my former industry.
Michael Brill
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Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
Or you can simply pretend that you found part of a finger in your meal and use that as leverage. Once you have the finger, it's really a very simple approach.
Ram Sharma Ph.D.
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1
Ram Sharma Ph.D. Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur, Chemistry Outsourcing
@Marylou..Can you send your contact information? I need some advise similar to what John has asked.

Ram
Marylou Garcia
0
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Marylou Garcia Entrepreneur
Managing Director, Expense Reduction Analysts
Hi Ram,

No problem. Feel free to email me at [removed to protect privacy]. Conversely, you may share your contact info as well.
Ram Sharma Ph.D.
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0
Ram Sharma Ph.D. Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur, Chemistry Outsourcing
Hi Marylou, you can contact me w2rsharma at gmail dot com.

We can then decide best time convienent for you to talk.

Ram
Richard Pridham
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Richard Pridham Entrepreneur • Advisor
Investor, President & CEO at Retina Labs
John,

Not knowing anything about your "product" it's hard to say. If you are selling to chains, you will need to get buy-in at the corporate level. In corporate-owned structures, they control all budgets. In franchise situations, the franchisor often has control on products and services purchased by franchisees. In almost all large franchise environments, there is a franchise committee (or different regional ones) that evaluate products, services and programs offered by vendors. Want to sell to Wendy's? You will have to get invited and pay to attend their annual vendor trade show (yes, they have their own trade show!). The committee may make a "recommendation" but invariably, it's a corporate decision. There may be exceptions to this for highly localized services. A franchisee may decide to implement something just for their location but if you are looking for widespread adoption across the chain, you have to get corp. decision-makers on-board.

You can approach local franchisees or regional executives to gauge interest in or champion your product as Rob Gropper states, but they will most likely send you up the totem pole at some point. So you will need to figure out who the stakeholder(s) is/are for your product and develop a pitch that resonates with this audience.

I suppose you could look at a partner approach but not knowing anything about the product makes it hard for me to comment. Partnerships can make sense in some cases. They can take time to get going but can scale well if the business model makes sense for partners and adds value.
Andrea Raimondi
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Andrea Raimondi Entrepreneur
Computer Software Consultant and Contractor
Hi!

It sounds great doesn't it? Approach corporate and get them on board... easy enough, eh? :)

Alas, I don't think it is as easy as it sounds.
I think: get your basics right, those which are beneficial both to independent restaurants and chains and keep in mind to structure your product so that it is ready for multiple locations. Even just adding a "LOCATIONS" table and ensuring that all records refer to the correct location is a first step that will go a long way to ensure you have at least the basics right.

Also, you might want to ensure that you are not tied to a specific database, be it an RDBMS or a NoSQL one. This is very important because you might find that the chains you approach are not using what you are using, so you have to account for modifications.

Also, ensure you have a way to distinguish your most valuable customers, both in terms of personalisation and support requirements.

Another thing which is often overlooked is employees turnover: while it is true that a waiter or a cook can rarely push a product, if they have got in touch with it before they can help the business at large to leverage your product and be advocates for it (if it works well).

Just my 2c,

A
Richard Pridham
0
0
Richard Pridham Entrepreneur • Advisor
Investor, President & CEO at Retina Labs
Ajay Agrawal
1
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Ajay Agrawal Entrepreneur
CEO, N K Technologies

John,

I have found that one tenet in marketing works rather well - Everyone wants what everyone wants!!

Simply put, build up traction for your product. Even if it means having to give it away virtually free to the first few smaller standalone restaurants and let them try it. You can iron out kinks, if any left over.

Once the big guys see something working, they will be more open to give you a hearing. To get a hearing, though, you will have to still invest in relationships with a local/regional heavy weight in that chain. It may not be some one who can take a decision, but definitely someone who can push your case upstairs.

There is just no shortcut to the process.

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