Digital represents a fast-evolving aspect of any business and that includes the selling of foodservice equipment and supplies. In the digital arena, relevancy requires a willingness to admit what’s working well and what’s not, listening to customers and the ability to adapt and evolve. Such is the case with The Kitchen Spot, a digital platform that PRIDE Centric Resources relaunched as a way to connect its dealer members with restaurant and foodservice operators.
The Kitchen Spot started as an e-commerce site, which allowed operators to buy foodservice equipment and supplies from dealers that are members of PRIDE. But the Colorado-based foodservice equipment and supplies buying group felt a change was necessary for The Kitchen Spot to stand out in a very crowded and competitive digital marketplace. “The first iteration of The Kitchen Spot did not tell the full story of our dealers and allow them to differentiate in the market,” Cara Schlarb, vice president – vendor programs. “So, we transitioned away from e-commerce to provide a more differentiated solution.”
Enter The Kitchen Spot 2.0, so to speak. When operators and other members of the foodservice industry land on The Kitchen Spot’s website, visitors have the option to seek experts, search by specific product type or brand, as well as browse the site’s collection of resources. “It’s about how we can highlight each of our dealers on The Kitchen Spot,” Schlarb says. “This includes the products they sell and the services they offer, whether it’s design/build or even offering bilingual service.”
As users work through the site to find the information they desire, The Kitchen Spot will point them toward the closest PRIDE member capable of meeting their specific needs. “The goal in the fulfiller mode was to deliver a potential long-term customer to a dealer and that messaging got lost with e-commerce,” says Karin Sugarman, president and CEO of PRIDE Centric Resources. “This is a much clearer message. Our role is to tell their stories and help our dealers get out there. A lot of PRIDE dealers have their own sites. This represents another way to drive traffic to them.”
From E-Commerce to Lead Generation
The transition to The Kitchen Spot as more of a lead generation platform gives roughly 100 PRIDE dealers the opportunity to carve out their own space in the digital arena. “Dealers have to meet the customer where they are so they can have conversations with their customers,” Schlarb says. “We are really trying to cultivate that match so the operator can find the supplier close to them and they can develop that relationship.”
Many of today’s e-marketplace solutions require distributors to operate in the background. The Kitchen Spot takes the opposite approach. “We ultimately want the dealer to own the relationship with the customer,” Schlarb says. “Due to the diversity of the dealer base, it made more sense to go this way.”
Enhancing Dealers’ Digital Capabilities
Indeed, like most foodservice equipment and supplies buying groups, PRIDE’s membership is pretty diverse in terms of size, services offered and digital capabilities. The intent of The Kitchen Spot is to provide a solution that will apply to all these member companies. “All of our dealers can participate and it’s flexible enough to cover all of the expertise our dealers have to offer,” Schlarb says. “We are featuring each of our PRIDE dealers, what specialties they offer, what vendors they support and where they are located. So that brings a little personality to our dealers.”
Of course, not every PRIDE dealer has digital capabilities – yet. One of the organization’s ongoing initiatives, though, is to help the member companies in this area. “The dealers need that digital transaction capabilities on their own sites,” Sugarman adds.
The Kitchen Spot represents PRIDE’s latest initiative in the digital arena. Several years back, the organization launched Foodservice Warehouse, a platform that also aimed to give PRIDE members a chance to participate in the e-commerce boom. FSW has since gone out of business and PRIDE’s leaders remain confident The Kitchen Spot is the right opportunity for its members. “Unfortunately, it’s almost five years later and we are still talking about [FSW],” Sugarman says. “That experience taught us the importance of testing of your ideas before moving forward. If you can’t beat the 1,800-pound gorilla at its game, how are you going to define yourself? We took a step back to look at what our dealers do well and trying to emphasize that. The difference in the learning here was not trying to be all things to all people.”
PRIDE feels The Kitchen Spot also connects to another trend that continues to shape the foodservice industry. “Customers are interested in supporting local business, so this is a nice way to do that,” Schlarb says. “It’s also about finding the right fit for the dealer and the operator.”