Gaithersburg, Md.—Sodexo Corporate Services is inviting its customers to become more engaged, or re-engaged, with on-site dining through a new program it simply calls “be... .” The program has been introduced worldwide at 25 sites this year, with 30 under design and another 50 scheduled to be rolled out in 2012.
“Be… overall is a global solution that we can offer our clients for consistency,” explains Mark Bickford, president of Corporate Services Solutions for Sodexo. “We have several contracts where our clients have business not only in North America but also throughout the world. These clients came to us asking how we could provide a dining solution that would be consistent throughout the company. With so many of their people traveling they wanted foodservice to have an identity if you will.”
The concept of be… originated five years ago with Sodexo accounts in Europe. It migrated to the U.S. about a year ago, with Marathon Oil in Houston being its initial test site.
“It’s not just a brand, with all the trade dress,” Bickford says. “It encompasses all aspects of a foodservice program, from the type of food served, the type of service and the décor.”
No cookie cutters: At the same time, he adds, be… is a concept that is unique to each location.
“This is not a one size fits all. This is not something you just take out of a box,” says Bickford. “We go through an in-depth, data-driven analysis to ensure that we truly understand not only the demographics of who works at a site but also the kind of people they are. What kind of work do they do? Do they have time for meals or almost no time at all?
“And we do this not only about our existing customers but also those employees who don’t use our facilities,” he adds. “Once we get all that information, we design a solution and go back to the client with our recommendations—with the data that supports it.”
Bickford also notes that the data gathering and design process is conducted by a Sodexo team that has no history with the client.
“We have to step back and make sure we don’t design the solution from an emotional perspective, or from the point of view of the manager or the district manager,” he says. “We focus on what the data are telling us. Sometimes the solutions are very different from what is in place there, and with the data we can convince the client that these are the changes we need to make.”
The solution that is designed comes from a portfolio of 30 options, according to John Guillemette, director of brand management for be… .
“Some of the choices are be… inspired, which is about healthy cooking; be… global, which brings in recipes from around the world; be… fresh, which are salads; and be… revived, which is our coffee program,” Guillemette explains.
In addition to choosing the concepts from the portfolio, the concepts can be customized to satisfy needs.
“For example,” says Mark Spinelli, Sodexo’s senior retail marketing manager, “if customers have told us overwhelmingly that they want wraps, our sandwich concept becomes a wraps station, because this group doesn’t want gourmet sandwiches. We want to hear customers say, ‘you listened, you heard us and you got it right.”
Besides the be… concepts themselves, the program has three “scenes” for 2011, any or all of which can be used at a site to keep the concept fresh. They are Lose Yourself In Food, which celebrates global recipes from 14 countries; Make A Difference, which focuses on sustainability, and Food For Performance, which focuses on healthy dining.
Positive results: The be… program was kicked off at Marathon Oil five months ago. “Since we opened, customer participation is up 14% at lunch,” Spinelli notes. “In addition, our check average—without a price increase—rose $1.98, and our customer spend is up 11% over the prior year.”
According to Bickford, 12% to 14% is the average increase in customer participation in those accounts that have implemented be…. “I have never seen anything as effective as this; double digit increases that are sustainable,” Bickford claims. “This is not a spike that you typically see right after a renovation is completed. These are the numbers more than three months after implementation.”
Despite the early success of be…, Bickford says the program will not become the default solution for Corporate Services.
“Be… is very much client driven,” he explains. “It is just a solution, one of several. We won’t have be… in every site. Be… doesn’t belong in every site. It is a program that is geared toward the traditional B&I segment, and it is applicable to about 45% to 55%