Retailers

How Uncle Giuseppe’s Doubled Its Online Catering Sales

Grocery-specific software streamlines digital presence and ordering
Uncle Giuseppe's
Photograph courtesy of Uncle Giuseppe's Marketplace

When it comes to retail foodservice catering operations, “grocers need to be more like restaurants,” says Russell McVeigh, catering director at Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace, a Melville, N.Y.-based specialty grocer with nine locations in New York and New Jersey and a 10th slated to open later this year.

Like many grocers, until recently, Uncle Giuseppe’s kept old-school catering books with handwritten orders. And if it wanted to make additions or changes to its catering menu online, it had to make those adjustments for each location. It was a time-consuming and often frustrating process, admits McVeigh.

Earlier this year, Uncle Giuseppe’s partnered with Foodstorm, developers of a catering software management system specifically designed for the grocery industry. FoodStorm’s software automates the entire catering/prepared foods ordering, production, payment and fulfillment process from one centralized system. 

“Although catering and prepared foods are among a grocer’s most profitable offerings, most grocers still manage these orders using spreadsheets, paper order forms and sticky notes,” says FoodStorm. “Their existing e-commerce, inventory and POS systems don’t support the complexities of catering and prepared foods, including managing production, ingredients, lead times and shelf life.

Since moving to FoodStorm’s software, Uncle Giuseppe’s has doubled its online catering sales, McVeigh told WGB. The software provides a catering-specific e-commerce website to match the grocery brand, order and production management, PCI-compliant payment processing, CRM tools to market and grow the business, and reporting features with a live business dashboard.

“Previously, if the price changed on our potato salad, we had to go into the system and manually change it for eight different stores. There were also different taxes on the salad depending on where the store is located,” explains McVeigh. “Now, in 10 seconds, we can update the price of an item across all stores.”

Similarly, Uncle Giuseppe’s used to upload catering photography to its website one image at a time for each store. Now McVeigh can instantly upload new images for all stores, effortlessly giving both his internal team and customers an accurate visual depiction of each catering platter.

“Having control of what the shopper sees has been great, and the database is so easy to use—both on our side and the customer’s—it doesn’t make me afraid to try something new,” he adds.

FoodStorm also allows Uncle Giuseppe’s to run a single catering report across its eight stores that offer catering, as well as individual reports for each location. This is key for an operation that does everything in-house. The specialty grocer offers 140 dishes in its deli cases, all made in-store.

“We’ve got 30 people our in kitchens hand-breading eggplant and more,” says McVeigh. “We don’t commissary anything and we’re not a traditional grocery store. We do legit catering with an advanced menu,” he continues, adding that Uncle Giuseppe’s also handles waitstaff rentals and three of its stores have the distinction of serving as official Hyatt caterers.

As with most grocers, the pandemic drove a surge in online ordering at Uncle Giuseppe’s. As pandemic restrictions ease and people gather once again, McVeigh is seeing yet another wave in demand for catering and predicts 70% of its holiday orders will be online this year.

Through the FoodStorm online ordering system, customers can choose whether they want items delivered hot or cold; add a tip; and set a delivery time.

“There’s a proprietary view so we can look at the delivery log for each store and know if we’re booked for deliveries between, say, 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. We can then adjust to only take early deliveries,” says McVeigh, who says that under its old system, which depended heavily on handwritten orders, the delivery function was either on or off. Uncle Giuseppe’s has further streamlined its delivery operations through FoodStorm to offer delivery twice per hour.

Since implementing FoodStorm, Uncle Giuseppe’s catering business is “crushing last year’s numbers,” he says. “It’s wild—our average orders are up $150 year over year,” adds McVeigh who sees a number of contributing factors including pent up demand, the return of weddings and events, and more robust savings accounts among consumers who spent less on food and entertainment during the peak of COVID. “People are now spending faster than we can produce,” he jokes.

Uncle Giuseppe’s newly streamlined online catering offerings also allow customers to include items from multiple departments such as the deli, bakery and produce. As a result, McVeigh estimates bakery catering sales alone will likely double this year compared to last.

Since March 2021, FoodStorm has signed eight new U.S. grocery customers, including DeCicco & Sons, Cardiff Seaside Market, Village Market, Fruit Center Marketplace and Caraluzzi’s Markets. In use at thousands of sites around the world, FoodStorm processes more than $1.5 billion in catering and prepared-food orders for grocers, caterers and corporate dining operations.

“COVID-19 and the continued threat from Amazon and Walmart has really forced independent grocers to differentiate and provide better options in catering and fresh prepared foods,” said Rob Hill, CEO of FoodStorm, in a statement. “Our software makes it simple for these grocers to execute on this important piece of their business very efficiently and track everything from one central location. As FoodStorm rapidly expands our footprint in the U.S., we’re excited to work with these grocers all across the country.”

 

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