What Jimmy Johns Can Do To Support Catering

Nationally restaurant comp sales have been down by over 2% and this trend is now more than 18 months in the making.  Coincidentally, Jimmy Jonhs slump is also about 18 months, and certainly heading downward not upward. 

I have a vested interest in seeing the brand my team works hard to promote make it past the negative sales comp, and even better, outperform the competition.  There are so many things that are great about the brand, but listening and change would probably not make the top 10.

Rourke Capital bought the brand at the end of 2016 and I was super excited to see what changes lay ahead.  I am still excited, but feeling impatient, real change has been slow but more so because the prevailing attitude hasn’t really changed.  The realization that there might be a need to reposition the brand, take in some new ideas is just finally started to materialize in Champaign.

Brand repositioning certainly takes time and not something that should be rushed, but JJ’s should be able to focus on short term wins while putting its long-term strategy in place.

The Catering Sales Channel is one of those short term wins the company could take or have taken a while ago.  I am biased, I believe the catering channel is the best bet to grow sales.  It also happens to have the best margins out of any specific day part or sales channel.

The list of things that Jimmy Johns could do to better support catering sales is broken down into three sections, Leadership, Data and Menu.  There are plenty of other things to add to this list but I wanted to focus on a few things that didn’t require any major changes or franchisee support to get off the ground.  Plus these represent some common problems in catering programs that you might be able to identify with.

JJ’s has a marketing department that encompasses all the things you would expect a big brand to have.  They even have people they refer to as Directors of Catering, which handle many outside sales activities for a preset group of JJ’s corporate owned stores.  There is even a training program to show franchisees how this role works.

But no actual Leadership, someone dedicated to drive a specific strategy, innovation, and support for franchisees.  Do you think solid leadership could grow the catering channel for the system by 1%?  That would be an additional $23 million in revenue.

We all need basic sales data to separate the catering sales from other sales.  I am especially interested in customer data, every customer represents an income stream not just a transaction.  Collecting data to support catering starts with your POS and cloud reporting tools, but everything in your IT stack that originates from a customer touch point matters, so this might include online ordering, rewards and their mobile versions.

The Catering Revenue Center doesn’t exist at JJ’s so if you want to break out your catering sales you can only do this by breaking out catering specific menu items.  When you order chips, single cookies, or any drinks these don’t count as catering sales, in other words a catering check or ticket won’t equal the catering sales if you ordered chips with your sandwiches.  The lack of a catering revenue center also negates the ability to get your average check for catering.  Wow, right? 

Other data collection points include Online ordering fields that help you shape the data you want to collect from your customers.  Is your site collecting first name, last name, and business name as three separate fields?  JJ’s doesn’t.

The On The Phone experience needs to be similar to online, using a simple informal script provides a great experience and facilitate the collection of the right data.  Do you get email addresses for every on-phone order taken?  If not, just tell your customer that you are going to send them an order confirmation, then ask for their email.  I have yet to have a customer say no to this.  JJ’s currently doesn’t support any type of phone scripting for data collection or upselling. 

Exporting the information you collected out of the system is the last important step.  All customer related information can not be consolidated or exported from the cloud, so the store must send each report if you wanted any customer information. 

How does your system get data out, are there integration points for outside software?  What will your franchisor allow when it comes to access to the POS and cloud reporting tools?

The JJ Catering Menu is basically an ala carte menu where you pick items one at a time.  The Lunch Box may be an exception, based on your opinion.  Corporate customers want it easy, they wanted assorted, just do it for me is best.   

Focusing in on packages and having options to just assort the order makes ordering easy for the customer and helps build check average by selling attachments to the base sandwiches.  JJ’s is one of the few ala carte only menus I have encountered from a major brand.  

What opportunities does your company have, what would you like to see your company or franchisor focus on with catering?  Let’s hear your thoughts.


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