City of Melbourne COVID-19 business grants

The COVID-19 crisis is here. While at Flex Catering are confident we will overcome this situation as a nation, it is important to adapt and see the opportunity in it.

Online Ordering has seen an unprecedented growth in the last few weeks as more and more people are ordering online, avoid going out and staying in their homes. In addition, as restaurants and cafes are required to shut down, online ordering brings an avenue to continue to reach your customers.

City of Melbourne has launched a grant initiative to help businesses with up to $5000 for investing in online and e-commerce activities. You can apply for the Grant here.

We have crafted full turnkey online ordering website solution. Go live within the day with a great looking online ordering website using Flex Catering (food businesses) or Edge Commerce (non food businesses).

Flex Catering offers a complete KDS (kitchen display system), where your kitchen can see the order feed as they come from the online shop. From the KDS they can mark the order as completed and print the package label. Flex Catering is crafted for restaurants and cafes and include tools such as minimum order quantity, cut-off times, delivery date and time on checkout, postcode validation and more.

We are an Australian based software as a service company specialised in food service. We are here to help you get up and running with your ecommerce website as quick as possible. We have partnered with major credit card merchants, accounting software and marketing tools to give you an end-to-end solution for selling online.

To get started, contact us.

Press Release 01 May 2018 – Flex Catering Aims To Cut Costs

flex catering aims cut costs

Flex Catering Aims To Cut Costs and Boost Workflow For Australia’s $8bn Food Catering Industry

Melbourne based start-up, Flex Catering, is set to launch its food catering software into the Australian market at the 2018 Food Service Australian Exhibition Fair. The company has been working with leading food caterers to build a viable and much needed vendor in the food catering software industry. The SaaS platform will be a boon for ambitious caterers in need of fast, easy-to-use, cost effective yet highly sophisticated end-to-end management capabilities. Built into an existing ecommerce platform, Flex Catering is bringing ultimate ecommerce capabilities and specialised catering features.

The market potential for the software in Australia is enormous. Ibisworld cites 3,701 businesses employing 40,000 professionals with revenue of $8 billion 2017. And the ABS says the catering industry has nearly tripled in the past 10 years. Flex Catering is on a mission to make the lives of these caterers a whole lot easier.

An initial look at the platform suggests a sleek and easy-to-use dashboard interface combined with multiple functions. Caterers can expect local tech support and a simple month-to-month payment option that includes ALL features, modules and future updates. Caterers won’t have the hassle of having to purchase additional apps according to their needs. It’s a fixed monthly price for all caterers regardless of size.

Functionality includes:

  • Order Management
  • Order Tracking
  • Online Shopping
  • Reporting
  • CRM Capabilities
  • SEO Tools
  • Easy-to-manage product uploads
  • Payment Processing, and
  • Accounting Integration and other automations

All this comes with powerful automation and reporting tools so caterers can get on with the important task of servicing their clients, managing their kitchens and marketing their services to new clients.

The founders of Flex Catering conducted a pre-launch in late March 2018. This was well received by market participants leading to a number enquiries and client subscriptions. According to the Directors, Ren and Cris:

“Our new Flex Catering customers are thrilled with the many easy to use functionalities, such as product management, client order intake and integration with their accounting systems. All combined with a price that they can actually afford. They love the product!”

Flex Catering’s platform most certainly paves the way for a much needed alternative to incumbent providers. It provides greater functionality at a lower price point making it a very attractive solution for caterers both big and small.

The company is offering early adopters a 50% discount on its monthly payment plan for the first 6 months of use. No lock-in contracts and the offer is for a limited time only. Local food caterers who are interested can head to www.flexcatering.com.au to take advantage of this offer.

10 Ways Your Catering Business Can Make More Money

We at Flex Catering agree that being innovative will certainly help your catering business to thrive. There are several initiatives that could boost your catering business revenue. Based on our 10+ years experience in the marketing industry working with over 300+ clients, we have crafted below a summary of the actions you could look at to help you grow your revenue.

A catering that doesn’t make money can’t continue operating, we all know that, so what? Making food is easy; getting more people through the doors isn’t. Fortunately, new technology and creative marketing activities give you more ways than ever before to get that to happen, without necessarily spending large amounts.

1. A Real Social Media Campaign

While posting deals on Facebook can’t hurt, it can only go so far without a strategy. You must give it the time and effort it deserves for it to truly work in your favor. Create content that your target market will like and share, post pictures of famous or happy customers, and hold contests. Use the PPC (Pay-per-click) functions of facebook and target your clients directly. You can segment it by interest, such as wedding, functions, events, etc. Target this market with PPC and follow up on the leads. Treat it like a real marketing campaign. Run it lean and strategically.

2. Events and Special Deals

Events and special deals can get people to give your catering a shot, which can result in more return customers. Ladies’ Night, for example, is a classic bar event wherein women pay less than their male counterparts, or hold a “Bring Your Daughter to Eat” Day, offering special deals for daughters eating with their parents. Think of your target market and what commonalities you can use as the basis of a theme. Create a special based on the theme and blast social media with it. Some will go viral, some won’t. On the long run it will pay off. The aim is to capture new long standing clients for your catering business.

3. Use Geofilters on Snapchat

Millennials love taking pictures of everything they do, and that includes eating food. To use this to your advantage, apply a branded filter to any snaps taken. This increases your exposure, as your brand, catering, and location, are all now visible on Snapchat.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a powerful force. Many people still check their email first thing in the morning, and many students use it to keep track of projects and reports. Creating a mailing list can get you more attention than you think, and keep customers updated on your latest deals and menu items. Select a good newsletter sending system. ‘Categorise’ your subscribers and send them interesting campaigns, including the Events and Special deals discussed on item 2 above. We have connected the Flex Catering to several email marketing system including Mailchimp and Edge Connect. Hence, when the customer subscribe on the website, it will go automatically to the correct group in the email sending system.

5. Offer Delivery

Not every catering business can get into deliveries, but those that can, should. On-demand culture is everywhere, and it’ll do your profit margins some good. If you can’t afford staff to take on deliveries, there are many services that can delivery for a fee. If you can afford that, go for it. Make sure that it clear on your website and people can select the delivery date and time.

6. Give Back to the Community

Sometimes, giving back to the community is also a marketing initiative. Events where you give a percentage of that night’s profit to a charity or to a school can net you a lot of goodwill. Blast the newsletter to your subscribers and post it everywhere on social media. Run a content outreach and send out press releases to local media, mainstream media and bloggers about the community activity. They get a story, you get the link back which may translate into higher Google rankings. Higher Google rankings means more customers. You get more customers, people get fed, and the charity gets money — everybody wins.

7. Snail Mail

Snail mail may be slow, but people still crack open envelopes to look at the feast inside. It’s an affordable and effective campaign you can use to deliver promos or coupons to both existing and potential customers. Done correctly, it can net you a lot of revenue. There are companies in Australia charge a fee per mailbox delivery, residencial and commercial. It is cheaper than you think and impressively some people nowadays like to receive some paper material.

8. Getting in Touch with Influencers

Influencer marketing is alive and well, and can serve many catering businesses, no matter the size. By tapping local celebrities or personalities, you can borrow their authority so you can promote your catering. Food bloggers, for example, can improve how your service is viewed, should they give it a positive review. Reach out to them. Let them know about a new deal or a new menu item they’d be interested in, and offer to give them a free sample. Depending on how strong the blog is you might even pay for a write up and get a link back to your website.

9. Text Messaging

Most people spend much of their day attached to their phone, so why not take advantage of it? Text-message marketing is invaluable and can get more people through the doors. If you’re worried about the logistics, there are services that can make it easier to handle rewards and the like. Flex Catering can be integrated with a text messaging system.

10. Optimise the Metas in your website

The website is the central location and where you should drive all the initiatives. It is in the website that customers will place orders, subscribe to the newsletter, find your phone number, call you, check your menu and much more. Most marketing initiatives ultimate aim is to grow website rankings, traffic and brand awareness. Hence it is very important that the website is optimised for Google ranking and customer navigation experience (also known as UX). The Flex Catering software becomes your website and you can enter all your metas for all pages including the product pages. In addition, Flex Catering has all the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tools necessary to optimise your chances of winning online.

These aren’t the only things you can do to get more revenue for your catering business, but it’s a good start. Think about what your core audience wants and appeal to that. Reach out to them and keep improving your food offerings. Measure the results of each campaign, learn, improve and run the campaign again. Just keep your doors and your mind open.

For any further information about Flex Catering and how we can help your catering business processes and marketing please contact us. We will be happy to hear from you.

Your Catering Must Have an Online Presence

We at Flex Catering agree 110% that a good online presence will certainly help your catering business to thrive, and our system has several functionalities that makes that just easier. In the article below we share a few more tips on how technology and an online presence can effectively help your catering business succeed.

Even if your restaurant has full tables almost every night of the week, you’ll still be missing out on a lot of potential customers if you don’t maintain a strong online presence. And the same rationale applies to catering. To some restaurateurs, the Internet and digital marketing might not seem very relevant, but there’s no doubt that a tech-savvy approach towards marketing your venue can make a world of difference, particularly if you haven’t been in business for long or you’re struggling to keep your tables full.

Just as potential customers use modern tools to find the perfect meals, so should restaurateurs be using the same tools to ensure they’re visible to them. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, 88% of people check restaurant menus and/or reviews online before they book a table. Additionally, many of these people won’t even visit your venue if they can’t find the information they want beforehand. After all, there are usually plenty of other options to consider.

Show Off Your Menu

Disappointing catering experiences are often down to unrealistic expectations. However, by showing off your menu online, preferably complete with some eye-catching imagery, you’ll be able to build up more accurate expectations for people. By viewing your menu online, potential customers will be in a better position to make an informed judgement about whether or not your catering business is suitable for them. First impressions count for a lot, and the first impression many people will have of your business will be when they see your menu on your website or elsewhere online. And with FlexCatering showing off and changing your menu is one of the many things that our system allows you to make seamlessly.

Leverage Customer Feedback

These days, anyone can leave a review of your venue online, particularly on third-party websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. While the fact that your reputation is now largely in control of your customers might be unnerving, it’s also important that you take a transparent approach towards digital marketing and actively encourage user reviews. After all, most people now check reviews online before they book a table, either through a website or over the phone. Google even displays ratings of certain venues in the search results.

In order to leverage customer feedback and other user-generated content as a powerful marketing tool, you should always ask your customers to leave feedback and, even more importantly, respond to that feedback whenever possible. Particularly when you get negative feedback, which is inevitable sooner or later, you should be present to provide a professional and personalized response. After all, many consumers will put more weight in your response that they negative feedback itself when formulating their opinions about your business.

Build a Community

Social media platforms are among the most important online resources of all when it comes to marketing your catering and restaurant business on the Web. By establishing and maintaining social media profiles, you’ll be in a perfect position to build a community around your brand to the extent that it might even go viral. Although your website might serve as the centrepiece of your online marketing strategy, it’s social media that leads to meaningful interaction between you and your brand, provided you’re involved as much as possible. In other words, do not make the mistake of approaching social media as a tool for direct promotion.

If you’re still not convinced about the value of social media in the catering industry, consider the fact that so many people now post photos of just about every meal they eat. Foodies seem to be taking over social media to the extent that there are now many popular food blogs and countless Instagram profiles with nothing other than countless pictures of various culinary delights.

Maintain an Online Store Front

For traditional high-street businesses, a website is basically a virtual store front, and this applies to restaurants as well. Not only can you provide a quick and easy way for people to make reservations through your website, you add a whole raft of new possibilities such as online ordering and home deliveries. As people spend more and more money on the Internet, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to order food online, either in advance of arriving at a restaurant in person or to have delivered to their homes, typically using a local delivery service.

Increase Exposure with Google Maps

Unsurprisingly, the world’s most popular website and online service is the single most important resource of all for any business. People use Google Maps all the time, either on their Android-powered smartphones or on their computers to find local businesses. If your venue isn’t listed on Google Maps, you will be missing out on a lot of potential customers. In many cases, venues end up finding their way onto Google Maps anyway, but you should still claim your listing to make sure that your venue becomes fully incorporated into Google’s network. This will allow you to upload photos of your venue, specify opening times, ensure the location is correct and much more. Even more importantly, you can use Google’s new Business Photos tool to upload 360° photos of your venue. However, don’t forget that Google Maps and Google My Business aren’t the only important resources out there. Just like any local business, you should also claim your listings on Microsoft’s Bing Maps, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and Yelp, as well as any other popular online resources in your country or region.

Catering software is a must have

Catering software is a must have for catering businesses. Surprisingly several catering business in Australia are still running their business on spreadsheets or even manual notes. This will cause your catering business several in which could really affect your business performance:

    1. Efficiency

If you are a one man band, then probably a spreadsheet might do the trick. However, as soon as you are running a business with a few people, spreadsheets will quickly become limited and inefficiency. Inefficiency equals wastage. The low cost of implementation of a catering software will definitely outweigh the cost of the inefficiency.

    1. eCommerce for Catering

Choose a cloud catering software with an integrated ecommerce. This way you will be killing two birds with one stone. Allowing your customers to order online will also improve your efficiency as customer will be placing the orders by themselves.

    1. Analytical Reports

A good catering software will give your business analytic reports beyond any report you can produce manually. It will allow modern database to interact at all levels to generate the best information about your catering business such as dishes performance, sale, sale by customer, sale by product to name a few. Basically any data that was entered into the system can be used to generated reports. Hence, you will not be guessing decisions. You will be basing your decisions on historical facts about your business.

    1. Automation

The buzz word of this current decade. A good catering software will automate most of your internal processes, from placing orders, managing your kitchen production, collecting payment to delivering orders, everything can be automated, reducing costs and minimising human error.

    1. Integration

Nowadays technology is becoming well integrated and agnostic. Hence choose a catering software that will integrate with your accounting system, email marketing and more. Integration basically allow two distinct software such as the catering software and accounting system to connect to each other. This integration will reduce your double handling data entry, human error and allow your internal processes to run on auto-pilot.

While there’s no need to jump on board every trend that hits the world of digital marketing, there’s no doubt that maintaining a strong website, particularly with a mobile-centric approach, is crucial for any catering venue. Whether your venue is brand new or well-established, a strong online presence will help to secure a future of growth and prosperity. Lastly but not least, implement and maintain a good catering software which will allow your business to scale at ease as well as maximise efficiencies and reduce operational costs.

For any further information about Flex Catering, our easy to use system please contact us. Our goal is to help your Catering business to succeed.

The “Killer Apps” of the Meetings Industry

As published in The Meeting Professional Magazine, December 2006 Issue.

A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) refers to technology that is so useful or desirable that it proves the value of some underlying technology.

The VisiCalc spreadsheet was the first killer app – a program that, in the early 1980’s, proved so successful for finance workers that it mushroomed early IBM PC sales. Electric lighting could be considered the “killer app” of electricity as the automobile was the “killer app” of the internal combustion engine.

There are many “killer apps” for the meetings industry – programs that are so useful, so cost-saving, so efficiency-increasing, or so service-improving that they have and continue to revolutionize the way that meeting professionals do business.

This article will cover some of the major meeting industry killer apps so far, and then highlight what I believe to be some of ones to come.

Current Killer Apps:

Online Registration and Attendee Management

The first online registration forms appeared in 1995 and have evolved to become robust attendee management and meeting promotion tools. Compared to the old paper-based methods of the last century (where meeting promotion was largely done by bulk mail; where registration forms were submitted on paper and entered by hand; where payments and confirmations were processed manually, and everything was laboriously reentered into a database if it existed), today’s fully automated systems provide digital methods of doing this at a fraction of the cost. 90% savings or more can be yielded going from paper-based to automated web-based methods of attendee management.

In the evolution, a variety of related tools have emerged including housing/travel management, member management, communications management and more.

Site Selection

In the “olden days” (meaning just a few years ago) planners kept large file cabinets full of paper brochures and directories about meeting facilities. Substantial effort was spent to create/print/mail these materials and substantial time was spent to manage and date the information as it came in.

Nearly all of these brochures can be tossed into the recycle bin as far more complete (by a factor of 40) and more up-to-date online resources than any paper directory that has ever been printed are available for free — another killer app for the industry.

Procurement, Sourcing and RFPs

Procurement is working it way into the meetings industry. The ability to establish preferred vendors (especially hotels) in turn for discounts and the ability to streamline the request for proposal (RFP) process can reap very substantial saving – with estimates of 30-40% cost reductions.

Although online RFPs have been rejected by some planners as being cumbersome and too great a departure from their current methods, an argument can be made to reconsider. For example, when Carlson Hotels Worldwide recently rolled out its RFP automation system (MeetingBroker.com) to 933 properties around the world, it resulted in a reduction in their average response time to leads from 56 hours to 4 hours – a savings of 90% in time! Digitizing the business process leads to greatly increased efficiency. Fast response time alone may be a driver to change processes for many planners.

Abstract Management

Usually large, scientific associations deal with hundreds or even thousands of speaking proposals using abstracts (a synopsis of the author scientific research) as the method of selecting and scheduling speakers. For these groups, abstract management programs are definitely killer apps.

This task used to be extremely paper-intensive requiring teams of people collecting and distributing paper abstracts to dozens of committees who traveled to a central location to review, approve and schedule scientific sessions.

Now all of this (from the collection and distribution of abstracts, to the reviewing, approval and scheduling of the submission by scheduling committee) can be done online from remote locations. The schedule can then be nearly instantly placed online as a program schedule or be printed as an advance program.

Exhibition Management

Until recently, large exhibitions were sold using a large, paper floor plan, and loads of White-Out to make corrections and changes. Exhibit companies were penciled in as the space was sold with the data collected on note cards. Now exhibit space can be sold online and as the space is booked it is immediately posted to the exhibit space sales site to confirm the purchase. All details are tracked in a database for automated confirmation, billing, future promotion, and follow-up.

Other Established Killer Apps

There are also many other applications that reap either huge increases in efficiency or much better ways of providing customer service over the old paper-based way things were done. These include online survey tools, audience polling, banquet seating, contact management, destination marketing, fundraising, event management, catering management, housing, marketing, room diagramming, and scheduling just to name a few. Although space prevents me from going into detail for many of them, all can significantly improve the meeting planning process.

Killer Apps to Come

Innovation is alive and well in the meetings industry and there are lots of new ideas bubbling up. Here are just a few:

Mobile Technology

Mobile phones are ubiquitous. Soon attendees will be using them to provide a range of trade show and event applications including: the conference agenda, exhibit product directories, event feedback and surveys, SMS audience polling, group announcements, networking capabilities, travel information and more. See the LOG ON Mobile Event Assistant (www.log-on.nl) as an example of how this will work out.

Soon travellers will be able to log on to a hotel web site not only to request a room, but be able to pre-determine light level, TV station, and air conditioning level before arrival. They will be able to check into the hotel upon landing at the airport using their mobile phone; use their cell phone as the key to the room and to the safe; and check out using the phone as well, completely bypassing the hassle of lines at the registration desk. See www.fonekey.net as an example of how this may play out.

Networking

One good contact at a meeting can make the whole event worthwhile. However, the way we have networked at meetings (staring at each others chests for paper name badges) has been relatively unchanged for forty years.

Although this has worked, if technology can be used to improve the process, great value can be gained for the attendees. There are now more than twenty of these products available, but they have not been widely adopted yet. I believe that planners, who are looking for a way to substantially increase the value of their event and a relatively low cost per person, should strongly consider using one of the many applications in this area.

Standards

I believe that meeting industry standards will prove to be the most significant meeting industry killer app for the foreseeable future. The work done by APEX (accepted practice exchange – www.conventionindustry.org/apex) and related standards initiatives including OTA (Open Travel Alliance – www.opentravel.org/) and HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation – www.htng.org/) will eventually put meeting planners and suppliers on the same page electronically. Although currently a North American-based initiative, the importance of standards is global. One can get money out of an ATM machine globally, because the banks agreed on standards.

Communication between planners and suppliers is still largely paper-based. Meeting specifications, for example, are commonly printed out and re-entered into the hotel system to produce banquet event orders (BEOs). In order for our industry to come into this century from a data management perspective, web must adopt standards. Standards will lead to electronic data exchange (EDI) – the ultimate killer app for the meetings industry likely leading to efficiency increases and labor savings in the planning process of 40% or more.