May 13 2016
As some of you may know, Dot Foods, the nation's largest food re-distributor, hosted "Innovations 2016" last week in St. Louis. Five members of the NECS team, Harold, Nichole, Ashley, Suzanne and myself, traveled to Missouri for this annual trade show. More information about Dot Foods can be found at www.dotfoods.com
Dot Foods invites manufacturers to set up booths and showcase their products to Dot Foods customers. We are an outlier among other booths, offering computer software instead of food products or paper goods. Dot Foods invites us to showcase our entrée.DOT module which integrates the Dot Foods catalogue into your entrée system. It's designed to be a compliment to the Dot Foods Expressway (online system) and integrates your Dot Foods inventory, costs, product details, etc. into your entree system.
I want to express my appreciation for Dot Foods being a great partner and allowing us to have a presence at their trade show. I look forward to it every year and can't speak more highly about working with their team of dedicated employees.
We arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday night, after our briefly delayed flight, and enjoyed a relaxed night and morning before setting up our booth Thursday afternoon. After setting up our booth, pictured below, we attended a seminar about the new Dot Expressway feature. While we are not a Dot Foods customer, we were interested to learn about how their company is creating modern ways to connect with their customers.
Friday morning began early with the welcome address by John Tracy, chief executive officer of Dot Foods. He talked about the Future of his company, and the food industry as a whole. There is a correlation between fuel prices and food service spending- as gas prices drop, Americans spend more on food.
The food industry is generally divided into two categories- retail and service, and both of these sectors are expected to expand. Dining out is seen as an activity of leisure that Americans spend more money on as other living expenses decrease. However, this is not bad news for the retail side of the food industry. While Americans are indulging in restaurants, we are still spending at the grocery store due to increasing snacking trends. 90% of Americans snack between meals, an average of 4 a day! Smaller retail markets and manufacturers are benefiting as customer consumption shifts towards natural, fresh, artisan snack products.
Dot Foods has expanded in order to meet consumer trends by opening two new national locations and by crossing boarders into Canada. Consumers are demanding more choice, and more information about these food choices. Customers want a more personal, authentic relationship with their food products and providers.
After the opening address, we had a few minutes to double check our booth setup before the customers began stopping by. Our first visitors set the tone for a great day as we had some existing customers stop by just to say hello and met a couple incredibly interested customers who wanted to stop by our booth before any others.
As soon as the show started, our booth was overflowing. We continued to be a hit throughout the day and had over 125 national and international distributors show an interest in our software.
Many of our visitors knew about entrée before stopping by, either through research of their own, but mainly through recommendations (thank you to our existing customers!) We welcomed all questions about entrée, and were able to give an overview to unfamiliar customers and give demonstrations to those with specific interests.
Potential customers benefitted from seeing our system in action. This was also a perfect opportunity to establish the personal connection needed to improve entrée. Our system updates are directly related to the feedback and requests we hear from our customers. Here you can see some photos of us interacting with customers and showcasing entrée V4, EOP, and the Anoto Digital Pen .
I was very happy to notice that directly across from our location was a booth for the US GS1 Organization for the Foodservice Standards Initiative.
As most of you know, the GS1 Organization is now available for over 600,000 foodservice items and provides information including official pictures, allergens, nutrition, pallet configuration, recipes, ingredients, etc. This is all very valuable information and many of you are constantly asking about us providing a way of further integrating it into your entrée software.
Our entrée V4 software currently includes the definition of an items GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) in our Inventory File Maintenance. This GTIN is the universal number which identifies the item and provides the link into the GS1 database so that you can access all of this information. Below is a screen shot of Inventory File Maintenance with the GTIN highlighed in red.
I was able to have a very informative conversation with Julie McGill, the Foodservice Sr. Director for GS1 US, based out of Chicago. We spoke about how one can obtain this information from the different "data pool" companies and how buying groups, such as UniPro, provide their members with this information at a discounted rate.
Many of you have made the argument that you need this information in order to sell a manufacturer's product and how paying large fees just to obtain allergen or nutritional information, is illogical. And of course having product images helps you sell the manufacturers item- whether in person (via your Electronic Order Pad running on your iPad or Android tablet) or via your entree.NET system where your customer can place their order online.
As it turns out, Julie mentioned that the annual GS1 Conference is being held June 1-3 in Washington, DC (just a few weeks away). She encouraged me to attend where I could speak in person to the folks at the GS1 organization, data pool companies and learn more about the foodservice initiative and anything else happening related to GS1 information. I've decided to register for the conference and attend all three days.
After the conference, my plan is to post another Blog article about what I've learned and provide a roadmap for our customers about how this information will be integrated into entrée. I'm very excited to attend the conference and provide you with the answers you are looking for about the GS1 foodservice initiative.
Thanks again to all who stopped by our booth at the Dot Foods show! I am looking forward to continuing the connections made in St Louis.
Recently we have had so many opportunities to meet our customers at shows and at our in house training that we hosted at the end of April (check out highlights from training in my previous blog post).
Our next training event is scheduled for June 22nd-24th, I hope to see you then! You can find out more information about the upcoming training and register here.
Price reduction for entrée.DOT - Dot Foods interface[the following information was posted on 05/20/16, after the original Blog was posted on 05/13/16]
I would like to officially announce that we have reduced the cost of our entrée.DOT add-on module to a zero upfront cost. However there will be a $100/quarter charge for ongoing Software Maintenance and updates (as Dot Foods changes data specifications, we add new features and technical support).
Note that customers that have already purchased entrée.DOT, will not be required to pay the $100/quarter and are "grandfathered" in based upon their upfront payment of this module.
The entrée.DOT software module is designed for NECS entrée users who purchase from Dot Foods.
If you currently use the Dot Foods Expressway web site for your ordering, etc., you will find that this module compliments it and makes some processes easier and faster.
It allows entrée users to automate procedures related to costs, pricing, purchasing and receiving, along with the ability to make your entire order guide from Dot Foods available to your customers. Items purchased from Dot Foods can be integrated into the NECS entrée system providing you the ability to drastically increase the number of products you can supply to your customers – without having to increase the size of your warehouse. All items purchased from Dot Foods will flow into your Electronic Order Pad tablet application and entrée.NET, to provide you with more selling opportunities. This module communicates directly with Dot Foods internal computer systems via Internet based data transmissions.
For more information about entrée.DOT, click here.