Ever wondered who the chefs, servers, and cashiers in your high school or college cafeteria worked for?  Pretty likely they were working for a contract foodservice management (CFM) company, like Sodexo, Aramark or Compass.

Why does that matter if you’re in the food industry? Well, if you’ve ever wondered about how to sell to those companies, read on, because we’re going to explain more about how these companies work and how they bring on new vendors.

The big picture

Contract-managed companies operate in K-12 and college, as well as the healthcare (hospitals), corporate office, and military sectors (read more about the non-commercial foodservice industry here) and have a big chunk of the $200B (U.S.) non-commercial foodservice sector.

The largest ones are Sodexo (based in France), Aramark (based in Philadelphia), and Compass (based in England),  but there are also smaller, regional companies as well.

Click here to read a list of the top largest foodservice contract management companies in the U.S.

Student in college foodservice

What about centralized buying?

Besides the convenience of outsourcing all the complexities of running a dining operation, a CMF is also of value to, say, a college, because they have large buying power with their food vendors. They can buy in huge volumes and pass some of those savings along to the college or hospital.

This means the central buying offices of these companies are major gatekeepers.

Market with the consumer in mind

The end user or consumer is the most important factor in getting the attention of these central buyers. Your product needs to be relevant to the consumer, and therefore relevant to the CFM centralized buyer. In the case of a college dining operation, that would be the students.

College students are increasingly aware of the sustainability of the food products being offered in their college cafeteria and the health benefits of those products, for example. As the end-user becomes more discriminating, food suppliers who understand and cater to the concerns of the end-user can make inroads with contract management companies and win their attention.

Ultimately, everything comes down to the contract foodservice management company’s ability to compete in the market by offering a great service to their clients (colleges, hospitals, etc.) that in turn helps support the client’s mission, while also being cost effective.

Next steps

While it won’t necessarily be an easy or fast process, selling to contract foodservice management companies is critical if you want to penetrate the non-commercial foodservice space.

Salmon salad