Other than your accountant, no third-party supplier has a clearer picture of the challenges involved in running your restaurant than your primary foodservice distributor. Some of these companies have decided to make the most of their insight and expertise by rolling out tech-based programs and services designed to help operators grow their businesses. If your operation doesn’t have a dedicated IT staff or marketing team, it’s welcome news that Performance Foodservice and Sysco now offer tech tools that can help your restaurant compete with those that do.

Richmond, VA-based Performance Foodservice has focused its efforts on Menuetta, an integrated platform that enables operators to manage their marketing efforts through mobile devices, websites, social media and traditional print media. If you’ve been trying to do this on your own, you’re probably ready for some help.

“Today’s restaurant operators are relying more heavily on digital marketing to communicate with savvy customers,” says Performance senior v.p. Fred Sanelli. “We developed Menuetta to simplify the process and ease the burden on restaurant operators by integrating the various digital platforms with a single content management system.

“Menuetta provides a fully integrated package that eliminates the time-consuming steps necessary to make menu changes or communicate special promotions across multiple platforms,” he adds. “It also enables restaurateurs to easily keep their website, mobile site, Facebook page and even their printed menus up to date constantly.”

The company says its Menuetta solution also lets operators manage customer loyalty programs and deliver email, MMS text campaigns and special promotions using a customized content management solution. Another feature is a dynamic calendar that lets users schedule special promotions for later automatic delivery to social media sites and mobile applications.

At this year’s NRA Show in Chicago, Houston-based distribution giant Sysco unveiled its Sysco Solutions and Services venture. It’s an ambitious undertaking meant to reach into many aspects of restaurant operation.

"While great food is the foundation, the ingredients for long-term success require the restaurants of tomorrow to go beyond the food they serve," says Brian Beach, president of Sysco Ventures. "From the front-of-the-house operations to the back, and everything in between, Sysco Solutions and Services offers customers an array of technology solutions and consulting services developed specifically for the foodservice industry. We will help restaurant owners drive customer traffic and loyalty, manage critical costs like labor and food, increase efficiencies, and, ultimately, run a smoother, more profitable business."

The initial four components of the Sysco Solutions and Services program are the following:

• Leapset. The company describes it as a next-generation Point of Sale (POS) system that enables restaurateurs to interact dynamically with their customers through a suite of mobile apps. Front-of-the-house solutions that enable restaurants to meet customers' ever-increasing online and mobile needs include customer online ordering and payment, online and in-store promotions, customer rewards, online menu access/updates and social media interaction. The Leapset portfolio also includes back-of-the-house functionality such as inventory control, bookkeeping and daily cash closed reports and staff management.

• Sysco Counts. It’s billed as “a robust app that allows for mobile ordering and inventory management, while streamlining the time-consuming, but all-too-critical tasks of taking inventory and ordering products and supplies.” Don’t order all your items from Sysco? Not to worry; Sysco Counts will keep track of non-Sysco inventory, too.

• MOGL. This product is a customer loyalty platform designed to turn occasional patrons into regulars who spend more money more often. MOGL rides herd on plenty of customer data, and provides complimentary social media marketing via Facebook and Twitter to further increase a restaurant’s online presence.

• Chef Ref. This component is a mobile app meant to serve as an in-depth culinary reference packed with menu ideas and recipes.

We can’t say these new offerings from Performance Foodservice and Sysco perform any better or worse than the dozens of restaurant-specific tech tools already on the market. But some operators may feel more comfortable sourcing technology like this from a company whose designated sales rep already makes an in-person visit to their restaurant each week and who maybe able to offer a close-up perspective on how these tools might be best deployed to streamline the business.