Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

How Foodservice Can
Propel Your Brand

Matt Cotton is the CEO and Founder of Rooted Food Sales, a completely new type of brokerage focused on the Foodservice channel, and a proud sponsor of Startup CPG.

What is Foodservice?

The Foodservice industry refers to companies, institutions and businesses that serve meals prepared outside the home. There are more than 15 categories considered Foodservice, including full-service restaurants (sit-down), quick-service restaurants (fast food), hospitals, school cafeterias, coffee shops, catering companies, sports stadiums, airlines and more, providing endless ways to consistently reach new consumers.

Foodservice is a diverse, thriving and rapidly growing industry:

  • U.S. sales for quick-service eating establishments was $340.5 billion (2020)
  • U.S. sales for full-service eating establishments was $297.37 billion (2019)
  • In the U.S., there are 33,160 full-service restaurant franchise establishments
  • The U.S. coffee shop market size was $36 billion (2020)
Why should a brand consider Foodservice?

In Foodservice, the opportunities to enter are wide open. Unlike grocery, you can pitch your product at any given time and are not bound to a rigid, yearly schedule. Foodservice allows you to go after an opportunity any time you see one.

Furthermore, you can consider entering into Foodservice while carrying out your grocery strategy. Utilizing Foodservice as an alternative revenue channel provides you additional opportunities and varying customers that might not necessarily be target grocery consumers. By jointing selling into both markets, you can capture typical grocery consumers and others, such sports fans watching a game in a stadium or students in their University cafeteria.

Is Foodservice right for your brand?

While you are exploring the potential of Foodservice, consider these questions:

  • Can you picture your product being sold at sports stadiums, college campuses, restaurants, coffee shops, airlines, convenience stores, and more?
  • Do you want to increase the demographics of your consumer reach?
  • Are you interested in additional revenue channels to grow your brand?
How does the Foodservice process work?

Getting your brand into Foodservice can be broken down into a four-step process.

Step 1: Identify Relevant Foodservice Categories That are Right for Your Brand

For natural food brands, top Foodservice categories include:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Corporate Cafeterias
  • Convenience Stores
  • Quick Serve Restaurants
  • Concessions
  • Healthcare Organizations, such as hospital and health system cafeterias

As healthy eating is continuing to trend, consumers are more conscious of purchasing healthier, natural food products, across these categories which traditionally have not been recognized as having natural food options.

Review the Foodservice categories and identify where your product fits in best.

Step 2: Craft a Pitch

Now that you have identified the categories that best fit your product and brand, you will need to craft a compelling pitch to the operators managing the venues where you would like your brand sold.

If you are a natural food brand, some endorsements that you may want to incorporate into your pitch are one or more of the following:

  • Gluten-free
  • Allergen-friendly
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Local
  • Women- or minority-owned
  • Sustainable
  • Clean label
  • “Better for you”

Step 3: Find Large Enough Operators

Now that you know which categories your product fits into and what you can include in your pitch to operators, you need to make a list of ideal operators to target.

Your target operators should be large enough to “force distribution”. In practical terms, this looks like pitching the local coffee shop with over five locations, rather than the shop with one or two storefronts.

With larger operators, distributors will be forced to stock your product in their warehouse. Distributors aren’t going to bring in your product unless they’re confident they can move at least five or more cases per week.

Step 4: Start Outreaching

Now that you have identified the category you fit into, the relevant brand characteristics you should highlight, you are ready to being outreach to applicable operators.

On first outreach, we recommend sending an email to introduce yourself and provide relevant information about your product and brand, such as identified in step 3. The unique characteristics of your product should interest the operator and spur a conversation or correspondence.

From there, ask to set up a meeting and/or send product samples for the operators to review. Once you send samples, next steps will be to regroup with the operators to obtain their feedback on the product.

After a successful pitch, the operator will if all goes well, the operator will ask their distributor to stock your product, so they can purchase it!


Foodservice refers to organizations or businesses that serve food outside of the home and spans across many categories, including colleges and universities, restaurants, airlines, corporate cafeterias, convenience stores and others.

Foodservice provides the opportunity to enter into an additional revenue stream. But it is competitive, difficult to navigate and tough to open doors without existing relationships with relevant operators.

At Rooted Food Sales, we have established relationships across all of the Foodservice categories. We customize strategic plans to place your product into the right venues across the country.

We partner with you to expand your brand to drive growth, revenue and consumer reach. Call us to learn more.

Matt Cotton, CEO and Founder, Rooted Food Sales


@Matt Cotton on the Startup CPG Slack

To inquire about Startup CPG sponsorship opportunities, please email partnerships@startupcpg.com

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