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Aramark program helps facilitate restaurant partnerships

Local Restaurant Row is a technology-enabled guest restaurant finder and management platform available across company’s network to promote alliances with local businesses.

Like most dining service providers over the past decade, Aramark has seen growing customer expectations for diverse, authentic food choices from the local community and surrounding areas even as its onsite operating teams were spending inordinate amounts of time developing similar, separate programs on an individual location basis. In response, the company developed Local Restaurant Row, a customized but scalable platform that allows individual account teams to have a clear, concise path to identify, evaluate, contract with, schedule and manage local restaurant partnerships while still maintaining direct personal connections with them.

In turn, the initiative helps those local restaurant partners identify opportunities for the growth and stability that comes from new revenue streams, with both accounts and their partners supported with marketing resources that put the spotlight on each individually inspired menu and story.

Among the advantages Local Restaurant Row has delivered for Aramark, its clients and its commercial restaurant partners are high guest satisfaction scores and positive client feedback, account operating efficiencies and increased retail revenues, restaurant partner visibility and additional revenue sources, and local community support.

The Local Restaurant Row platform serves four unique lines of business—Workplace Experience (B&I), Higher Education, Healthcare and K-12—in some two dozen metro markets and with more than 725 local restaurant and/or food truck partners.

The initial goal was to provide a technology platform to help onsite teams with the tedious, manual efforts involved in finding, contracting and managing partner details in a more efficient and scalable way. Coupled with this was the inclusion of a branding package that allows each restaurant partner to be presented in such a way that its unique menu and personality is highlighted while creating stronger ties to the local community.

The initiative was piloted with a few accounts across multiple lines of business in late summer and early fall of 2019, providing feedback that allowed the company to streamline the program and launch Local Restaurant Row in January 2020—just before COVID-19 significantly disrupted the entire dining industry while also generating a renewed appreciation for local establishments, the people behind them and the richness they bring to communities.

While the pandemic did slow the rollout of the program, it also helped clients and restaurant partners meet the challenges posed by bouncing back from the pandemic; brought more minority- and women-owned restaurants to client sites across the country helping to foster a more inclusive supply chain; and created more rigor for site operating teams by providing additional standards and account-level control for partner food safety and quality standards. Aramark says this screening process is a major differentiator for clients who may have attempted to operate such programs before on their own or through a third party.

Of course, the company has worked for a long time with local restaurants, food trucks and chefs at either an individual account-level or through third party relationships, but by formalizing these efforts, providing more direct relationship visibility and accountability to onsite teams and an online marketplace for accounts and partners to connect, it has been able to significantly improve program execution and higher end results to guests and clients.

Local Restaurant Row is active at over a hundred accounts covering over 20 major markets, but while the technology platform is standard, its implementation is customized to each individual location, from a single food hall location at a higher education account to a weekly café pop-up in a workplace location or a monthly rotation of partners through a multi-location hospital network.

Client-focused marketing has been done primarily by each respective line of business sales and operating teams while prospective restaurant partner marketing has been handled by a dedicated Local Restaurant Row team in partnership with account teams activating the program. Once active at an account, a customizable suite of print and digital marketing materials is available to highlight the unique menu and story of each restaurant partner that is serving guests at the location.

All photos courtesy of Aramark

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