Matchmaker, Matchmaker Find Me…. an Operator?

JGL manages 15-20 RFP processes every year and after more than 20 years of doing this I still find it fascinating. It is a lot like match making; sometimes it is all about the fit. Most of the time we are able to accurately predict who is the likely winner early on, but sometimes we are surprised. Many of our clients want our opinion and ask us to participate in the voting while quite a number of others just want our professional input. While some food service partners think we have a strong influence on the process, the truth is a well-run process (like ours!) more often than not results in consensus among the selection committee.

We recently had a client that self-operates tell us they “were just going to go find a management company” to operate their restaurant and catering business. Hearing that made me reflect that the client perhaps did not understand how critical the selection process is to achieving a successful food service operation. I have listed (in no particular order) some of the areas where we see selection processes go awry from both the food service partner side and the client side.

  • Fit – A food service partner might look great on paper but at least 20% of the time they come to meet with the client team and the fit just isn’t there. They don’t listen well, their goals are not aligned with the client, their team is not diverse, the point person on the client team dislikes the food service partner’s key point of contact, and the list goes on.
  • Lack of alignment- Many of our museum clients view their café operation as most important while many food service partners are more interested in catering. While this is not likely to change for economic reasons, it is important for food service partners to put the same effort into the café that they put into catered events.
  • All about us – I have sat through too many presentations where the food service partner talks only about their company and how the addition of this museum or venue into their portfolio will work well for them. That approach is clear to show the selection committee that the museum or venue is a means to an end (and likely to be an end to discussions).
  • Boring café concepts – Be creative and have fun with the mission, collection or culture of the client. Nothing excites clients like a café concept that reflects their organization and a food service partner who has done their research.
  • Shifting priorities – If a client is not clear on their goals and relative priorities, the RFP process can suffer. The classic example is a client who claims not to be financially driven yet prioritizes the strongest financial offer in an out of proportion manner. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing a significant financial investment, but it is best to be clear about its priority in all communication to prospective bidders.
  • New stakeholders – We always advise our clients to develop a selection committee in advance, schedule all key dates and inform them of the time commitment required by the process. Nothing can derail a process faster than a new committee member showing up in time to questions all previous decisions and meet two of the four bidders.

I hope this list provide food for thought or those of you who might be considering an RFP process in 2019.

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