When Food Services of America (FSA) fights for its customers, it’s not just about beating back competitors. It’s also about fighting for customers’ survival by helping to put more “butts in seats.” The company’s Portland branch has led the way in this regard with an initiative called Dining Out in the Northwest, or DO IT NW.
Established in 1999 and supported by FSA and select supplier partners, DO IT NW is one part multi-media campaign, one part dining directory and one part branding initiative. It’s built on two key objectives, says Jim Reynolds, vice president of marketing and merchandising at FSA-Portland. “First, through TV and radio ads and programs, billboards, print ads, a dedicated Web site, and now social media marketing, it encourages people to dine out. Second, it encourages them to support the local economy by supporting local restaurants.”
The program, he adds, is not for everyone. Currently, 450 restaurants participate and they range from fine dining to bowling alleys to espresso stands. There’s no cost to them, but all must commit to offering an experience that in one way or another is uniquely Northwest. “They owe it to the others in the program to deliver on the promise of a great Northwest experience. If they don’t there’s less chance that the consumer will go back to the DO IT NW list in the future,” he says. “If they don’t have a strong message, we work with them through a related FSA program called Brand You. It’s another series of conversations and tools that helps them identify what’s unique about their operations. Our program is designed to help drive people to their operations, but they have to take it from there. They have to deliver something extra.”
Brad Parker, vice president of corporate communications at Phoenix-based FSA, says based on Portland’s success with the program, similar initiatives are being introduced by other FSA branches. “As a distributor, we feel we really have to fight for our customers and help them survive,” he says.