The $24 billion distributor is taking a multi-pronged digital approach to better understanding customers as it seeks to expand market share.

A top-tier distributor to the food-service industry, US Foods Inc. has built out a digital strategy to better understand and serve the restaurants, universities and hotels among its more than 250,000 customers.

Mobile is an essential part of where the restaurant business is going.

The food-service distributor says 55% of its independent restaurant customers order from it through self-service e-commerce, up from just over 10% in 2013. That has led to a 7% increase in average order value and a 5% increase in customer retention.

US Foods reports a much larger percentage of enterprise customers including restaurant chains ordering electronically. Although it doesn’t break out e-commerce percentages for its largest customers, US Foods says its overall e-commerce penetration among customers was over 70% in 2017, more than 10 percentage points higher than 2013.

2013, in fact, marked an important turning point for the company. That’s also when it launched its mobile app, which it developed in-house to meet the needs of its customers in getting product information and placing orders from wherever they happen to be—a capability particularly crucial to the independent restaurant operators it’s targeting for growth.

GeneCarbonara_USFoods

Gene Carbonara, vice president, e-commerce and digital, US Foods Inc.

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“Mobile is an essential part of where the restaurant business is going,” says Gene Carbonara, vice president of e-commerce and digital. “We make our technology available to customers wherever they are, including a basement restaurant or a walk-in cooler.” The app, he adds, has continued to evolve since debuting in 2013. “We haven’t stopped innovating it since then,” he says. “We work on it all day, every day, all year—we never rest.”

The constant focus on improving its technology has brought US Foods’s customers several new areas of operating help. For example: the ability to manage inventory and orders according to multiple lists on its e-commerce site.

Buyers and purchasing managers can view and manage in-stock inventory levels, orders and invoices in separate lists dedicated to individual operating departments, storage facilities and product categories. “They may have multiple buyers, and they can see what buyers have ordered, view invoices, and make sure they’re not over-ordering,” Carbonara says.

More about US Foods’s digital strategy will appear later this month in a special B2BecNews report on innovation and disruption in B2B e-commerce.

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