BlueCart is an online ordering platform for small (and even mid-size) restaurant buyers in the food service industry, the distributors who serve them, and the sales representatives that manage the relationships. BlueCart is different than most offerings in that it is a hybrid freemium CRM/SRM platform designed not to help buyers identify the lowest cost, which doesn’t make much difference if you’re only ordering 10 units of something, but maximize their efficiency, allowing the buyers more time to focus on improving their business, growing their service capability, and, when appropriate negotiating their discounts with preferred distributors with a history of good, timely, service and quality. (In the restaurant industry, especially in the luxury restaurant industry, profits are highly revenue, and not cost savings, driven. The last thing you want to do is be unable to serve a potential customer, so assurity of supply trumps lowest cost, as it does in automotive where a production line halt can cost millions.)
BlueCart has made fairly fast penetration into the market, already signing up close to 8,000 restaurants and distributors, and should expand even faster when it closes its series B funding and ramps up its sales and marketing efforts and penetrates even more distributors. This is primarily due to fact that they are using a B2C freemium model where ordering is always free and secondarily due to the fact that distributors are incented to sell on BlueCart’s behalf since it makes order management and customer account management easier for the distributor than traditional phone-and-fax orders (especially if all of their customers are on the same platform).
The platform has two main components: the buyer platform and the supplier / distributor platform.
The buyer platform currently consists of basic order placement, messaging, supplier management, and simple reporting functionality as well as some new functionality around supplier and inventory management. The core functionality is the order functionality, which allows buyers to add to the cart using catalog search and custom-category drill-downs and per-level based ordering. Categories can be defined by food group (dairy, meat, seafood, etc.) or by inventory location which can make it incredibly easy for chefs and buyers to order what they need when they need it. Per-level ordering automatically computes order quantities based upon current inventory and pre-defined stock levels. Both methods add to a persistent cart that allows orders to be built up throughout the day so that both the buyer and the distributor can be sure the order is complete when it is submitted.
The supplier platform is centered around order, and catalog, management. When a supplier logs in they see their dashboard that allows them to jump into order management, catalog management, order fulfillment management, and analytics. The order management allows the supplier to see all orders, in all states, and filter by state, date, and customer. This allows a supplier to quickly zero in on the orders of relevance at any particular time. Embedded in the analytics / reporting module is the order fulfillment report that allows a distributor to, for each product (group), compile a list of all outstanding orders that need to be prepared (and put on the truck) for the day. This makes it very easy for the distributors to ensure that all orders in on time get accounted for and on the truck. Much easier than trying to compile the list from paper-based phone orders, e-mails, and faxes.
While the power of the platform is still pretty basic compared to mature e-Procurement platforms in the indirect sourcing space, it is (much) more powerful than what an average restaurant or small distributor, trying to manage orders and inventory off of ill-equipped spreadsheets, has ever had at their disposal. And, as such, deserves to be investigated. For more information, as well as a detailed SWOT assessment, watch for the upcoming Spend Matters Pro series (membership required) by the doctor and the prophet coming this week. It’s worth a detailed investigation!