Industry Tips

5 Minutes with Popmenu's New Partnerships Team: Matt Smith and Ben Newton

Popmenu's Senior Directors of Channel Sales discuss the impact of consultative selling and how it benefits both Sysco and restaurants.

At Popmenu, we believe that restaurants shouldn’t have to grow it alone. That includes developing a robust and trusted partner ecosystem to help our clients tackle the industry's biggest challenges.  As the partner program continues to expand in 2024, we recently sat down with our two newest members, Matt Smith and Ben Newton, Senior Directors of Channel Sales. We talked about the ethos behind their consultative co-selling approach and how restaurants always come out the winners.

Q: Let’s start with a quick intro. 

My name is Matt Smith. I’ve been with Popmenu for close to 7 years now and throughout that time I have had the unique opportunity to open dozens of Sysco partnerships across the country. Previously to Popmenu, I worked in manufacturing sales where we took product to market through 2-step distribution—so, creating that channel relationship and enabling those sales partners to take a solid product to market has been my skill set in the sales world. It was awesome to be able to transfer those skills over into the Channel Partnership team here at Popmenu.

I'm Ben Newton. I am the Senior Director of Channel Sales for the East—Matt's counterpart. I previously worked for Sysco for 15 years—started as a sales guy, then was promoted to a DSM for about 8 years. I moved to Popmenu about 4 months ago—glad to be here!

Q: What do you enjoy about working with restaurants?

Ben Newton: Restaurants are facilitators of community. The amount of innovation and hard work that restaurant owners have is unparalleled in any other industry—and we saw a lot of that through Covid, and the last few years. They've adapted so much, they've overcome so much, and continue to strive in a business that is not easy and, in a lot of cases, not super profitable. 

Matt Smith: Yeah, I think that there's a handful of professions in the world that are the most critical to society, but are overworked, underpaid, and often underappreciated—one of them is the restaurant owner. They work countless hours and they put blood, sweat, and tears into the business. To be able to come in and offer them a solution in something that they're not an expert in—such as technology that allows them to be more efficient, smarter in the way they communicate, and more profitable—it really feels good to deliver that solution. 

Q: How does more consultative selling lead to customer retention? 

Ben Newton: A healthy restaurant is a restaurant that continues to buy groceries, right? If a restaurant is a healthy business, then they will continue to put groceries on trucks. When you look at Sysco and the distribution business, the competition is fierce—because anybody can buy Heinz ketchup from anywhere. Restaurants make a decision to buy from Sysco. To be able to completely change the conversation off of the day-to-day Where's my truck? What's the price of this? The price of that?, and turn it to revenue-driving activities, that’s a conversation that none of your competitors are having. That’s selling beyond the plate. 

Matt Smith: Yeah, have to echo what Ben said. Anytime that we can participate in elevating the sales consultant as the advisor  that provides solutions beyond what their competitors can, it’s going to give [the rep] an edge in showing the value of Sysco. And, when we can deliver a product that gives them the opportunity to solve problems, create efficiencies, put more butts in seats, and potentially save money from other technology platforms, it elevates the sales consultant’s personal reputation, it elevates the Sysco experience, and it elevates the restaurant.

Q: How does technology help restaurants sell more (and subsequently, help Sysco move more product)? 

Matt Smith: Every restaurant is looking for ways to attract more guests, then to engage with them in a meaningful way so that they can transact with them positively and repeatedly, right? So, today the restaurant usually hires a series of contractors or tools that are largely ineffective, very costly, and don't communicate with each other. It often puts them into a mind frame of: I'm spending all this money, therefore it’s cutting into my overall revenue. So, what Popmenu is able to do is consolidate those costs and tools in a single solution that does all the things I mentioned earlier and also feeds all that data into the marketing suite. Then we automate a lot of that marketing activity—like content creation and email sends—that the restaurant wasn't able to do with traditional human capital because of time, cost, or skill set. I think that's the strongest point for the needs of the restaurant. 

Q: Any final thoughts? 

Ben Newton: I always said that a restaurant's cheapest employee is a good sales consultant,Popmenu is probably the second cheapest given the amount of ROI that comes from the technology.

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