The foodservice business has a big advantage over retail floral. They're bigger. A lot bigger. About a 100 times bigger in terms of either the number of operations or sales volume.
That gives the foodservice business more money to play with, and some of it is spent on really great research. This for example is the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University.
The do some fascinating work, and a lot of it can benefit retail florists.
But first – why is it that retail floral often shares more in common with the foodservice business than other forms of retail?
Food and flowers are both perishable. That means that the people that deal with the product need to be in close contact with the people that sell the product. Tim Huckabee of FloralStrategies always says that in well-run restaurants the kitchen drives sales (by telling the servers what to move), and that well run flower shops need to do the same thing. The people that know what is in the cooler and what needs to move need to inform the that are on the phones taking orders what they need to promote. That means good communication...
Most retail involves mass produced products that do not vary. Both foodservice and floral deal in products that are made to order, and good communication is essential. In a flower shop the designers have to effectively communicate with the designers, then translate industry jargon, shorthand and stem counts into words that appeal to the buying public. Then, just like a server that has to warn the kitchen about a customer with a food allergy, they have to listen to person ordering flowers and effectively communicate any special requests back to design, and sometimes the delivery drivers as well.
This was touched on above but it bears repeating – most retail deals with identical, mass produced merchandise. Your friends smart phone that you admire, or the book that you see in a window as you pass by? You can be sure of buying absolutely identical versions of those products through countless channels. Food and flowers isn't like that – both are generally made to order, and always vary just a little bit. The descriptions in the restaurant menu, or the ones provided over the phone at a flower shop, must paint a picture that is attractive enough to generate a sale. But they also have to be real enough that the customer isn't disappointed.
Both Sell A Discretionary Product
It is rare that someone absolutely has to eat in a restaurant, or order flowers. These are things people do because they want to, and if the experience isn't pleasurable they aren't likely to do it again.
There are many parallels, and that means that much of the research done on behalf of the foodservice business can also be applied in retail floral.