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On hybrid NGOs, foodservice, and marketing strategies

Published by Mark Bodnar

Simple line drawing of a dining table set with flowers, candles, and covered food traysHi all! My last post was intended to help some students who are focusing on digital nomads for their research. This time I'm here to help the other half of the same class — students who are working on a marketing strategy project involving a Portuguese not-for-profit/NGO that operates a cafe, a catering business, and a restaurant

As with my last post, this one is meant to highlight a few search tricks & strategies, as well as some key resources. There's no way I could cover all possible resources in a single post, even if I knew your specific research questions, so it's the search strategies and tips that are the most important in what follows, starting with a short discussion about how to think about your research goals: 

Overlapping concepts

I led off my earlier digital nomads post with a discussion about the stakeholders and the questions each of them might have. Thinking from the perspective of each group could be useful for this topic as well, but I'm going to demonstrate another way to approach a complex topic: intersecting concept circles!

As I see it, conducting the research needed to develop a strategy for an NGO in Portugal that runs some foodservice operations will require exploring at least the following major concepts: 

 Industry/sector: Cafes, catering services, restaurants, and consumer foodservice in general, but also be ready to learn from experiences in other sectors.

 Place: Portugal! And, of course, it's important to consider similar situations in other countries.

 Organization form: NGO, Not-for-profit, social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, civil society, hybrid... and perhaps there are also lessons to be learned from the experiences of commercial businesses?

 Focus: Market & branding strategy... remembering that marketing involves far, far more than just advertising!

In a perfect world, we'd find many resources right at the spot where all the circles overlap: information that exactly meets all of our needs. It certainly doesn't hurt to look for such things, but I suspect that your sponsor will have looked as well, and found nothing so perfect. They've turned to you in hopes that you will think laterally/creatively about the topic, gather resources in which only some of the circles/concepts are covered, then combine it all with a healthy dose of your own analysis to guide them into the unknown.

For instance...

 Can you use information on the Portuguese foodservice industry and market overall?

 How about information on what other social enterprises (anywhere!) have done to market themselves?

 Or examples of NGOs (again, anywhere!) who have succeeded with similar training and/or foodservice initiatives?

 Or maybe details on how other foodservice organizations (including for-profit ones) have thought outside the box for all aspects of their marketing mix?

This is just scratching the surface. If you spend a few minutes brainstorming possible overlaps between any two or three of your topics, I'm sure you'll come up with more questions. Perhaps more importantly, you'll also be better able to spot potentially useful resources when you start searching!


The following list is in no particular order, and it’s certainly not exhaustive! I’m hoping to at least give you some useful starting points, and to highlight some search techniques and resource types that might be worth exploring further. 


Passport is our main "fast-moving consumer goods" market research database. It contains many reports, podcasts, and briefings that might be useful for this case. It also offers detailed demographic and economic data, with forecasts, for every country in the world. Here are a few reports that popped up in my initial searches...

  • Full-Service Restaurants in Portugal
  • Limited-Service Restaurants in Portugal
  • Nutricafés - Cafés e Restauração SA in Hot Drinks (Portugal)
  • Cafés/Bars in Portugal
  • Consumer Foodservice in Portugal
  • Consumer Foodservice By Location in Portugal
  • New Concepts in Consumer Foodservice


A few examples of the info you'll find in Statista using searches like Portugal or Portugal foodservice:

  Tip: Always look for links to the original sources of stats reported by Statista. In some cases, the info will be from Statista's own surveys, but if it's from elsewhere, that source may provide additional context and content.

For instance... 

The source link for the last statistic above leads to a sector-level dashboard from Banco de Portugal. With a few clicks, I can switch the interface to English (my Portuguese is, sadly, inexistente), change the sector to either "56210 - Event Catering Activities" or "56301 - Cafes," choose an organization size category and a year, and generate beautiful infographics reflecting the average health and operations of even micro-orgs in each sector.  

Digging deeper at Banco de Portugal site, I see that the sector reports are just one of many types of company information they provide. I also notice a page solely dedicated to "Sectoral analysis of accommodation and food service activities" which might be worth exploring further.

Of course, I wouldn't want to use such data without understanding the methodology and definitions behind it. I notice this guide to the metadata for the Central Balance Sheet Studies that I've been viewing, and I see that they refer to a specific survey: the IES.  A bit more searching and I soon have more background on that survey, as well as this page describing the survey's launch... which confirms that it applies to "all companies in Portugal" (i.e., private also, I believe).  That means it's probably similar to Canada's Financial Performance Data site that uses CRA data to report industry average data that includes even the smallest companies.

Still with me? Sorry about the deep dive there! I just wanted you to see how easily a single source from Statista or elsewhere can quickly lead to more sources and deeper context.  That entire exploration took me about 5 minutes.

  Articles & ebooks

Depending on which angles/concepts you are exploring, I suspect our Business Source Complete database (business journal/magazine articles) and our ProQuest Sociology Collection database (sociology resources) will be a good places to start. 

You could also just search broadly across many subject areas using the SFU Library Catalogue. For instance, here are some rough catalogue searches for recent ebooks and articles on marketing & nonprofit organizations. 

Those databases & searches will lead you to such resources as: 

Industry research guides: Guides to doing the research necessary when starting... a catering business, a coffee shop, or a restaurant
These guides are designed to help BC-based entrepreneurs conduct secondary research to plan and launch their own businesses. The focus is on BC/Canadian resources, but (a) some of our local information may apply to other countries; and (b) once you see how the information is structured, you may be able to find similar resources elsewhere. 

See, for example, the Industry News section of the catering guide. Some of the listed news sources and associations may have useful information, such as this very detailed report on a previous Caterer of the Year from the International Caterers Association, found via this "inurl" Google search of the ICA site.

More industry news! Many such magazines and blogs are (largely) free online and often share practical advice and real examples. Here are a few examples: 

See our Factiva news database for more industry magazines such as Restaurant Hospitality. I used Factiva to spot news articles that mention other social enterprises that run foodservice businesses to help train at-risk people: e.g., Cafe Momentum in Dallas (details), Fair Shot Cafe in the UK (details),  and FareStart in Seattle (details). 


I hope these resources and (more importantly!) the overall approach and strategies demonstrated in this post prove useful for you! It's a lot of info to absorb, but still much more efficient than beginning with random searches.

Please do email me if you want to chat about this or any other research topic.


P.S.: A late addition: the following 2020 ebook touches on marketing of nonprofits and discusses the trend toward hybrid nonprofits. Maybe useful for a big-picture perspective on the sector? - The Routledge companion to nonprofit management

Mark Bodnar
Business & Economics Librarian