3 Steps to a Successful Foodservice Program

Get to know the c-store consumer

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As online shopping and restaurant delivery proliferates, ensuring the future of convenience stores can seem daunting. However, there will always be on-the-go consumers who stop in for a drink or a quick bite to eat while they’re filling up their gas tank or on their lunch break during a busy day. For those customers, foodservice has the potential to meet a big need—they’re no longer satisfied with just packaged snacks. Nowadays, they’ve come to expect “real food”—foods made to order or served hot and ready to eat.

For retailers who want to continue competing and ensure interest in brick and mortar stores, building a successful foodservice program is key.

Learn more about your consumers

Knowing how to entice customers starts with knowing what they want and why they’re shopping at a c-store. According to Technomic’s 2017 Retailer Meal Solutions report, 74% of 18-34 year-olds say they purchase prepared meals from retail locations including c-stores at least three a month, with some reporting eight or more visits a month.

As for why they’re doing so, it’s because it’s convenient. The number one reason that customers choose retail settings over restaurants for food purchases is because they are already there—according to Technomic’s 2017 Retailer Meal Solutions report, 39% of consumers say they buy prepared meals from retail because they are already at the store and didn’t want to go to another location.

Knowing when they’re most likely to stop in is beneficial as well—customer patronage at c-stores is most frequent for snacks (between meals), followed by breakfast. Use this information to tailor offerings, such as roller grill breakfast options like Egg, Sausage & Cheese Tornados and savory snacks like El Monterey Beef & Cheese and Chicken & Cheese Empanadas in the Hot Case for later in the day.

Offer convenient, quick food

To that end, it’s essential to offer busy consumers foods that are quick and easy to take on-the-go. When asked in the Retailer Meal Solutions report what would encourage them to make purchase prepared foods from retail more often, consumers pointed to a few different things: better value and lower prices, fresh, made-to-order options and improved variety.

Retailers can help boost interest in their stores by expanding their foodservice offerings and ensuring that customers perceive the value—promoting daypart sales or bundles can help offer them more value, and improving variety is as simple as offering more flavors of a popular food like roller grill snacks.

Serve a variety of options

In the c-store foodservice game, there are a range of different foods customers are looking for. To ensure your customers find what they want, it goes back to knowing what to keep in stock. For instance, Technomic finds that nearly half of consumers want microwave safe packaging, and about half say that the availability of better-for-you choices is important.

About a third of consumers say ethnic options are important, too, so be sure to serve up some global influence, like burritos or taquitos, for instance, or egg rolls.

Offering a comprehensive foodservice program at a c-store is no longer an option—as technology advances, consumers have more and more choices for where to eat. To remain competitive, c-stores should offer fresh, made-to-order options as well as quick, grab-and-go/ready-to-eat foods, while incorporating healthier options and global flavors.