Nimble & Quick, A Foodservice Trick

CSP roundtable reveals trends, concerns keeping retailers' attention

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Every year brings new challenges, but some never change. This was the headlineVbCrLf from CSPs foodservice category roundtable meeting held in Orlando, Fla., last week. The box isnt getting any bigger,VbCrLf said Bill Reilly, chief marketing officer for The Spinx Co. Inc.

During a general session that included all 47 retailers, suppliers and sponsors and breakout sessions on dispensed beverages and prepared foods, it was clear that space, distribution and image woes are constant even while products and consumer tastes and attitudes change.[image-nocss]

A few aspects of convenience store foodservice"accounting for 11.86% of inside sales in 2005, according to National Association of Convenience Store (NACS) numbers"inspired widespread agreement among the 15 retailers: the need for execution at the store level and commitment to foodservice at the executive level; getting people to think of c-stores as good, clean places to eat.

But that doesnt mean a cookie-cutter program is the answer. No two retailers have the exact same circumstances, and what works for one doesnt mean success for another. As the attendees chewed over the news that Starbucks will be offering breakfast sandwiches and quick-service restaurants are focusing on upscale coffee, opinions differed on threats to the c-store breakfast business.

Rutters vice president for foodservice Brian Matlock said Starbucks is missing one thing that c-stores have"speed of service"and adding sandwiches to an already busy period wouldnt bring it any closer. It takes six to 10 minutes to get coffee now,VbCrLf he said.

The retailers also shared their adjustments to youth and health. CustomizableVbCrLf was a common term in the meeting rooms, reflecting the comfort level of todays society"especially its youth"with technology and its ability to help deliver exactly what a customer wants. From iPods to coffee orders that can be 15 words long, Generations X and Y are used to controlling what they consume.

Retailers touted the wonders of touchscreen ordering and microwaveable food. The use of flavored syrups in place of flavored coffee is gaining popularity, as is a wider array of fountain beverages, including those with no carbohydrates. Some are putting small ice machines in the coffee area to capture the iced-coffee crowd. In contrast, with cup sizes growing"one retailer claimed a 100-oz. offering"larger ice machines are needed by the fountain.

Town & Country senior director of foodservice Brian Donoghue said his chain was having surprising success selling bananas one at a time. He said hes been measuring banana sales against candy bar sales, and that bananas have outpaced [candy bars] in over half the stores.VbCrLf

Other healthy products retailers have to make room for are 100-calorie snack packs, smoothies and low-fat food. Some stressed caution, however, not yet buying into c-stores role in providing healthy food. No matter the upscale and specialized trends, Kroger senior category manager Stacy Fry reminded everyone, You have to remember who your customer is every day.VbCrLf