GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Foodservice insights, demographic preferences and facing employee challenges were among the many issues addressed during CSP’s 2018 Convenience Retailing University conference in Glendale, Ariz., in February.
Here’s a look at seven more insights to take back to the office …
1. Bye-bye Bubba
News flash for the uninitiated: “Bubba is not your core demographic anymore.” Who is? According to Drew Mize, senior vice president and general manager of PDI, it's millennials. Specifically millennial parents looking for fresh, healthy and convenient meal options for their families.
2. Delight me
In a channel where 90% of the products on the shelves are the same from store to store, customer experience has arguably become more important than the product itself, said Cliff Albert, vice president of sales and marketing for packaging group Seda North America. His personal example: He was recently in a c-store where the clerk was a pain—not friendly, very blunt. Although the coffee was great, Albert knows he won’t be going back to that store anytime soon.
3. Mind the gap
Consumers count food variety, freshness, taste and healthy foods as among the strengths of quick-service restaurants. Where do c-stores excel? Beverage variety and quality, according to Technomic.
4. Prepare for crisis
In a world of social media and continual connectivity, brands that are not prepared to respond almost immediately to a crisis can find themselves far behind the curve, even when something as odd as a TV show using a similar product "kills off" a beloved character, said author and adviser Melissa Agnes. In one recent scenario, the Crockpot brand saw it happen on TV show "This is Us," when a slow cooker—not even branded Crockpot—exploded and killed a character. Today, bad feelings about such a scenario can elevate to crisis status within an hour. Unfortunately, it typically takes a company 22 hours to react.
5. Spread the news
Twenty-six percent of convenience-store employees surveyed by Technomic have a negative impression of their employer, while 24% said they have a positive impression. But what about those in between? It seems that the biggest problem with perceptions of c-stores as an employer is that people don’t have enough data to form an opinion, so they either don’t know or don’t care, according to Technomic’s Donna Hood Crecca. This lends credence to her call to action that retailers should get the word out about their employees’ positive experiences. “Make your employees ambassadors for your company,” she said.
6. Advocacy platform
Regulatory expert Joseph Kefauver of Align Public Strategies said that anti-tobacco groups have a much stronger advantage over retailers in their ability to communicate and organize around a cause. In addition, a ready network of partners such as youth groups and health officials exist to organize and rally. He suggested that retailers with stores in municipalities where tobacco debates are underway are the best weapons to advocate for responsible retailing of age-restrictive products.
7. Foodservice advantage
The three core elements driving foodservice activity in c-stores today are coffee, Hispanic-flavored breakfast items and snacking, according to Aimee Harvey, managing editor of Technomic. “This is the No. 1 occasion for c-store foodservice, hands down,” Harvey said of snacking. Meanwhile, 78% of c-store chains tracked in Technomic’s MenuMonitor now offer Mexican-style breakfast burritos, and the industry has seen 40% year-over-year growth in the number of iced coffee items on c-store menus.