4 Foodservice Strategies for C-Stores

How to do more with less

Hatco equipment

Brought to you by Hatco.

The convenience-store foodservice landscape has undergone a transformation in recent years. Where there used to be only roller grill or microwavable options, there are now full-service and grab-and go options made to order with fresh ingredients.

But with these increased options for foodservice programs comes the cost to support them and, in turn, many important decisions for c-store owners.

While it might seem like shoppers demand a vast array of foods, the reality is that c-store owners need to be choosy and offer only what will turn a profit—both with method and menu. So how can c-stores do more with their foodservice programs without breaking the bank? Here are some helpful tips.

Eliminate waste and streamline costs

Of course, eliminating food waste and streamlining labor costs is key for saving money. Utilizing technology solutions to track what foods are selling best can be helpful for planning how much food should be prepared, and ensuring equipment is covered by good warranties is ideal for ensuring minimal downtime.

In general, any technology that can help eliminate labor and lessen food waste is a hot-ticket item for foodservice efficiency. Technology such as convected air merchandisers offer superior hold times for crispy baked or fried items, while the shelf life of other items can be extended with humidified holding and display cabinets.

Labor costs can be held in check by employing more self-service equipment, such as open-fronted heated cabinets and sandwich slides.

Offer high quality food

Now more than ever, c-stores need to offer quality food if they want to compete. Consumers have nearly limitless options for where to eat, and for c-stores to keep up, they need to be offering food consumers crave. Offer high quality foods that will attract customers and keep them coming back. This can mean not only offering specific menu items, but also ensuring freshness and proper temperatures—after all, no one wants a wilted salad or a room-temperature slice of pizza.

Equipment such as Heated Zone Merchandisers are ideal for keeping hot foods hot and feature LED lighting with “Spot On” technology which saves energy by recognizing whether products are present, going into a standby mode if not. By offering choices that are fresh and delicious, retailers don’t have to offer dozens of items simply to ensure something will stick. Market research will reveal what foods customers want—and just as importantly—when they want it. .

Capitalize on snacking

Dayparts are blurring more and more, thanks to consumers’ busy lives and tendency to graze all day instead of settling in for more structured meals. In fact, according to Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion report, 83% of consumers snack at least once a day, and on average, consumers typically snack 2.5 times per day between meals.

Keeping up with this type of consumer behavior is crucial for c-store foodservice. Doing more with less can simply mean offering a variety of grab-and go options that are tasty and fast. Ready-to-go food should be well-presented, too. Modern merchandising and display equipment looks much more decorative than previous iterations, and LED lighting can be color-tuned to display food at its best.

Instead of cutting offerings, double down

“Doing more with less” may make it seem necessary to cut certain offerings, but rather than trimming the selection in a c-store’s foodservice program, retailers may be better served but leaning into what consumers want—great tasting food that’s available conveniently.

And because many c-stores are 24/7 operations, it’s essential to use equipment that will be able to keep up with demand—research extensively before purchasing and assess warranty as well as post-sale service capability from vendors. Remember that when a piece of equipment goes down, it’s money lost. Choosing equipment that is high quality and versatile and that will make food look appealing is key.

For c-stores, there is a lot of opportunity to leverage existing space, and creating the right environment to attract repeat customers is crucial. While cutting down on labor and waste is important, it’s more lucrative to implement technologies and equipment that maximize efficiency while offering the foods consumers want. Instead of feeling like a cutback, the foodservice program will take flight.