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CSP Magazine

Opinion: 3 Steps to Give Your Roller Grill a Refresh

The roller grill remains one of the most crucial components of a c-store foodservice program, particularly among millennials, according to Technomic research. But many retailers could stand to modernize their program to meet existing guests’ evolving demands and lure in new customers still held back by negative perceptions.

Our roller grill is still a core part of our offer, but it could use a refresh. Any advice on elevating it—and how to execute the enhancements?

Given the growing attention to hot dogs from the quick-service segment, now is an ideal time to remind consumers you are serious about your roller grill. Transforming a tired hot-food bar into an overnight traffic driver can be as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here’s how:

Step one: Clean house. Giving the venue a face lift can be inexpensive and quick. A good deep cleaning and attractive signage wraps can turn old displays into fresh marketing engines. Create visual presentations that showcase fresh product variety while clearly communicating quality and value. And while you are upgrading your menu, reset expectations on staff  training and reward store associates who demonstrate high standards of excellence.

Step two:Differentiate. Purchase the best roller-grill items available and make sure they reflect consumer trends. Watch local QSRs and ballpark-menu competitors. Make note of entrée meat components, innovative rolls and signature condiments, and offer familiar favorites with signature twists that create street buzz and generate new customers via social media and word of mouth.

Leverage vendor resources to convert boring condiment areas into “value-added” bars with multiple mustards, regional sauces, ethnic fusion flavors and trendy toppings.

Reflect local flavor profiles in higher-shelf-life and lower-cost ingredients, such as cured sausages, nonrefrigerated toppings and alternative bread and roll components.

Step three: Invest. The labor resources required to execute a retail hot bar can be costly, and displays should be constantly updated to accommodate an aggressive growth plan.

  • Design venues for speed and ease of execution during both peak and slow sales periods. Equipment and displays must be flexible and adapt to velocity and day-part peaks.
  • Plan labor production and staging as close to the display as possible to enable the highest level of customer service, such as minimizing out-of-stock situations.
  • Never take shortcuts with food safety! Invest in the proper tools to ensure product is safe and held within proper temperature standards. If you don’t want your customers judging the sanitation of your hot food bar by the condition of your bathrooms, communicate food sanitation standards and procedures at the point of display.

Developing a passion around foodservice excellence requires persistence and dedication. Focus on the foundational blocks of success, measure what you treasure and results will follow.


Deborah Holand is chief consultant and owner of foodservice­911.com, specializing in new concept and revitalization growth strategies. Have a question for Deborah? Email awestra@winsightmedia.com, subject Ops Talk.

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