CHICAGO — Building a strong foodservice culture was one of the key topics during the retailer panel at this year’s C-Store Foodservice Forum in Chicago. Companies that often fail at foodservice do so because they don’t have a steady foodservice culture, Jerry Weiner, a foodservice consultant for convenience stores and restaurants, said during the panel.
Weiner, who was formerly the vice president of foodservice for Rutter’s and director of foodservice for MAPCO, said developing a foodservice culture means having everyone—from upper management to cashiers—on board with the idea of new foodservice concepts coming into your stores.
“Until you’ve got the breadth of understanding [foodservice] throughout your chain, it’s difficult to move forward,” he said. “There are going to be hurdles: Developing the culture and understanding how to offer food and executing food safety is difficult. But we have to understand our role.”
Here are three ways to build a strong foodservice culture in c-stores …
Clean your stores
Keeping your stores clean—inside and out—is one key to building a foodservice culture, said Jessica Williams, CEO of Food Forward Thinking, a food and beverage consultancy. Williams believes that if retailers can’t keep their stores clean, they surely cannot offer clean, fresh foodservice.
“If you’re in a management role or if you’re a supplier and you walk past a piece of trash and don’t pick it up, you’re setting a standard,” she said. “Keep it clean, and the expectation will be that you’re always cleaning and there’s no other option.”
Get people excited
A strong foodservice culture starts with management and works its way down to front-line employees, said Erica Flint, a registered dietician for Kwik Trip. And the best way for top-level management to motivate their employees is by getting them excited about the initiatives. This can be achieved through marketing and promotions, such as sampling new food products, using pictures of the food and social media campaigns.
“You have to get people excited about the products, because if they’re not excited, the food won’t sell,” she said.
Many c-store employees don’t have the knowledge or tools to implement healthy foodservice in stores. Moreover, front-line employees are not accustomed to speaking about healthy foods to customers if asked. This makes it vital for upper management to offer training guidelines and manuals to all employees, said Chris Patterson, foodservice concept and innovation manager for Yesway.
“It’s nice to have the support from above who realizes what we need,” he said. “If you can get that support, it allows everyone to build the company they want.”