LAS VEGAS -- Food waste can be a bit of a touchy subject, especially for convenience stores shifting their focus to more fresh items. Instead of getting worked up about the costs, however, The Parkers Cos. wants to get their teams excited about food waste. That’s right, the Savannah, Ga.-based company, which operates 54 Parker's c-stores, encourages its foodservice operations to have surplus product. “We tell them we want to see that waste,” said Heather Davis, director of foodservice for the retailer, at the 2018 NACS Show held last month in Las Vegas. “We have to be really positive and diligent.”
Here are three ways Davis and her team think about waste differently.
1. No fear
Davis counts on waste. When Parker’s rolls out new menu items, she factors waste into the costs. “We have no idea how much we’re going to be selling,” she said. “We plan to have higher waste, and then back down to a more manageable number.”
By looping employees into the conversations, Davis creates a transparent and upbeat dialogue about the category’s waste goals. Team members are armed with checklists and other tools provided by suppliers to help track waste. “Don’t give up,” she said. “You’re going to have to talk about it all the time.”
2. Waste not
Inventiveness is key when it comes to reducing food waste—Parker’s is continually asking how they can repurpose a SKU. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated to work, she said. For instance, the retailer sells a chicken salad sandwich and had heaps of leftover pulled chicken. Team members came up with the idea to add a pulled chicken barbecue sandwich to the hot grab-and-go case. After just three weeks, the sandwich helped generate an extra $140,000 in annual revenue. “Everyone was so up in arms about how much chicken we had left,” she said. “It created an awareness that surprised everyone.”
In addition to the grab-and-go sandwich, the c-store chain has also made extra breakfast meats into a breakfast casserole. After using additional cheese sauce to launch mac and cheese, it became one of the biggest-selling items, she said.
3. Redefine success
Creating an accurate log of food waste data can change the way c-stores deploy promotions. Earlier this year, Parker’s released a limited-time offer that was a hit with consumers. The company dubbed the item a success, but then the foodservice team looked at the numbers. Food waste on the promotion was so high, the c-store lost money.
Recording waste across dayparts also helps trace back theft and when to put out product. In one Parker’s location, the breakfast grab-and-go sells rapidly in the early morning, whereas in a different location it sells closer to the afternoon. “It helps us make sure we’re putting the bulk of these items out at the right time,” she said.