As convenience stores have moved from functioning as stop-and-shop spots for consumers on-the-go to transforming into foodservice destinations, c-store food options have seen a dramatic upgrade. While mainstays such as roller grill items and fountain drinks still exist, they have, in many locations, been overshadowed by grab-and-go, freshly made options as well as cooked-to-order foods.
For c-stores, enhancing the foodservice experience is key to keeping customers, both existing and new, coming back. Here are four ways store designs can enhance that experience.
1. Use bright, clear signage
Whether there are new menu options, limited-time offerings or daily specials, the only way to ensure shoppers know what’s happening is to post clear signage directing them toward what’s new. They may or may not have known about new foodservice offerings, but with increased signage placed in their sightline, they may be more likely to check it out—whether they’re hungry or not. Use arrows, price tags and more signage to indicate where customers can find food options.
Be sure to post menu callouts for on-trend items, too, such as hot-and-fresh fried chicken, gluten free choices, plant-based or vegetarian options and more.
2. Make it easily accessible
When customers come in looking for a hot meal or a customized sandwich or salad, they shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for what they want. Create a separate entrance for customers who just want a meal—who aren’t filling up their gas tanks or purchasing other convenience items. Ensure that staffing needs are addressed as well, so a long line doesn’t build up, leaving customers waiting a long time for their meals.
On the outside of the store, make sure different entrances are marked clearly, so guests who are in a hurry can get in and get out fast. By ensuring a speedy transaction, c-stores can become more competitive among the vast landscape of quick-service and fast-casual restaurants.
3. Introduce new items regularly
Keeping customers interested in any foodservice location—not just c-stores—hinges on what’s new and exciting. Like restaurants offering LTOs, c-stores should also offer new formats or menu options on a regular basis. To spotlight those new items, signage inside and outside can increase appeal, and staff can also spread the word. Spread the word on social-media channels as well. In the store, consider setting up sampling stations to entice customers who might be on the fence about trying something different.
Foodservice programs in c-stores don’t need to introduce completely new things all the time, either. Simply offering a new type of sauce or condiment, an interesting topping or a new formulation—such as loaded french fries using ingredients from around the menu—can get regular customers excited again about the menu.
4. Offer customizable menu items
Customizable foods are on-trend right now—from specialized diets to personal preferences, consumers are looking for different things when they dine out. At c-stores, customization may not seem like it’s within reach for most of the menu, but simple design tweaks such as setting up a toppings bar for salads and sandwiches as well as an add-on bar for coffee drinks, including items such as flavored syrups, creamers and milks and more can give a more premium feel to a store’s foodservice program.
By enabling consumers to build their own meal with the ingredients they like most—and none of the ones they don’t like or can’t have—c-stores can compete with local restaurants that offer those types of meals.