LAS VEGAS -- The more than a thousand suppliers posted up on the 2018 NACS Show floor symbolize a sea of foodservice trends that convenience stores could jump into; however, instead of cannonballing into an evolved foodservice program, some experts advise retailers to first test the waters.
“You have to play to your audience,” said Mark DiDomenico, director of client solutions for Chicago-based Datassential, at the event held Oct. 7-10 in Las Vegas. “Think safe experimentation to dip toes into a forward-looking trend, but make it accessible and not lose consumers.”
Wade into these bite-sized strategies for leveling up foodservice offerings ...
Photograph by CSP Staff
1. Food first
When starting a new foodservice program, design the menu before purchasing equipment, said Jerry Weiner, president of Las Vegas-based Jerry Weiner Consulting. The other way around will cost retailers time, money and waste, Weiner said. Considering the flow of the kitchen before making any big purchases can also help operators create a more efficient development process. “I’ve worked on a project where I was handed the blueprint, and I could tell the flow was not created by anyone that has stepped foot in the back of any foodservice operation anywhere on the planet,” the former foodservice director of York, Pa.-based Rutter’s said. “It helps to have someone who knows about it to work on the development.”
Photograph by Francisco Gonzalez
2. Sell it
Building anticipation is crucial when upgrading a foodservice program. When building a made-to-order foodservice program, put up detailed signage with a picture of the kitchen or concept, said Courtney Williams, vice president of food and beverage for Valparaiso, Ind.-based Family Express. Williams also recommended hanging up signs counting down the launch of the offerings outside the store to draw in traditionally gas-only customers.
3. Take it slow
RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. is always looking for ways to make a small shift in offerings, said Steven Turner, director of food programs for the Atlanta-based brand. For instance, the c-store chain added almond creamers to its coffee program. RaceTrac is also developing an almond milk-based Swirl World ice cream flavor. “We don’t think we’re going to replace our full set, but if someone is looking for it they’re going to buy somewhere else,” Turner said.
4. Sample early and often
Retailers need to help customers build a routine around their program, said Ieva Grimm, president of Duncansville, Pa.-based convenience-store consulting firm Synerge. “It takes about four to five times of getting food in their hands, before it starts becoming part of that habit,” Grimm said. The foodservice consultant pointed to sampling events like at Atlantis Fresh Market in Newington, Conn., where the retailer transformed a grab-and-go case into a happy hour. Customers could try anything from the case during the event.
5. Minimize cannibalization
When enhancing the category with made-to-order foodservice, operators might want to eliminate redundancies in their offerings, Williams of Family Express said. “If you have a turkey and roast beef sandwich in the [grab-and-go case], make it different in the kitchen, so that it gives them a different occasion for each item,” she said. In addition, focus on more premium ingredients on the made-to-order item, so that retailers will not have to pay higher margins on waste in the case, she said.
6. Be direct
When RaceTrac launched its new smoothie program, the chain named one of its smoothies the Tropical Paradise, a favorite of Turner’s. The rest of the smoothies were more bluntly named, such as the Strawberry Banana Smoothie. The Tropical Paradise was the lowest performing smoothie in the entire set. So, RaceTrac changed the name to Tropical Mango, and it became the second-best seller overnight. “The naming piece is very important,” he said. “How can you with a small change adjust what’s normal and give them something people connect with and want to try?”