Get in the Foodservice Zone

Why total store communications reflect customer needs and business objectives
Photograph: Shutterstock

WESTPORT, Conn. Total store communications (TSC) is based on a simple principle: Every convenience store or restaurant is a series of different customer zones. In each zone, customers have different attitudes, needs and behaviors. Similarly, a brand will have different business objectives from one zone to another. 

Recognizing these distinctions, TSC provides personalized communications along the path to purchase that reflect a combination of customer needs and the brand’s business objectives. For example, quick-service brand Krispy Krunchy Chicken (KKC), Lafayette, La., has about 2,500 outlets in 46 U.S. states and Mexico and is adding roughly 10 outlets per week. The vast majority of these outlets are at c-stores. Despite steady growth, KKC wanted to do more and asked our firm to help improve business performance and the customer experience. The TSC strategy we jointly developed serves as a blueprint for the in-store messaging that supports KKC’s menu strategy and business objectives.

Principals of Zone Merchandising

We started by identifying typical customer zones within KKC’s c-store environment: street, fueling, entry, exit, grocery shopping, snacks, cooler, beverage, foodservice order, pay and dine-in. Then, for each zone, we determined the brand and the customer’s objectives, the messaging that will achieve them, and the physical and graphic designs to display the messages.

Let’s use the street zone as an example. The primary business objective here is to attract customers into the store. Customers, who will either be walking or driving by, are always looking for good deals and/or something new. That leads to a message that can offer special discounts or limited-time offers of new products. We might put the message on lawn signs, decals on the window or on the store’s primary sign’s reader board. Graphics must be simple and powerful with minimal wording because c-store customers are on the move and have only a few seconds to read a message.

After this discipline was applied to all customer zones, we created a prescriptive path-to-purchase zone merchandising manual to document zone-by-zone strategies, their rationale and merchandising guidelines. Visual examples showed the optimum placement of key messages and established a cohesive brand design look that guides KKC’s marketing team in the development of optimum in-store communications now and in the future.

Maximizing the Menu

The TCS program capped a three-phase project that also included the development of a new menu strategy for KKC and an initiative to optimize its menu communications. Developing a menu strategy is an analytical process in which each item of the menu is evaluated and prioritized based on hard data about sales, profits, industry trends and consumer research. 

This strategy helped KKC identify which new menu items should be developed and which current items should be eliminated. We set tactics for each food category and item that would allow the brand to meet its business objectives. The team identified priorities for each category and menu item based on their relative contribution to the company’s business objectives. The strategy also guided all in-store menu communications by establishing the organization, space allocation and prioritization of menu items. This is of critical importance when optimizing menu board communications, which are the most influential tool at any brand’s disposal. The new menu boards were thoroughly vetted in a series of consumer tests before being distributed systemwide.

Payback of TCS and the menu strategy was immediate: Overall sales grew by significant double digits; sales of high-profit, high-priority items increased; incidence of sides increased; and average checks increased.

Neil Onebane, KKC’s founder and president, said TCS and the new menu strategy “has contributed significantly to our growth in sales and profits and strengthened our overall brand identity.”

Howland Blackiston

Howland Blackiston is a principal with King-Casey, Westport, Conn., a restaurant consulting firm specializing in QSRs and c-stores. Reach him athblackiston@king-casey.com.

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