More consumers than ever are choosing to buy their food and drink at convenience stores. Specifically, 93% of consumers in 2019 said they purchased prepared meals from a retail location such a c-store at least once a month, compared to 80% in 2017, according to Technomic’s 2019Retail Foodservice Consumer Trend Report. Consumers report they chose retail foodservice over restaurants for two keys reasons. First, 35% say it’s because it’s less expensive than ordering a meal from a restaurant. Second, 23% say it’s because retailers are more conveniently located than their preferred restaurants.
That trend is becoming all the more pronounced in 2020 with the temporary closing of restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas state governments have mandated that restaurants either close or transition entirely to off-premise dining to lessen the spread of the virus, c-stores have been deemed essential businesses and have been permitted to stay open, according to Department of Homeland Security coronavirus guidance. That’s because c-stores are often linked to retail fuel centers and, because they sell food and drink, they are in the same category as grocery stores.
With a sudden uptick in the amount of consumers buying both pantry staples and prepared foods at c-stores, operators will need to fine-tune their operations to meet demand, particularly in the back of house. One major area of labor and cost efficiency in any kitchen is cooking oil. It’s difficult to handle, tough to dispose of and expensive to waste, and it’s the cause of more than half of workplace injuries.
One of the biggest improvements to the back of house that retailers can make is to install an oil management system that takes over the entire cooking oil process. For instance, Restaurant Technologies’ Total Oil Management system uses two tanks: one for bulk fresh cooking oil and the other to store used oil, which is then picked up and recycled into biodiesel. Restaurant Technologies' customers may experience a reduction in oil usage of approximately 15% while decreasing oil spend by up to 20%, all while increasing oil and food quality. That kind of savings is significant anytime, but especially so in tougher economic times.
It might also be time for operators to invest in equipment such as an automated hood cleaning system in c-store kitchens, which clean the hood, flue and fan every day with a spray mixture of detergent and water to prevent hazardous grease buildup and eliminate third-party hood cleaners. Another way to reduce hood and flue cleanings as business increases is to install a disposable filter pad in place of traditional hood filters to capture grease before it enters the kitchen exhaust system. That way, staff can decrease nightly cleanings down to monthly in most cases.
Given the surge in customers coming through c-store doors, it’s good business to stop wasting labor and money on managing oil and grease, and instead dedicate more resources to providing the highest-quality food. And with automation c-stores have opportunity to save on labor costs and focus store on tasks related to customer service.
To learn more about these services and systems, visit rti-inc.com.
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies