Keep It Low-Touch

New consumer habits forcing operators to reimagine their foodservice
Illustration by Nathan Hackett

CHICAGO — Picture this: a food-focused convenience store with no seating or self-serve options. Roller-grill hot dogs are individually wrapped and placed in heated merchandisers behind the counter. Clerks bounce from the register to the fountain and back to serve drinks and ring up guests, while delivery drivers in Uber Eats or Grubhub gear pop in and out with new orders. Employees are scrubbing every touchpoint, and when a customer checks out, they rush to wipe his or her fingerprints from the PIN pad.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the foodservice industry as we know it, and for c-stores, prioritizing safety over ease and portability is inevitable as food programs reopen.

“Operators ... may need to fundamentally change their business model,” says Cameron Watt, CEO of Intouch Insight, Ottawa, Ontario, a customer experience service provider. “While behavior will vary by region and may change over time, companies have to start preparing for whatever this new normal is going to be.”

Rethinking Self-Service

When shelter-in-place and social-distancing measures are relaxed, it’s extremely unlikely that I will …

Source: Intouch Insight 2020 C-Store Consumer Habits Survey

Consumers will demand it, according to Intouch Insight’s 2020 C-Store Consumer Habits Survey.

Survey results show 21% of consumers are "extremely unlikely" to purchase self-disposned beverages when shelter-in-place and social-distancing measures are relaxed. 35% will avoid self-serve condiment bars. And 21% will refuse to purchase prepared foods from bakery cases or a roller grill.

“Embrace crew-service and rebuild your work force,” Intouch Insight said. “Self-service as it pertains to prepared food and beverages is not something consumers are interested in at this time.”

More: Start From Scratch

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content

Snacks & Candy

What Convenience-Store Consumers Are Craving in Candy, Snacks

Unwrapping the latest treats and trends from the Sweets & Snacks Expo

Snacks & Candy

Convenience-Store Shoppers Are Sweet on Private-Label Candy

How 7-Eleven, Love’s are jumping on confection trends


More from our partners