In the battle for share of stomach between convenience stores and restaurants, the latter has long been seen as having the upper hand.
C-stores have been stepping up their prepared foods game, however, with a variety of both hot and cold grab-and-go items, made-to-order sandwiches and other foodservice concepts offering hot foods such as pizza, burgers and fried chicken. Many leading retailers are creating on-trend dishes that feature a global influence or bold, spicy flavors, such as the Nashville hot fried chicken sandwich.
With consumers’ increased interest in snacking, retailers are also providing more portable, hot, grab-and go solutions such as fried chicken tenders, nuggets or wings, french fries, onion rings, taquitos and empanadas. Cooking these items fresh on-site also appeals to consumers’ appetite for fresh foods and helps counter the stereotypes consumers might have about the quality and freshness of c-store foodservice.
Last year, foodservice accounted for 22.6% of in-store sales in c-stores, second only to cigarettes in terms of in-store revenues, according to NACS’ recently releasedState of the Industry survey.
Building a strong foodservice program requires investments in equipment and labor, among other costs, however. Retailers need to manage these costs effectively to ensure that they are driving the additional foodservice sales efficiently.
One of the most important variables that retailers can control is labor, which is also one of the fast-rising costs retailers face. The NACS study found that wages rose 4.4% in the last year, with the average wage reaching $10.74 per hour amid low unemployment levels and rising minimum wages at the state and local levels.
In addition to wages, other direct store operating expenses on the rise include payroll taxes, health care insurance and other taxes and fees. These costs exceeded industry pre-tax profits for the first time since 2014, the study found, at $11.1 billion versus $11 billion, respectively.
Increasingly, retailers are turning to automated technology solutions to help control these costs. In particular, automated solutions that add kitchen efficiencies to foodservice operations can help c-store retailers reduce labor costs in the back of the house. Often, labor efficiencies in the kitchen also allow retailers to shift more investment into customer-facing, service-oriented tasks that help drive sales.
For example, automated systems such as those from Restaurant Technologies can help retailers reduce labor-intensive tasks, such those involved with replenishing fryer oil. Restaurant Technologies’ Total Oil Management solution drives productivity by eliminating oil handling while at the same time creating a safer workplace.
The system is used by such top c-store brands as Rutter's, Krispy Krunchy Chicken, Parker's, Enmark and Circle K, and has long been a preferred solution among traditional restaurant operators as well.
Retailers can also monitor oil usage trends and ensure compliance with operating procedures with Restaurant Technologies’ Oil Activity subscription service, which uses in-store sensors and send alerts when metrics around oil management are outside normal thresholds. Combined with other variables retailers manage to drive efficiency, oil management technology solutions help drive more money to the bottom line while retailers focus on growing their top line.
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies