Reducing Negative Friction in a Convenience-Store Foodservice Program

From slicing cheese too elaborately to not having what customers want, experts discuss streamlining foodservice at CSP forum
Greg Tornberg (left) and Richard Poye at CSP's 2024 C-Store Foodservice Forum
Photograph by CSP Staff

Do you have negative friction in your convenience-store foodservice program?

From a customer perspective, negative friction is:

  • Not having what they want when they want it.
  • Frustrating merchandising planograms and checkout experiences.
  • Pushed non-relevant promotions.
  • Non-intuitive app functionality.
  • “Creep surveillance” (not wanting to be watched/tracked).

More Foodservice Forum Coverage:

Experts Greg Tornberg (left) and Richard Poye spoke on identifying friction in foodservice at last week’s CSP C-Store Foodservice Forum in Schaumburg, Illinois.

From an employee perspective, negative friction is:

  • Arcane processes layered with frictionless processes.
  • Frictionless systems not effectively aggregated.
  • Poor training communication – making it hard for employees to understand frictionless processes.
  • Challenging food preparation, such as poor recipe and kitchen design and poor packaging and equipment.
  • Serving both traditional and frictionless customers.

“Most people who write recipes don’t know how to write recipes,” said Poye, head of development at Food Trends Think Tank, Nashville. “They write it how they think it works.” He added that food-preparation matters are complicated because a store layout is different from a test kitchen layout.

Because of all this, he said, it's important to test suppliers’ recipes and give them feedback and to have someone else test ones own recipes.

It’s also important to create a customer segmentation process, defining one’s target customers and ways to engage them, Poye said. This involves:

  • Research: Gather and analyze data and understand customer preferences and needs.
  • Cluster: Group important customers by need groups.
  • Define: Identify patterns, preferences and the most attractive segments.
  • Approach: Develop a value proposition.
  • Activate: Develop go-to-market strategies.

“No or poorly defined customer segmentation creates friction for store teams and the most valuable customers,” Poye said.

Because of this, retailers should create and execute consistent menu innovation through defined and cross-functionally aligned processes.

It’s key to know the customer a retailer is trying to serve, Poye said, because if he or she doesn’t, all the other systems are going to be adversely affected.

“I believe in having a robust innovation process, and that will reduce friction later on because you will introduce items that have been well thought out and vetted and that are really welcome to your guests,” he said. “And you won’t be launching friction into your network. You will have tested recipes, tested products. Don’t just say this is a great idea and two people agree on it and launch it. Really go through the proper vetting about it.”

“I believe in having a robust innovation process.”

This innovation process, which might start with 50 ideas but finish with one to three, is: envision (scoping), engage (develop a business case), evolve (development), evaluate (testing), execute (launching) and review (post-launch review).

Non-Tech Solutions

Greg Tornberg, principal consultant at Impact 21, Lexington, Kentucky, then launched into non-technical friction solutions.

Regarding extra processing, he showed a slide with a block of cheese cut in two forms: two simple halves and more elaborate triangles:

Slide showing cheese sliced two ways

“The workers said, ‘Hey, boss, triangles are beautiful, but here’s how we do it when we’re busy. We’re spending 30 minutes a day cutting beautiful cheese into pretty triangles that ultimately get covered up, melted or put into a sandwich that you never see again, versus a quick twist to get your cheese [in two rectangular halves],’ Tornberg said.

“This is an example of extra processing that is so basic and so fundamental that sometimes you just go right over the top of it," he said. “Ideas like this come from your teams, your line workers.”

A second example of extra processing is using a jar of mayonnaise and a spatula versus a bag with a spout at the bottom to fill squeeze bottles on a line; the second option is much more efficient:

Slide showing ways to get mayonnaise into a squeeze bottle

Moving to inventory, Tornberg asked how many in the audience were offering grab-and-go food in their stores.

“Most people who write recipes don’t know how to write recipes.”

“We had issues with this where we had out-of-stocks,” he said. “We were producing it on the line in batches, and we weren’t really all that knowledgeable about what our demand was. We just knew we had to make a lot to fill the case, and our result of this practice was we had lost sales and we had high waste. I like to call this method ‘produce and pray.’ Produce it and then pray like hell you sell it.”

“Most people who write recipes don’t know how to write recipes.”

Tornberg then looked at the sales times and discovered there were two peak times: 11 a.m. and dinnertime.

With this knowledge, he decided to use non-peak made-to-order times, two times daily, to replenish the grab-and-go items. Because of this, items were made in small batches “so it was fresher, and we made it more frequently, and that solved much of our out-of-stock waste,” he said.

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