CHICAGO — Looking to improve your retail locations? These 15 ideas from convenience store, grocery and college operators could help take your convenience stores to the next level ...
1. Create a secret menu
Secret menus aren’t just for restaurants. Sheetz, Altoona, Pa., hid a secret menu in the kiosk ordering system at its State College, Pa., location. Diners who found out how to access the menu could try dishes such as a meatball pizza sandwich and a taco quesadilla. Rival chain Wawa, based in Wawa, Pa., also has a secret menu, which it changes throughout the year. Around Valentine’s Day, for example, the chain offered three secret Valentine’s Day-themed beverages.
3. Highlight fresh fruit and veggies
Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., makes sure to put a spotlight on local produce. Its Sparty’s convenience stores have a specific section showcasing the produce, which Corporate Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski says is popular with students.
4. Showcase staff member recipes
Engage staff by showing off some of their own recipes. Vegan c-store chain Food Fight Grocery, Portland, Ore., offered a menu item created by one of its staff members as a one-day limited-time offer. Last November, guests could stop by its two locations to try Rochelle’s vegan Musubi, which featured grilled vegan ham on a block of rice and wrapped in nori.
5. Invoke school spirit
When Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., was renovating its convenience stores on campus, it opted for a major overhaul of the stores’ brand as well. Now called Eagle Supply Co., an homage to the university’s war eagle legend, the units are outfitted in school colors and an eagle logo. Director of Campus Dining Glenn Loughridge says that the new branding is visually inviting and makes the stores a unique dining destination for students.
6. Install induction units
When it came time to revamp its kitchen model, Pilot Flying J, Knoxville, Tenn., removed its steam tables and installed induction units instead. The induction helps keep food hot while keeping staff cool because it doesn’t spread heat throughout the kitchen.
8. Strategize your displays
At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, staff display grab-and-go items in a way that best shows off their contents. Bowls are placed on the bottom shelves so students can easily see what’s inside (only their lids are transparent) and sandwiches and other wraps are packaged standing up in translucent bags, so the ingredients inside are easily seen.
9. Give back to the community
Wyoming, Mich.-based chain J&H Family Store began a Community Kickback program through which it raises money for a local charity. Each month, the chain matches the proceeds from the sale of a specific item and delivers a check to a rotating charity. According to Technomic’s 2017 College and University Consumer Trend Report, 41% of college students say it’s important that the foodservice locations they visit are socially and environmentally responsible.
10. Offer meal kits
University of Massachusetts Amherst launched UMass Fresh, a program through which students and faculty members can order and pick up meal kits at the campus’ Harvest Market convenience store. The meals, which diners reheat at home, are prepared from scratch and made using mostly local ingredients.
14. Get rid of labels
More than three-fourths (82%) of consumers say that food appearance is important when purchasing items at convenience stores, according to Technomic’s 2017 Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report. Vanderbilt University decided to get rid of nutrition labels on grab-and-go items to allow shoppers to fully see each item without any distractions. Students who wish to know items’ nutritional value can access a nutritional calculator through Vanderbilt Dining’s mobile app.
15. Offer a mix of healthy and indulgent items
While Loughridge says the Auburn University dining team is looking to expand and evolve the healthy snacks offered at War Eagle Supply Co., it will continue to stock traditional c-store treats, such as gummy worms, to cater to all students.
This story originally appeared in CSP Daily News' sister publication,FoodService Director.