As consumers increasingly view convenience stores as destinations for freshly prepared foods, leading c-store retailers are embracing the opportunity by adding offerings such as made-to-order burgers, pizza and fried chicken.
Retailers seeking to capture increased sales from these foodservice trends need to keep in mind, however, that operating a kitchen that produces quality products comes with increased costs. These costs can be in the form of higher labor and training costs, as well as the potential for increased waste that comes with a fresh food offering.
Traditional restaurants rely on historical and projected sales data to help them manage these costs, along with automated solutions that add efficiencies to operations. So how can c-stores eliminate their own set of inefficiencies related to foodservice?
Streamline the menu
Perhaps one of the most important ways restaurants maintain efficiency in the kitchen is by streamlining the menu. Using sales data to determine the top-selling items, retailers can consider scaling back the menu to focus on the most popular orders. This creates numerous efficiencies in terms of inventory and labor, as the ingredients and prep work for slower-moving items are eliminated. Offering consumers some flexibility and the ability to customize their order is important, but that can often be accomplished with low-cost add-ons such as a range of sauces or toppings.
Similarly, cross-utilizing ingredients is another key strategy that restaurants use to make their kitchens more efficient. Operators should analyze all of their ingredients and look for opportunities to synergize across dayparts and across concepts. For example, the same sliced tomatoes that are used on the made-to-order burger or sandwich menu could perhaps be diced for burritos, bowls or wraps.
Optimize prep levels
Using projected sales data to optimize prep levels is also an important way that operators control the costs of labor and waste. Increasingly, operators can incorporate factors such as weather, traffic, local events—a nearby concert or ball game, for example—and other variables to help forecast sales, and thus, prep levels.
Automation is another way restaurant operators are leveraging technology to drive efficiencies in the kitchen. This includes experimental concepts such as robotic burger flippers, pizza makers and fry-station operators, all designed to both minimize labor costs and optimize consistency, which can help stabilize ingredient costs.
These solutions can also be used to help free up c-store workers to perform more value-added tasks that can help drive sales, such as providing customer service.
Similarly, the Total Oil Management solution from Restaurant Technologies Inc. can help convenience store retailers minimize their labor costs by decreasing the time employees spend on non-value-added tasks. In addition, by eliminating manual oil handling—one of the most dangerous jobs in the kitchen—Total Oil Management not only reduces labor costs, but also increases worker safety. Total Oil Management allows employees to add, filter and replenish fryer oil simply by pushing a button.
As convenience store operators invest in foodservice offerings and compete with fast-casual restaurants, they need to organize their operations to optimize their returns on those investments. The use of data and technology to streamline kitchen operations can help operators produce fresh, high-quality foods as efficiently as possible by minimizing labor costs and waste.
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies