Expectations for convenience-store foodservice quality are at an all-time high. Still, for many retailers, reducing labor and increasing efficiency are top priorities. With the foodservice landscape as unpredictable as ever—and with reopening economies likely to spark increases in demand—retailers need to be prepared for whatever the market throws at them without spreading their staff thin.
Fortunately, simple solutions can help operators focus on store efficiencies to maximize profit without sacrificing foodservice quality.
After recent lockdowns disrupted the market, things are starting to look up for c-store foodservice. According to Technomic’s Q3 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief, 38% of consumers say they typically enter the c-store to purchase prepared foods as of July 2020, an increase from just three months prior. And as the economy reopens, restrictions relax and more consumers begin commuting to work again, that percentage is likely to see continued growth.
Thus, with demand on the rise as c-store retailers navigate the changing market, reducing labor where possible is crucial to keep profits high and operations running smoothly. For this, prepared foods that require minimal prep before serving are key. Refrigerated or frozen food items that, at most, require heating in a microwave or oven—by store employees or consumers themselves—should be in every retailer’s arsenal—they cut cooking times while still providing consumers with the hot, fresh food they crave.
Seek self-serve alternatives
To comply with heightened standards for cleanliness and to ensure consumers feel comfortable, self-serve stations need to be reworked—if not entirely replaced. Increasing the frequency and thoroughness of cleanings for self-serve stations can take up a lot of employee hours, and even with rigorous sanitation, many shoppers will likely remain wary. For this reason, many retailers have pivoted to move self-serve amenities behind the counter, delegating the task of serving to c-store employees. This, however, increases labor.
For retailers facing this dilemma, finding replacements for products that were previously in self-serve stations can be a perfect solution. New products from J&J Snack Foods are an apt example: Instead of self-serve toppings and spreads for bagels and soft pretzels, retailers can serve Supreme Stuffers® Individually Wrapped Filled Bagel Twists and Pretzel Fillers® Individually Wrapped Stuffed Soft Pretzels. These snacks reimagine favorite bagel spreads or snack dips—such as jelly, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese sauce—as fillings in a fully bakeable or microwavable packaged product. And, with 74% of consumers saying that convenience stores should use more individually packaged items during the pandemic, according to Technomic’s Q3 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief, solutions such as these are clearly in high demand.
Optimize for off-premise
Delivery and takeout orders from c-store foodservice have seen steady growth during recent months. Currently, foodservice items make up 48% of drive-thru orders, 46% of delivery orders and 35% of curbside pickup orders for c-stores, according to Technomic’s Q3 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief. To streamline the process of moving food from kitchen, to deliverer or holding area, to consumer, retailers can save time by using products that come in travel-friendly packaging. Otherwise, employees may be required to spend precious time repackaging food for transport, or food quality may be jeopardized while en route to the consumer.
Products that can be heated, served, and transported in the same packaging they came in provide maximum convenience for retailers and consumers alike. Such is the case with Supreme Stuffers® Filled Bagel Twists and Pretzel Fillers® Stuffed Soft Pretzels from J&J Snack Foods. From freezer, to microwave or oven, to consumer, the product can remain in the same individual packaging. Food safety is a bonus here, too: Since the food remains in the packaging until consumption, consumers can know they are receiving maximum quality for their order.
Simplify waste management
In the coming months, the rate at which demand for c-store foodservice grows will likely remain unpredictable. This presents retailers with a challenge: They must find a way to ensure they have enough hot, fresh food available to meet demand at any time of day, yet they must also avoid preparing too much food and wasting money on food that spoils before it can be sold.
Beyond food waste concerns, freshness matters, too: According to Technomic’s Q3 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief, one of the most common barriers to consumers purchasing c-store foodservice is that the food does not look or taste fresh, with 20% citing this concern.
Menuing items that hold well—with an extended shelf life in the freezer or refrigerator and with a long hold time in warming units for grab-and-go service—can both improve food quality and help minimize resources lost to food waste. Supreme Stuffers® Filled Bagel Twists and Pretzel Fillers® Stuffed Soft Pretzels are prime examples: The former offers a 14-day refrigerated hold life, and the latter, seven. Both have a heated hold shelf life of up to four hours.
According to Technomic’s Q3 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief, baked goods make up 29% of c-store foodservice orders throughout the entire day.
Bagels, for example, are a breakfast favorite that is just as enjoyable as a snack or even dessert when topped with sweet spreads or jams. A soft pretzel is a popular snack, and with an array of craveable fillings, they provide something substantial for on-the-go consumers who need to grab a quick bite during lunchtime or dinnertime.
J&J Snack Foods Supreme Stuffers® Filled Bagel Twists come in three varieties: plain bagel twists filled with strawberry jelly and topped with graham cracker crumble; plain bagel twists filled with original cream cheese; and everything bagel twists filled with plain cream cheese. Pretzel Fillers® Stuffed Soft Pretzels are available in three crowd-pleasing flavors as well: soft pretzels filled with cheddar cheese, jalapeno & cheese and sweet cream cheese. With a flavor for any consumer and any occasion—plus time-saving convenience that keeps c-store operations efficient—retailers would be hard-pressed to find a more practical and craveable menu option.