When it comes to introducing or expanding a foodservice operation at a convenience store, the top priority should be, unsurprisingly, to serve good food.
That’s the advice that Justin Baxley, director of retail product management for PDI, a leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail market, gives to convenience store retailers looking to branch into foodservice. Making good food, as many retailers know, is not as easy as it sounds. First off, expanding a foodservice operation requires research, connections, operational changes, staff changes, additional training and more. Not to mention, getting into menu development and making purchasing decisions requires navigating the many mixed messages about food trends, nutrition data and consumer preferences.
“It’s important to explore different flavors and programs that have trends around them because those trends are real,” says Baxley. “But you have to be true to yourself and recognize that, while certain trends that may cater to millennials, they may not fit with your core demographic, who might be construction workers with compressed timetables.”
The good news is there are multiple forms of technology on the market that can make it easier for retailers to explore and embrace whichever trends make sense to their stores. Take a look at some current trends and the available solutions that can support them.
Trend: Fresher food and transparency
Solution: Just-in-time, more sophisticated inventory management tools
Retailers serving fresh food offerings such as sandwiches, wraps and salads have different challenges than those offering exclusively pre-packaged goods.
“A lot of these ingredients, like lettuce, cheese and meat, do not have barcodes,” Baxley says. “The toughest part for retailers is the financial piece of managing inventory and waste and the transformational process in between preparing food and ringing up the customer that creates a lot of ambiguity. People don’t seem to steal wrapped foods, but they are more likely to walk off with an entire box of chicken wings.”
Avoiding financial losses around bulk items comes down to basic recipe costing, something that restaurants do on a regular basis, but that can pose challenges for convenience retailers.
Using sophisticated inventory management tools, there are a few strategies Baxley recommends. One, is to make standardized recipes and charge items such as sandwiches at a base price, with upgrades such as extra meat and cheese, avocado and bacon listed as an extra charge. C-stores might also want to focus on higher profit margin items such as proteins and
less on toppings such as lettuce and bulk condiments. Above all, by being able to tightly control inventory, it’s easier to see where any potential loss dollars went.
Trend: Better, more comprehensive loyalty programs
Solution: Real-time technology and data management
“The number one thing clients ask us is how to improve the customer ordering process while at the same time collecting more information about the customer,” Baxley says.
More c-store operators are exploring consumer-facing mobile apps and in-store kiosks for that reason. Through online and kiosk ordering, the POS system can capture customer data to boost loyalty programs while also making suggestions or offering on-demand discounts to customers as they order.
Trend: Managing food waste
Solution: Real-time journal data
The fresh food items consumers are clamoring for have a shorter shelf life. As such, knowing how much to prepare at any given time during the day is imperative.
“This is called real-time journal data as opposed to knowing how much is sold in a day,” Baxley explains. “By knowing that someone came in at 7:45 a.m. and bought a breakfast sandwich and a beverage, the c-store can track how many people did the same between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., for example.”
Using this journaling technology, not only can c-stores manage their food production, but they can also track patterns to develop enhanced food purchasing and marketing programs. For example, a c-store might be able to see that most breakfast sandwiches are actually bought with soda versus coffee at that location, which can lead to better bundle offers.
Even with the growing group of sophisticated solutions on the market, there is no bulletproof answer when it comes to foodservice operations.
However, data and software can provide helpful support for some of the hottest c-store foodservice trends. To learn more about how these software solutions can help, visit https://www.pdisoftware.com/.
This post is sponsored by PDI