C-Store Foodservice – Made-to-Order & Fresh-Prepared Generate Sales
Convenience store operators of all sizes are becoming increasingly aware that to stay viable they need to take their foodservice program to the next level –beyond just the roller grill, hot case, and nachos machine. That means thinking of foodservice more like a QSR or like a restaurant would. One way forward- thinking retailers are accomplishing this is by implementing made-to-order and fresh-prepared foodservice programs.
Making the decision to focus on improving your foodservice offerings will mean retaining your current customer base — and ideally gaining customers as well. It also means making more money in a category already prized for its high profit margins. In an interview with CSP, Anne Mills, senior manager of consumer insights for Technomic, Chicago said their data shows that “across all ages, consumers are more willing to pay a higher price for items described as fresh, scratch-made and real.” But how do “smaller” operators accomplish this? Chances are you don’t have a robust marketing department found in chains like Circle K and 7-Eleven. You likely can’t afford corporate chefs like a Wawa or a Rutter’s that can create an elaborate cutting-edge menu. You might not have room in your budget to remodel your store to add more space or install a kitchen. So how can you offer made-to-order and fresh-prepared with all those hurdles?
If an operator’s background doesn’t involve culinary training, making this a reality can seem daunting. However, creating your own fresh foodservice program can be done with less stress, investment, and effort than one might think. The key is to start small and focused.
Your initial menu should reflect the philosophy that “less is more.” In-N-Out Burger, for example, is wildly successful – and all it offers is fairly basic burger options and fresh cut fries. Start with a few offerings and perfect those before considering adding more. Run tests; keep what works — and alter or eliminate what doesn’t.
Additionally, strive to carry as few ingredients as possible to execute all of your menu offerings. Taco Bell does this well. They take the same ground beef, refried beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and tortillas to make the large majority of its menu offerings. If possible, factor in regionality when selecting ingredients.
Equally as important is creating a menu that is easy to execute. If an entry-level, minimum wage employee isn’t capable of cooking and serving your menu, it is too complex. Each item on the menu should have as few steps – or “touch points” – as possible to prepare.
All that considered, what’s still missing is a home for this made-to- order and/or fresh-prepared operation.
The solution that independent C-Store and small chain operators are turning to is to use their existing store space and installing modular foodservice kiosks that provide them with an economical option to compete with the big players – whether in floor, counter, or wall mount configurations. These kiosks use durable materials, ship flat and are easily to install — and once assembled appear as a mini QSR within your C-store.
This is accomplished in part by design elements that have a contemporary and “on- trend” look – from static and/ or digital menu boards and displays to proprietary logos while choosing laminates and color schemes that match your store’s interior environment.
Add to that kiosk set up foodservice equipment that cooks food quickly and consistently and that doesn’t need ventilation hoods. Like the rule with ingredients, an operator’s goal should be to use as few pieces of equipment as possible to execute your menu. If done right, between the kiosk, signage, and equipment you should be able to get into the made-to-order/fresh-prepared foodservice game for about the same cost as buying a single Turbo Chef or Merry Chef speed oven.
You’d be well served to head down this path soon, as many of your competitors recognize the paradigm shift in C-Store foodservice as well. Staying ahead of the curve and creating your own “fresh” foodservice program – whatever that means for you and your customer base – is an important facet in maintaining a healthy, growing C-Store operation.
From design, manufacturing, branding, and consulting, we’d be thrilled to help your C-Store business remain competitive by assisting you to implement a made-to-order foodservice program.
Give us a ring or shoot us an email. We’re ready to help you find success.
Food Concepts, Inc.