Skip to main content

Creating Winning Fresh Food Combos


Building a winning foodservice program takes time and commitment, but don’t stop there. You must develop creative marketing and promotions that grab the attention of customers and let them know about your great offerings and specials. Strong marketing and promotion programs entice customers to try new menu items and repeat their purchases frequently.

All foodservice marketing and promotion plans should include winning combo offerings, according to the Convenience Store News How To Crew. The elements of a winning combo are a strong value offering that satisfies a need; selection of a lead item that is already popular by itself and has brand power; and strong point-of-purchase signage to visually stimulate consumer interest. Without question, bundling complimentary products will drive transaction size.

“A combo that just combines two items isn’t always successful unless it entices the customer,” one How To Crew expert said. “A customer who always buys coffee may not buy doughnuts. But if they know they can add on two more doughnuts at a big discount, they may.”

Successful combos must include strong visuals on all in-store and exterior signage so that customers can easily see and understand what they are going to get, according to Ed Burcher, a former retailer turned consultant who is a member of the CSNews How To Crew. “From the tests I have done, it is about reminding them that the products are available and secondly, that there is a deal when purchased together. So, visuals and price start the process of attracting the guest. For them to become repeat purchasers, however, the food has to be of good quality and taste good.”

Retailers also must make it easy for customers to not only understand the combo offer, but where to find it quickly in the store, which requires “bold, clear messaging with appetite-appealing fresh food photographs,” said fellow How To Crew member Maurice Minno, also a former retailer and now a consultant with MPM Group. “It must be easy for a customer to see where the promoted products are located in the store and then in a snap, get there, easily access the products, go to the checkout to pay for them and depart the store.”

Product packaging and portability are key to making the transaction easy, fast and memorable for the customer. “Uniquely designed packaging with bold brand messaging can be both appealing at the time of purchase, as well as memorable — creating a memory stopper for the customer’s recall the next time he or she has a similar need state, thus leading to a future potential purchase of the same product at the same store,” Minno said. Packaging must also provide “a friendly eating experience,” allowing the customer to eat the products on the go.

When selecting the items to feature together, it is important to identify at least one core product that is already in high demand, stated David Bishop, How To Crew member and managing partner of Balvor LLC. “Then, the next step is to pair with a complementary item that typically has a lower purchase incidence that will help build the basket,” he explained. “How the combo is positioned is another element of the mix. Some may simply offer a combo price when buying product X and Y together, while marketers will tend to position it as ‘buy a muffin and get 25 cents off your medium cup of coffee.’”

The typical discount for a bundled deal should be between 20 percent and 25 percent off the regular price, according to some experts, which is not too much but significant enough to get the customers’ attention and motivate action.


Bundled offers are intended to leverage proven brand power — “yours and a leading consumer brand, to capture customer attention,” Minno said. “Identify and collaborate with a top-selling consumer brand and select a product that fits the use occasion and also is a good fit when combined with the fresh food product, creating a dual-power combo.”

One example of a winning foodservice combo offer was recently executed by Maverik Inc. named “Power Breakfast…a BonFire Breakfast Burrito and a Monster 16-oz for $3.99.” This was the ultimate power breakfast combo, according to Minno, because it leveraged the brand power of two leading consumer brands: Monster Energy, one of the most recognized and the second-most popular energy drink in the United States in sales, and Maverik’s top-selling proprietary-branded hot fresh food product, the BonFire Breakfast Burrito.

Based in Salt Lake City, Maverik’s marketing tagline is “Adventure’s First Stop.” This promotion “fueled customers with the energy to begin their day right, powering them to address whatever adventure they faced during their day,” Minno said. Importantly, the promotion appealed to “Bubba,” the chain’s core customer, and yielded record fresh foodservice sales and gross profit margins.

One How To Crew retailer said his chain’s best combo promotion has been two doughnuts and any-size coffee for a value price. While this began three years ago as a monthly promotion, it was so successful that the chain kept it as an everyday price point. “It now represents more than 20 percent of our entire bakery sales,” he reported.

Another successful combo deal, he said, is a 32-ounce fountain beverage with hot food lunches. “The sales have not been as successful as the doughnut/coffee combo, but worth keeping daily. The profit percentage may be lower on the sale, but overall we gained additional sales and profit dollars from the deal,” he said. “Plus, we got them to try something they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Foodservice operators should have strong and set promotional calendars in place, including combos that rotate monthly to keep deals fresh and customer interest high.

Combos that are very successful are often rolled into popular daily offerings, but it’s important to run other special combos in shorter time frames. Also, consider using limited-time offers (LTOs) on menus to drive interest and test new menu items. LTOs add a time pressure element, calling the customer to immediate action.

In-store marketing is the best vehicle to promote combo deals, but some experts also recommend using complementary external marketing solutions such as billboard advertising, radio remotes, local event marketing and social media. Retailers should use bold colors and appetizing fresh food photos, brand images, and simple and clear messaging on all materials.

Food signage should be themed differently than regular store signs so they stand out as special. Operators should also run promotions in all areas of foodservice: bakery, deli, hot foods and beverages.

Convenience Store News’ How To Do World-Class Foodservice report is researched and written by Maureen Azzato, a freelance content developer and editor with more than 20 years of business publishing experience, with a primary focus on foodservice and retailing. Previously, she was the founding publisher and editorial director of On-the-Go Foodservice, a publication for cross-channel retail foodservice executives, and publisher and editorial director of CSNews, where she worked for 17 years.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds