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Blog Series Sponsored By Applied Data Corporation
06/22/2022
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Energizing the Fresh-First Mindset: Busting C-Store Myths

Help on-the-go shoppers think fresh when they think of you

Convenience channel competition is peaking in a post-pandemic market, and time is running out to lock down on-the-go shoppers. We’re confident c-stores have every ability to retain loyal customers—and even continue to swipe them from large retailers and restaurants. 

Don’t believe us?

Fair enough. We’ll prove it.

Myth: C-stores can’t serve restaurant-quality food

Reality: C-stores can compete with restaurants—& win

Shoppers in a hurry might see your c-store on the side of the road—and then, across the street, a fast food restaurant. Maybe it comes down to time, or preference: or maybe it comes down to wow, remember how phenomenal WaWa’s hot chocolate is? I could really go for a hot cup!

Be that snap decision in a shopper’s mind.

15-20% of restaurants closing during the pandemic presented an opportunity for on-the-go retailers. “It was our time to shine when people came in to get something they couldn’t in a restaurant,” says Heather Davis of Parker’s Kitchen on the influx of pandemic shoppers. “Now, I 100% believe we will retain those customers.” 

The top and bottom lines speak for themselves: 23% of c-store sales and 36% of c-store profits are attributed to foodservice. People are on-the-go and don’t want to stop for long—but will stop for quality. Consistently fresh foodservice will rope loyal breakfast and snack-havers, and entice new customers just stopping in on a road trip or filling up the tank. Bulk up your menu, innovate your offers, and delight customers—leveling it all out with fresh on-the-go that shoppers know they can only get at your stores.

Myth: Shoppers choose c-stores primarily for speed & convenience

Reality: Customers expect high-quality fresh wherever they shop

Speed is inherent to the c-store model—but what if fresh foodservice was also best-in-class?

Pennsylvania-based Rutters skyrocketed its competitive edge during the pandemic by adding comfort food to their menus and introducing provocative poured drinks like Spiked Slushies and Xtreme Shakes. Innovation and familiarity combine to fantastic effect in Rutters’ fresh foodservice, attracting both long-time shoppers and new customers with the promise of something exciting right next to something homespun. 

Rutters is a great example of differentiation making or breaking margins: Fresh-first is an operational must for c-store competition. If a customer asks “Why should I go?” and can’t come up with a quick answer, they’re going elsewhere. You’ve got half a second to be fresh on their mind: Is your foodservice fresh enough? Can it turn customers into a frequent flier, then a lifer? Does your pizza become a local favorite, then a national favorite spanning the South and Midwest? 

Casey’s rewards program just surpassed 5 million members, just two years after it launched. Loyalty programs are key to fresh-first ops: Leveraging consumer data to learn preferences and display personalized ads and coupons for the fresh meals and snacks that make their day easier—and keep them coming back. Reward your customers for their loyalty, and the loyalty rewards back. 

Myth: Fresh is labor-intensive 

Reality: Fresh-first retains employees

Fresh-first practices can be intimidating when considering the time, energy, food safety concerns, and cost involved in tech investment, training employees, and implementing new systems. The shift requires expert software, high adoption rates, and total-store synchronization.

But the benefits? Priceless.

A singular system—or a system that integrates seamlessly with others—should prioritize employee ease of use. Intuitive, AI-powered fresh ordering takes guesswork out of the equation: eliminating manual inventory tracking and ordering processes that rely on mental math and conjecture. 

Making your worker’s jobs not just quicker but consistently easier leaves more time and energy to improve the consumer experience—and encourages them to stay on. In 2020, the average turnover rate for part-time hourly c-store associates was 153.9%.

Defy the statistic: flip your labor problem into your competitive edge. Being known for exciting fresh selection—i.e. Wawa’s hot chocolate, Casey’s pizza—fosters positive retail culture that employees can be proud of; encouraging them to represent your brand instead of competitors. Empower your employees to be fresh-first, and the whole c-store wins. What was now potentially a labor challenge can be a competitive advantage.

The Future is Fresh-er Foodservice

Fresh isn’t just today—it’s tomorrow, and every day. What does that look like? 

A streamlined Kitchen Management System with fully automated ordering. Automated ordering solutions that sync with task management and historical analytics to provide the most accurate ordering strategy are incomparable in today’s market of supply chain insecurity. Precise ordering is paramount to the whole of your operations: be sure to prioritize automated systems that simplify the process with AI-powered forecasting, smart task management, and easy integrations into pre-existing systems. 

With synchronized KMS and automated ordering, your foodservice future is already fresher—and it’s not long before customers think of fresh when they think of you.

 

About the Author

Sarah Montgomery

Sarah Montgomery

Sarah Montgomery is the Director of Strategic Accounts at Applied Data Corporation (ADC), where she has helped more than 3,000 c-store locations embrace fresh-first strategies and identify opportunities to synthesize foodservice data. Seasoned operations knowledge helps Montgomery pinpoint key store-level growth potential in waste, sales, forecasting, and beyond; continuously driving her insight into value-added services and technology in the convenience industry.