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Foodservice 101: The Basics

At this early stage of development, operators should first leverage all of the national consumer packaged goods branding at their disposal — solidify relationships with fountain beverage manufacturers and solicit their branding support; seek a strong coffee partner that can lend the program quality and image; and leverage food brands whose labels have national or strong regional resonance.


Most experts recommend learning from other branding experts first — such as quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and consumer packaged goods companies — before embarking on developing proprietary brand(s). Partnering with branded fast feeders minimizes risk and costs because the product platforms and operating systems are already developed.

QSR partners already have a brand strategy, brand promise, recipes, training materials, and advertising and marketing support. They also have a built-in loyal customer base and brand credibility that your stores can benefit from. Operators should carefully review QSR programs and understand all fees associated with the relationship, as well as site location restrictions. For example, you may not be able to place a certain brand in all of your stores because certain geographic areas may be oversaturated.

This is an important learning stage of foodservice for convenience store operators, who should take their time and learn from branding experts before delving into proprietary branding. The biggest downside to QSR branding is it does not provide the differentiation that a strong proprietary brand can, but that will come with time and more experience, experts advised.

However, there is also nothing to stop a convenience store operator from executing both branded QSR programs as well as their own proprietary food, as long as it does not conflict with the QSR contracts. In this case, operators should develop simple proprietary food programs that they can be really good at, on which future branding can be hinged. It's better to deliver one or two really wonderful menu items than a large and vast menu of items that are sub-par.

For example, McDonald's mastered the hamburger and French fries before adding a wide variety of other items. Dunkin' Donuts mastered the doughnut before branching out to coffee. As your program becomes more advanced, the consumer accepts you as a quality food purveyor and your company culture supports expansion, you can add a wider variety of programs and complexities.


The following are some of the biggest errors the experts see at this level of foodservice when it comes to execution and branding:

  • Operators do not have enough knowledge/experience to understand what it is they want to do and brand.
  • Not addressing customer concerns and losing focus on core issues.
  • A lack of training and poor operational structure.
  • Spending too much too fast, and branding inferior products.


Among the main reasons experts recommend holding off on proprietary branding at this stage of foodservice are costs, resources and inexperience. Few operators at the beginning stage of foodservice really know what they want their programs to be in five to 10 years or what their capabilities are. Branding too early will result in costly branding errors and do-overs, resulting in a loss of consumer confidence.

Branding involves developing the name, image, packaging and labeling, all of which can be extremely costly for an operation that has relatively small volumes. Most experts agree that fountain and coffee programs can be branded first, followed by a more comprehensive food branding program when volumes and profits increase, and quality and consistency are fully realized.

Beverage branding initiatives are relatively low cost and high yield. Visit competing convenience stores, fast feeders and restaurants to fully understand your beverage competition and the branding possibilities.


  • Spend time working with people who have strong brands and learn from them.
  • Partnering with branded fast feeders minimizes risk and costs because the product platforms and operating systems are already developed.
  • Start branding programs with coffee and fountain categories first.
  • Develop simple proprietary food programs that you can be really good at, on which future branding can be hinged.
  • Be sure the product and programs you brand are unique and high quality.

"I would take a foodservice culture and mindset over anything else as the most important issue in developing a food brand."

— Paul Pierce, 7-Eleven Inc. (formerly)

CSNews' 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 Convenience Store News, where she worked for 17 years.

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