At this level, operators likely have a wide array of coffee offerings, including myriad flavors, cappuccinos and perhaps even some service beverages prepared to order. Fountain beverage programs include 16- to 30-valve machines and feature nearly every option a customer could want, including flavor shots, different types of ice shapes (cubed and crushed) and numerous condiments that offer extensive customization.
In addition to traditional frozen carbonated and non-carbonated offerings, high-volume retailers could also be in the smoothie and milkshake business with either full-service programs or self-serve programs.
Research and program planning and flawless execution are the lynchpin for this group, ensuring they will be category game changers.
Hot Beverages â Even operators at this level can offer too many flavors, resulting in excessive waste or quality erosion if store associates can't keep up with production. Another way to add flavor options is to include a large variety of flavored creamers at the beverage bars, as well as flavored syrups and toppings, which is less costly than selling a slow-moving coffee flavor. It also allows the customer to highly customize their beverages.
These operators already are executing an offer that is keeping them competitive in the market-place. The next step is to become even more forward-thinking so they can get out in front of market trends. They should focus on how to remain a step ahead of the competition and become a game changer. Innovation at this level of beverage execution is paramount. What will be next in coffee beverages, tea, hot chocolate or new beverages yet to be developed? Will they be gluten free, dairy free, high energy, all natural or low calorie?
Cold and Frozen Beverages â Over expanding the number of fountain valves and flavors is a pitfall to avoid in cold beverages, too. A 24-valve fountain machine in a store that does less than 100 cups a day can mean some slower-moving, bag-in-the-box flavors will go out of date, yielding inferior quality beverages.
In the frozen category, some operators are also expanding into frozen yogurt bars, including hand-crafted yogurt beverages, but experts caution that this type of expansion should be reserved for very proficient and high-volume locations.
And when it comes to traditional carbonated and non-carbonated frozen beverages, don't over-expand in locations that do not have a strong youth customer base. Expand location by location, based on customer needs and demographics, instead of across the entire network.
Quality and expense controls are typically a strong suit of advanced foodservice operators, but they continue to seek variety and variations customers can't find at competitor locations. Customers also come to expect more choices, not just in product offering, but also in packaging. For example, some folks like paper coffee cups and others like Styrofoam. Why not offer both? Some customers are eco-conscious, so why not offer "karma" coffee where they can use their own thermos cups for hot beverages or refill your reusable plastic cups for cold beverages?
A challenge for advanced and high-volume operators is keeping up with demand. Frequently reviewing equipment output and needs is vital. Reexamining goals and objectives, and tweaking execution plans based on customer need gaps and sales volume, is an ongoing process.
And, of course, the ergonomics and cleanliness of the beverage bar area is critical as is the way these categories are cross-merchandised with food items in the stores. Marketing, marketing, marketing and branding, branding, branding are the mantras â inside and outside the stores.
BEVERAGE PLANNING AND EXECUTION FOR ALL LEVELS
The following are operational planning and execution tips offered by new CSNews How To Crew member Maurice Minno, which apply to all levels of foodservlce experience.
- The innovation pipeline. Make sure you have sufficient depth and breadth in the innovation pipeline of new retail program offerings ready, proven and validated for retail rollout.
- Clarity on the primary (and secondary) objectives. Be clear, specific and certain the program is designed to and can actually perform to fulfill a specific gap in your retail business' refreshment business and result in improved financial performance metrics.
- Program economics. Be sure to allocate sufficient capital to execute the program in line with demonstrated financial performance metrics and when the market timing for the program is right.
- Engaging marketing messaging and support materials. Create the right marketing materials that tell the program/product story to target customers â using all the sensory cues, such as taste, sight, touch and sound.
- Speed to market. This can be either moving too fast when the program is unproven/not fully tested, or too slowly to get the program to market in sufficient scale across the retail network.
- Execution. Can you execute the program consistently â every day, for every customer and in every store according to program standards?
- Commitment. Is program commitment fully aligned? The issue often Is a lack of program alignment and commitment throughout the organization. Including all necessary staff support functions.
- Willingness to fail. Success also breeds chances for failure. Recognize when the time is right to change direction, either in small increments or completely stop a program that Is simply not meeting performance metrics, customer needs or other business objectives.
- Research needs to take you outside the box so you can be a category game changer.
- Variety is everything. Expand variety beyond flavors to include supplies and condiments as well.
- Offer comprehensive beverage platforms that encompass fountain, frozen, smoothies, coffee, cappuccino and iced coffee, as well as ongoing food bundling programs.
- Brand everything â your department signage, the equipment, cups, napkins, etc. Customers are walking billboards carrying your cups in their hands.
"Avoid over expanding...too many varieties can lead to a lot of spoilage and eat into profits quickly."
Chad Prast, VPS Convenience Store Group