FriendShip Kitchen Cooks Up Expansion Through New Builds & Remodels
ELYRIA, Ohio — Upon walking into FriendShip Food Stores' first FriendShip Kitchen store in Elyria, it's immediately apparent why the company has such faith in this new store concept. Open and airy, with the fresh food offering a dominant focal point for those who enter through the main doors, FriendShip Kitchen looks the part of a c-store customers can trust to provide a fresh and tasty bite to eat.
Convenience Store News visited the location in early March alongside Ed Burcher, vice president of foodservice for FriendShip's parent company Beck Suppliers Inc.
The Elyria store was the first of three new-to-market FriendShip Kitchen stores to open in 2018. One more new build is currently under construction and expected to open this month. In addition, four existing locations have been remodeled and upgraded to the FriendShip Kitchen brand. More locations are likely, but dependent on local planning and permitting, according to Burcher.
FriendShip Famous Chicken, which is double hand-breaded and prepared in small batches, is one of the main draws of the chain's proprietary foodservice offerings, but its pizza program is the most enticing visual inside the FriendShip Kitchen store. Different varieties of freshly baked pizza are on display behind glass in the style of a New York pizzeria, giving customers a look at what they can expect when they purchase by the slice or as whole pies.
The displayed pizzas are held under strict timelines until ordered, when they are then reheated and served piping hot. Remodeled FriendShip Kitchen stores with limited space use a pizza spinner instead, where the pizza is prepared and held hot.
And the pizza isn't the only thing on display — much of the kitchen area is viewable without obstruction, boosting customer confidence in the preparation process and freshness of the food. The part of the kitchen that is blocked from view is likewise spacious and organized, as is the refrigerated ingredients room.
Even the material used in the kitchen façade — real reclaimed wood — gives it an authentic look that can't be matched by wood laminate.
This space and organization contribute to the food-focused nature of the 5,500-square-foot store. While it doesn't offer a full-fledged dining area, small tables line a portion of the front wall next to the windows, giving customers the opportunity to enjoy some sun as they eat.
Although FriendShip has offered proprietary chicken and pizza offerings for years, Burcher explained that the FriendShip Kitchen rebranding has allowed the company to:
- Effectively communicate to customers exactly what the retailer offers;
- Maintain consistency in preparation and finished products; and
- Ensure staff are able to follow a single set of procedures.
Outside of the foodservice areas, the store has a clean and spacious appearance. A side entrance allows for better foot traffic flow, as well as the opportunity to bring product restocks in without blocking the main entrance to the store.
At the checkout counter, a lineup area helps customers speed up their trip, as the single line lets whoever is at the front go to the next open register. This area is also bordered by impulse-buy items that help the retailer boost basket size.
A wall decoration above the checkout area displays the geographic coordinates of Elyria, lending a unique touch to this store that kicked off the new brand, and signaled a major shift for the retailer.
FriendShip Food Stores is the retail division of Fremont, Ohio-based Beck Suppliers, a family-owned and -operated retail and wholesale petroleum marketer. Today, the division operates a total of 26 FriendShip and FriendShip Kitchen stores.