NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Building a food-centric convenience store business requires operators to refocus on customers' food loyalty. This in turn requires new management skills that relate specifically to prepared food, as well as additional metrics for operations support and coaching.
To maximize their return on investment (ROI) on foodservice, owners and operations leaders can achieve impressive foodservice growth by looking for six key things that great c-store managers deliver, according to Tom Bandy, founder of BandyWorks.
Those six objectives, he shared at the 2023 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX) event, are:
Vision & culture support;
Higher customer visit frequency;
Market basket growth;
Upselling profit growth;
Operational transparency; and
Food & store ROI.
To achieve their goals, store managers need to have both follow-up and alignment. "You can get away with forced compliance for a short period of time, but it's really rough in this marketplace," Bandy pointed out. "Sometimes, people make a mistake — and this is where we spend a lot of time coaching — they back off of the follow-up. Then, you end up in a terrible place."
He referred to the "unhappy handouts" of the period during the COVID-19 pandemic when managers were so worried about losing employees that they let matters slide.
Coaching to build alignment instead of forcing compliance is what builds culture and buy-in from employees. "People want to know their work matters," he said.
The bigger the operation, the more difficult it is to achieve full alignment, but having procedures in place makes it easier to scale.
Bandy recommended focusing on suggestive selling; keeping a full hot case; having strong signage; emphasizing "foundational" customer service; and above all, ensuring that the store is clean.
"Bottom line, how do we sell food without a store that's clean?" he questioned.
Additionally, while good customer service is not specific to foodservice, offering it and giving employees what they need to be able to offer it is a key part of foodservice success.
"Have you made these investments?" Bandy asked. "Some of them are going to go well, some of them are not. I encourage you to make sure you listen to what your store managers need."
The eighth-annual CFX event was an exclusive networking and experience-focused conference that gave attendees actionable knowledge and research to strengthen their foodservice business. Multiple executives from leading food-focused convenience store chains spoke at the event.
Sponsors of the 2023 Convenience Foodservice Exchange included gold sponsors Autofry/MTI Inc., BOHA! by TransAct Technologies Inc., Chain Link Services, Everest Ice and Water Systems, Finlays Americas, Hunt Brothers Pizza LLC, Southern Visions LLP, The J.M. Smucker Co., and Wasserstrom; silver sponsors Supplyit By Jera Concepts and Tyson Foods; and innovation zone sponsors 33 Degrees Convenience Connect, Kitchen Technology Innovations Integrated Control, and Smoodi.