For several years, convenience store operators have been looking over their shoulders as other retail channels make bids for the traditional c-store shopper. Dollar stores entered the tobacco category, big-box and club stores added forecourts, and drugstores embraced the snacking occasion. The list goes on.
Now, however, the roles are reversed and restaurants — whether they are fast-casual, quick-service or casual dining — are watching convenience store retailers revamp their focus to become convenience foodservice retailers.
One way to perfect the food game is to learn from the competition and that includes how they use technology in food retailing. At NRF 2023: Retail's Big Show earlier this year, Vikram Badhwar, director of restaurant technology and portfolio management for KFC UK & Ireland, noted that retailers' focus will shift from the customer-facing digital proposition to the operations side. In fact, he shared that his company will "double down" on robotic automation and artificial intelligence this year.
In a recent interview with Convenience Store News, James Boushka, digital experience director at Aramark, a Philadelphia-based hospitality company, advised food retailers to include their staff in discussions about what they want and don't want from automation. Getting their input increases buy-in and avoids alienating team members.
"When we work with team members on how to use automation, they do not find it a threat," Boushka said. "If they don't want to do it, or there simply isn't staff to do those tasks, we have to think about how to automate those. It almost futureproofs us."
Are you using technology to its fullest potential in your foodservice category? Are you scoping out the competition to see if they are? Don't be afraid to follow their lead. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.