LAS VEGAS — Foodservice is critical to success in today's convenience store industry, but to get the most out of the category, retailers need to focus on data and analytics in addition to innovative and tasty menu items.
Investing in back-of-the-house technology to manage food cost and waste, report data, plan production and more will yield better results, according to the 2022 NACS Show education sessions "Foodservice Analytics: The Recipe for Success."
"There is a very distinct difference between selling items and profitably selling items," said moderator Kay Segal, president and managing executive, Business Accelerator Team.
Having processes for food production and sales analysis is key, because without them, "you won't know until it's too late" if something isn't working, she noted.
Retailers need to set up a plan, execute; analyze what has happened, revisit the plan and optimize further. This effort is continual, not something operators can put forth once and be done with.
"You have to have that stick-with-it-ness to make it work," said panelist Paul Servais, foodservice director at La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip.
Good output requires good input, which means c-stores need to examine their tools. Panelist Steve Turner, vice president of foodservice and strategic sourcing at Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Refuel Inc., noted that the pricebook serves as the foundational piece of analysis — without it and a few other tools, it is nearly impossible to build or analyze performance in stores.
Turner advised operators to build specificity into their pricebook and eliminate catch-all terms such as "open deli," which can deceptively appear to generate huge sales but actually comprise many different types of items.
"It is the black hole of your foodservice program if that's there," he said.
Getting specific about how units are referenced is also helpful, particularly to frontline employees, who understand the meaning of selling 200 individual cheeseburgers better than they do selling $400 worth of cheeseburgers.
Detailed recipe management is also important, as recipes provide the baseline for margin analysis, production tools and retail pricing. Chains can manage recipes through specially designed software or spreadsheets they can plug information into as long as the information is detailed and correct.
"It doesn't have to be complicated, but you have to look at it all the time," Servais said of spreadsheets.
Other important steps include developing an overall culture of food data; creating production plans that spell out how much food to have out at what time of day; choosing technology partners that will help to achieve analytics goals and solve specific problems; and revisiting, analyzing and optimizing processes.
Good reporting is also vital, but it takes time and effort to determine what should be reported on and how. Panelists recommended removing clutter and focusing on five or six statistics retailers actually use and making it so everyone can understand them.
Weekly SKU analysis, regularly scheduled store reports that include KPIs and pre-determining cut-off points for products that are seeing low sales and high waste are also helpful.
Along with getting the right information, c-stores will benefit if they get it to the right people.
"Have the people that make the food involved with the data analytics," Servais said. "It helps bring meaning back to numbers and helps you make better decisions."
The 2022 NACS Show took place Oct. 1-4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.