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Relevance a Key Theme of CSNews' Foodservice Roundtable

NEW YORK -- The convenience industry must do a better job of getting its foodservice offerings top-of-mind with consumers -- because right now they aren't, Tim Powell, director of convenience foodservice for Technomic Inc., told retailers at Convenience Store News' 2010 Foodservice Roundtable, sponsored by Merisant Co.

Retailers attending the two-day event, held last week at CSNews' New York City headquarters, included representatives from some of the industry's largest chains including Valero Retail Holdings, E-Z Mart Stores, TravelCenters of America and Thorntons.

Citing Technomic research, Powell said only 8 percent of consumers think of c-stores for meals, and even more concerning is that fact that heavy users of c-stores say the foodservice at convenience stores is of poor quality compared to other fast-food restaurants.

To succeed, he said, c-stores must "become more relevant" by delivering consistently solid basics in food, service and appearance; having resonating points of differentiation; excelling at multiple attributes; and thinking and acting like a restaurant.

"How do you build a good foodservice program and sustain it? Good food," Powell stressed in his presentation. "Good food will keep people coming back again and again."

Roundtable attendees shared how they stay relevant with customers, and the best practices they use to execute first-class prepared food and dispensed beverage programs.

Among the key takeaways were:

-- A deal doesn't have to mean a discount.
-- Regionalizing is a must when it comes to fountain beverage programs.
-- Convenience stores should view McDonald's and other quick-service restaurants as competition, but also understand how they can capitalize on their trends.
-- Customization is a great way for c-stores to distinguish their coffee programs.
-- Traditional dayparts are being redefined – especially among shift workers -- so don't get hung up on the idea that people eat certain things at certain times of the day.

For full coverage of CSNews' 2010 Foodservice Best Practices Roundtable, check out the July 26th issue of Convenience Store News.
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