What Levers Can C-store Retailers Pull to Reenergize Their Foodservice Programs?

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What Levers Can C-store Retailers Pull to Reenergize Their Foodservice Programs?

By Angela Hanson - 07/09/2019

AUSTIN — The 2019 Convenience Store News Foodservice Summit featured multiple presentations from industry experts, designed to help the retailer attendees rethink their approach to the category.

"The food business world is evolving rapidly," Brad Barnes, director of CIA Consulting & Industry Programs at The Culinary Institute of America, said during his presentation entitled "The Evolution of the Food Transaction."

Evolving a foodservice program, though, can be particularly tricky for larger chains; members of larger organizations tend to protect what already exists, and less than 1 percent of internally generated new business ideas ever affect the bottom line, according to Barnes. If leadership prioritizes the right initiatives and cultivates the right capabilities, however, successful innovation is more likely, he said.

"It's not going to look like what you're doing today or last year," Barnes advised.

Key priorities include:

  • Building great teams, without which retailers are "lost";
  • Selling food the way customers need, expect and want;
  • Creating experiences;
  • Anticipating future direction; and
  • Expanding one's own view.

C-store operators who are ready to start making changes are in a good position to do so because a certain percentage of c-store visitors are aware of all the work the convenience store industry has put in to become a foodservice destination, noted Chris Wolf, senior vice president of insights at the Marlin Group. A percentage of visitors even call c-stores better than quick-service restaurants, he said during his presentation titled "Growth Strategies for Transforming Convenience."

"I think that's a great base to work off of," Wolf said.

He identified a series of levers that retailers can use to transform their foodservice programs:

  • Technology and "effortless" convenience transformers, including cashierless shopping and digital ordering;
  • Touchpoints, such as loyalty programs and people connections;
  • Environment and experiential cues that indicate freshness, atmosphere and more;
  • Menus and "really good food;
  • Dayparts and a program designed to maximize the potential of each time period; and
  • Assortment and relevance to location, generations, multiculturals and price/value.

Ten executives from leading food-forward convenience store chains participated in the eighth-annual Foodservice Summit, held April 16-18 in Austin. The Summit, hosted in partnership with Tyson Convenience, is designed to foster innovation and the growth of fresh foodservice in the convenience store industry. This year's program included information-filled presentations, roundtable discussions and visits to some of Austin's top culinary destinations