Why Family Express Is the 2021 Foodservice Innovator to Watch

Through a new pilot, customers can order fresh, made-to-order food from the retailer's Cravin's menu at the gas pump or car wash.
Don Longo
Editorial Director Emeritus

VALPARAISO, Ind. — The Innovator to Watch award recognizes a convenience store retailer as an "up-and-comer" that is making a name for itself in the quality and innovation of its foodservice program. This year, the award goes to the regional Family Express chain, based in Valparaiso.

Earlier this year, the retailer began testing new technology that lets customers order fresh, made-to-order food from its Cravin's menu at the gas pump or car wash. To ensure the safety of customers' personal information, it installed Fiserv's TransArmor data protection system, which safeguards their personal data when they swipe credit cards at the pump.

The goal is to make it easier to buy Cravin's food, which is available at approximately a third of Family Express’ 75 stores, while on the go. By placing orders while they're pumping gas, customers don't have to wait in line again to place a food order inside the store. 

"Gus and the Family Express team are always looking at new ways to sell products," said one judge. "Testing order-at-the-pump technology certainly fits the bill. Being able to convert more customers from the outside to the inside is key to increasing traffic."

Another judge called the chain's order-at-the-pump technology "groundbreaking" for the convenience store industry, while a fellow Foodservice Advisory Council member also applauded Family Express' safety measures around selling fresh baked goods during the pandemic. All of its doughnuts and muffins (now made in a new square shape) are fitted into individual plastic wrappers as they come off the assembly line at the retailer's bakery distribution center.

This is Family Express' first win in the Convenience Store News Foodservice Innovators Awards program.

Family Express operates 75 c-stores throughout northwest and central Indiana.

About the Author

Don Longo

Don Longo is Editorial Director Emeritus of Convenience Store News. He joined the brand in 2005. With the highest recognition of any c-store industry media journalist, Don has given presentations to business groups throughout the U.S., Europe and South America, appeared as a guest on Fox Business News and National Public Radio, and is a highly sought source for major consumer and business news.

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