Why & How You Need to Differentiate Your Foodservice Program
DALLAS — Creating a quality food offering is a fundamental part of becoming a foodservice leader, but true foodservice success requires brand differentiation, according to Jerry Weiner, president of Food Service Consultant and a 40-year convenience store industry veteran.
Brand differentiation means creating a foodservice offering and environment that separates you from your competition, Weiner told attendees of the 2018 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, which took place Sept. 12-13 in Dallas.
C-store retailers can achieve this in multiple ways, depending on the strengths of their brand and their competition. Creating brand differentiation could include:
- Becoming a destination for food by doing things better or differently than the rest of the local market;
- Providing a consumer need; or
- Offering items that competitors don't, or ones that are available but can be done better.
Weiner specified that better than the competition doesn't necessarily mean cheaper than the competition.
"It's not a price. It's a price value," he said.
To demonstrate one way of achieving differentiation, Weiner, former foodservice director for York, Pa.-based Rutter's, shared photos of a new Rutter's convenience store. He pointed to the clean exterior store design, which looks very inviting from the street and does not block the view with fuel pumps. Potential customers are able to see the inside of the store, which he said is significant as the "hardest thing in the business" is getting people to come inside for the first time.
Determine Your Point of Difference
To determine how best to differentiate, Weiner recommends c-store operators first examine what their competitors offer and decide whether they can do it better. Then, determine what competitors don't offer and decide whether they can offer that. And finally, look at what other foodservice operators, such as quick-service restaurants and casual dining outlets, offer and ask themselves whether they can execute those items.
It is important for retailers not to get stuck in the c-store box, according to Weiner. "Even Bubba wants good-quality product, consistently delivered, at a fair price," he said. "Don't be afraid to build product a little more expensive."
Another key tenet in Weiner's expert opinion is that presentation yields expectation, and meeting or exceeding expectation yields repeat customers.
This applies not just to the food, but to the employees who make and sell it. To be a foodservice destination, a c-store must set a high bar and hold their people accountable for reaching it. They must also execute their marketing plans, operational controls and food safety well. Training is crucial, too.
Weiner closed his presentation by noting that in his experience, food safety is the weakest link as the convenience store industry moves deeper into foodservice. It's critical that retailers have a plan in place to avoid breaking the chain.
"If you don't have a food safety program or certification ... you need to," he said.