As competition rises among convenience stores, retailers have been on the lookout for the perfect opportunity to tie-the-knot with the foodservice industry. Traditional convenience stores may offer a smaller variety of accessible snacks for consumers on the move. However, adding fresh, made-to-order products, ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads to their inventory will give consumers an added reason to shop their brand.
Merging Foodservice and Convenience into One
In May of 2016, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) asked consumers about their upcoming road trips and how many times they planned to stop at convenience stores along the way. The survey found that more than 70 percent of consumers expected to make multiple pit-stops during their journey. Regardless of their initial reason of stopping, the fresh and ready-to-eat options can influence consumers to increase their purchases.
For instance, a BP gas station in Brownsburg, Indiana has gained attention and traction by serving up unexpected Indian dishes for locals. The fresh, made-to-order options include lamb vindaloo, chana masala and much more. Though the curry is an added bonus, the convenience plays a large part in acquiring popularity.
Convenience stores are not the only place where hot, prepared foods are making an entrance. For the past few years, grocery stores like Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and Mariano’s have been offering a vast variety of ready-to-eat foods outside of the traditional rotisserie chicken.
Laura Strange, the spokeswoman for the National Grocers Association, shares her ideas on foodservice in the grocery industry as convenience driven. “We have found that consumers are time starved. So, whenever they can go in a grocery store, shop and choose from freshly prepared options for dinner, they will take advantage of the convenience.”
Jeff Lenard, the vice president of the strategic industry initiatives for NACS has recognized the popular trend as, “Americans seeking appealing stores that are full of hot and fresh food with an added emphasis on cleanliness.”
Expanding Offerings and Expanding Contractor Networks
Investing in a foodservice offering also means investing in complex equipment that will need to be properly cleaned and efficiently repaired when issues arise (often at the most inconvenient times). A delay in finding the right vendor may turn into a delay in being able to serve your customers and establishing vendor relationships across a large chain can be time consuming. Most foodservice equipment is complex and can’t be easily maintained by facility maintenance generalists, so falling back on the contractors you typically rely on may not be an option.
Expanding your offerings into foodservice also means expanding your contractor network. Repairing a flat top grill or frozen custard machine is much different than fixing a clogged toilet or cleaning the floors. Inefficient equipment can be hazardous to the health of customers and unkempt prepping areas are unappetizing. Contractors with subject-matter expertise and restaurant experience are essential to standing out amongst other c-store and grocery stores that are expanding into this new territory.
For more on how restaurant equipment upkeep affects brand experience, check out our blog 3 Ways to Maintain (or Improve) Restaurant Brand Experience.