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    Couche-Tard Remains Focused on Foodservice

    Retailer is making headway in the category, but is still far off from attaining its goals.

    LAVAL, Quebec -- Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is making headway on its goal to increase foodservice sales, but the retailer is still far from reaching its stated goals of having foodservice comprise 15 percent of in-store sales and 25 percent of in-store gross profit.

    "We are investing in foodservice. We are getting better and better. We are doing very good, but we won’t achieve the 15 and 25 percent goals soon," Couche-Tard President and CEO Alain Bouchard said during an earnings conference call this week.

    He noted the company increased its foodservice sales in terms of dollars, and foodservice margin dollars increased as well compared to total merchandise. Foodservice currently accounts for 10.2 percent of total merchandise sales and 17.5 percent of total merchandise margin dollars, according to figures quoted by Bouchard.

    As CSNews Online previously reported, Couche-Tard in May 2008 unveiled Couche-Tard Menu—a new self-service convenience store concept featuring prepared and ready-to-eat meals, along with fresh food items—in its Quebec division.

    "We developed Couche-Tard Menu for men and women with very active lifestyles who are looking for convenient, but healthy food choices," Chantale Sajo, marketing director for the Canadian convenience store chain, told CSNews Online at the time.

    The bright, boldly signed Couche-Tard Menu stores offer sushi, hearty soups, mousses, salads, smoothies, high-end Asian and Italian dishes, pizzas, pasta sauces, wraps, breakfast sandwiches, fajitas, sorbets, pates, yogurts, low-calorie meals, desserts, Viennese pastries, cappuccinos, espressos, lattes and more. Pricing is competitive with supermarkets.

    The centerpiece of the Menu stores is a stainless steel counter stocked with cold drinks and grab-and-go food items. Stores include a section of standard Couche-Tard c-store products, as well as a section of ready-to-eat items. Each store has a fully trained food advisor staffing the department to assist customers and ensure product freshness.

    Couche-Tard Menu is unique to the chain's Quebec division, but each of the retailer's 11 divisions in Canada and the U.S. have been developing their own strategies and concepts to meet the company's foodservice growth goals, according to the original report.

    Raymond Paré, Couche-Tard vice-president and chief financial officer, said during this week’s conference call that foodservice will continue to be an area of focus.

    "For sure, it’s a segment that we’re still focusing on. We’re still pushing and we think it is good timing right now with the financial crisis to focus on that," he said.

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