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NATIONAL REPORT — It is widely acknowledged that the blue-collar, 30-plus male is the core convenience store shopper. But even among these core consumers, it takes more to build a profitable coffee program than just brewing a pot of coffee from the least expensive vendor you can find and leaving the pot uncared for over extended periods of time.
And while coffee appeals to the c-store’s core demo, it’s a product that has a much wider appeal — particularly when you add flavors and blends to the mix. Those attributes could successfully attract women and millennials into your store, particularly with attractive messaging at the fuel pumps, complemented by word-of-mouth.
“The blue-collar male accounts for the majority of coffee sales, but with all the enhancements today, coffee is much more inviting to millennials and women,” said Convenience Store News How To Crew retailer Chad Prast, senior category manager of fresh foods and dispensed beverages for Murphy USA Inc. He points to higher-quality cups and a wide range of condiments and sweeteners as examples.
“Lots of choices in blends and cappuccinos,” he continued. “The all-black-coffee drinker continues to shrink as more and more customers mix up everything about hot beverages.”
A store’s geographical location is another important factor in determining which coffee products to provide.
“In Seattle, we have sophisticated customers with high expectations,” said fellow How To Crew member and foodservice consultant Dean Dirks, CEO of Gig Harbor, Wash.-based Dirks & Associates. “They demand high quality and variety — four flavors of coffee along with several flavors of creamers.”
Dirks compares coffee to cigarettes in importance as a destination item. “And any breakfast food items that you can sell with your coffee is a bonus,” he said.
With a well-oiled coffee operation so important to a c-store’s bottom line, it’s also vital to do your homework regarding equipment and water filtration systems.
“The importance of clean filters and equipment that will not break down cannot be underestimated,” advised Joe Chiovera, How To Crew panelist and principal at Dallas-based consulting firm XS Foodservice & Marketing, with prior experience at Circle-K, 7-Eleven, Sheetz and Mobil On the Run. “Make sure you know what can go wrong with your equipment before making a major investment. Service fees are very expensive, and missed business is just not acceptable.”
Editor’s note: Check out the December issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on “How to Leverage Coffee All Day Long.” A digital edition of the issue can be accessed by clicking here.