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CHICAGO — The second-annual Foodservice @ Retail Summit, held at the 2017 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, highlighted a variety of ways that convenience store owners and other foodservice operators can elevate their prepared food programs.
Tre Musco, CEO of Tesser Inc., pointed out that "everyone eats with their eyes" and in the case of design, "perception really is reality," during a session entitled "Evolution of Restaurant Design in Supermarkets & C-stores."
Following redesigns, restaurants must still deliver on three core consumer needs: care, convenience and quality.
Panel attendees listed several key things to think about during the design process, advising retailers to lead with the change they're making, using as an example a Sheetz Inc. design that reoriented the kitchen to display food being made.
Foodservice operators should also provide a place to recharge, signaling to customers that it is OK to stay awhile, and go with the flow of where retail is going today by investing in technology and new ways of providing food, such as delivery to the gas pump.
Additionally, the basics (such as a clean bathroom) and the details both matter, so retailers should be prepared to dive into the deep end, staying committed to their efforts.
Another resource where foodservice-focused retailers can turn to elevate their prepared food programs is the suppliers whose products they sell, according to the participants in a panel titled "Manufacturers and Retailers Working Together: The Recipe for Success."
During the development of its market concept, Hy-Vee Inc. had to consider how manufacturers could link up to its brand and develop synergy that drives sales and provides an experience that separates it from competing restaurants, according to Jeremy Gosch, executive vice president of strategy and chief merchandising officer.
The Coca-Cola Co.'s Group Director, Strategic Initiatives, Randy Raymond noted that while the company is not a culinary expert, it has a deep well of knowledge on the merchandising side and can be very helpful when it comes to thinking about digital menuboards, communicating the product, building bundles, designing the path to purchase, and more.
"Our expertise is really helping to build that basket," Raymond said.
The panelists also agreed that brands can help c-stores build credibility and authenticity, and avoid using meaningless buzzwords that undercut those qualities.
Along with developing their foodservice programs, the rise of social media allows c-stores to market themselves in new and unique ways, according to the session, "Restaurant and Foodservice Marketing in the Era of Social Media, Facebook LIVE and Pokémon Go."
Facebook has excellent tools for targeting specific people, while Twitter works best in times of major change and serves well as a tool of guest relations.
Edelman's Elizabeth Pigg noted that regardless of how much or how little c-stores embrace social media, they can't escape having an online presence.
"Information will be found," she said. "Is it the information you want to be found or not?"
The Foodservice @ Retail Summit closed with a panel on talent acquisition, during which culinary students from Kendall College in Chicago shared their thoughts on how retail foodservice operators can build a strong, skilled team by leveraging their strengths and properly reaching out to foodservice professionals who don't just want to work in restaurants.
The 2017 NRA Show took place May 20-23 at Chicago's McCormick Place.