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Consumers with busy lifestyles regularly rely on foodservice. Retailers often hesitate to introduce a foodservice offering due to the perception that it is expensive, risky and labor intensive. It doesn’t have to be.
Successful foodservice programs depend on how retailers position and promote them. It’s important to have a thoughtful marketing strategy and execute the program consistently. While adding foodservice does require extra money and labor, there are ways to minimize your costs and turn a profit.
Creative Ways to Set You Apart
Take note of what retailers are doing in your marketplace. What do other convenience stores offer? What do quick-service restaurants in your market offer? You may have some ideas of your own, but mimicking items in your marketplace can help you get started.
Maybe you want to take something a competitor is already selling and do it better. Take that tried-and-true convenience store staple, the hot dog. Maybe you can one-up your competition with a unique condiment bar. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Dos and Don’ts of Foodservice
A few basic guidelines can help put you on the path toward foodservice success. First, do what you say you’re going to do. Your customers will be disappointed if the cheeseburger in their bag pales in comparison to the photo promoting it in-store.
While we’re discussing marketing materials, take the time to add relevant details like the length of the promotion and some romance to the product description to draw your customers in and set expectations. Again, make sure your descriptions connect appropriately with your product reality. For instance, if your description says “spiciest fries on planet Earth,” and a 5-year-old just downed two orders without blinking an eye, you may want to rethink that product pitch.
Second, once you kick off your program, you’ve got to get the word out. The way you amplify your message doesn’t have to be expensive. Distribute flyers, tell your regulars about the food, hand out samples, put signs on the windows and pumps — anything you can do to inform your customers and prospects of your new offering has the potential to drive sales. Communication is key, and retailers must consistently promote a new foodservice program to be successful.
Once those sales start, doing what you say you’re going to do kicks into high gear. If consumers like the food you’re serving, they will tell others. Word-of-mouth can help increase momentum around your sales and increase traffic as the word gets out to customers who are unfamiliar with your store.
Low Cost, Easy Prep, High Margin
When launching a foodservice program, it is a good idea to start with a low-cost, easy-prep menu. Simplicity can enable you to learn the prepared foods business and understand your customers’ preferences profitably before you take the next step.
Easy-prep and no-prep offerings for the cold case, like deli sandwiches and fruit, are great low-cost options with high margin potential. Frozen foods (thaw, heat and eat), like butcher wrap sandwiches, are great sold cold or hot. Microwave prep is very easy, and you just have to add a warmer to be able to sell the items hot.
The options are endless for simple foodservice programs. There is room for creativity and personalization, but you should do some homework before you let assumptions regarding training, equipment and preparation stop you from considering adding foodservice to your retail operation. As long as you manage your foodservice program well, you should have satisfactory returns.
Maintaining Your Foodservice Program
After word has spread about the foodservice in your store(s), it is up to you to execute the program. Make sure you control the quality of the food and customer experience. Your products need to be consistent to create a base of regular customers.
If you have something special, your regulars will spread the news, building your reputation and bringing in new customers and new business. And remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.