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    A "Shmart" Idea

    New orderpoint features allow Sheetz to highlight its healthier food and drink options.

    By Linda Lisanti

    Over the years, Sheetz Inc. has received a lot of feedback from customers who said they want healthier, smarter food and beverage options. What these customers never realized, however, was that the convenience chain has always offered such choices. They were just hidden throughout its made to order (MTO) menu -- until now, that is.

    This past summer, Sheetz updated the touch-screen orderpoint system in all its stores to include a new feature called Eat Shmart, designed to help customers quickly navigate through the orderpoint system and easily find the healthier options. The pathway guides touch-screen users to the selections, complete with an explanation of how Eat Shmart works. Eligible ingredients are tagged with Eat Shmart banners on the buttons.

    Existing MTO items selected for the Eat Shmart menu each have less than 400 calories and less than 6 grams of fat. Currently, the menu features roughly a dozen items, including wraps, salads, sandwiches and subs that can still be made to order. And, for the customer who wants a healthier side option or a french fry alternative, Sheetz suggests adding a bag of sliced apples, according to the chain's foodservice manager, Doug Mills.

    This fall, the Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz added to its Shmart lineup with the launch of a Drink Shmart menu, which can be found in all existing stores that have Sheetz Bros. Coffeez. As the company remodels stores to include the barista coffee program, more locations will pick up the beverage menu; it's expected to roll out to all stores by this spring.
    Drink Shmart provides a variety of MTO drinks, such as fruit choices, lattes and mochas, for those customers seeking meal replacement options, Mills said. Prior to this menu launch, the only better-for-you beverage option Sheetz stores presented to customers was a protein supplement that could be added to their smoothie upon request.

    "The Shmart path menus are a way to group our healthier menu options and help direct our existing customers who are shopping in our stores every day and looking for smarter choices," Mills added. "By bucketing existing menu items, calling them out and helping direct our customers there through navigation in the orderpoint, we feel we are enhancing the health-conscious customer's Sheetz MTO experience."

    To promote and educate consumers about the Shmart menus, the retailer is actively pursuing on-lot opportunities through signage and employee education, as well as other off-lot promotional strategies using a number of media sources.

    The response so far from consumers and employees has been nothing but positive, and Sheetz plans to continue seeking out possible additions for both Shmart menus.

    "Customers really appreciate the ease of the offer and take comfort in knowing some of their old favorites are actually very healthy for them," Mills noted. "Like most MTO items, we emphasize and give priority placement to them on the ordering screen. The customer response has been great. We are always looking for ways to enhance all of our menu offerings, and the Shmart menus are no exception."

    For comments, contact Linda Lisanti, Senior Writer, at [email protected].

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