More convenience store retailers are adding custom-made food operations to their stores. New food options bring additional revenue and traffic, and they make life more convenient for shoppers.
But adding custom-made food raises important questions for retailers. Given shopper concerns about the freshness of “gas station” food, what should the new operation be named? Will including the name of the c-store dissuade shoppers from trusting the quality of the food?
To find the answers, General Mills Convenience decided to ask shoppers what names are most appealing for a fresh, custom-made food program. As you’ll see, there was a bit of a surprise along the way.
Unexpected Shopper Feedback
We surveyed 795 shoppers who had purchased food, snacks or beverages from one of four major c-store retailers. We specifically chose retailers that are known for being great convenience stores, but are not widely known for custom-made food.
We showed shoppers a picture of a custom-made food operation complete with menu boards, bakery cases and prep area. We described what each operation would carry in fresh food items, such as sandwiches, salads, wraps or pizza, and asked shoppers to imagine it in their store.
Then, shoppers were given three names to choose from. We asked them the degree to which each name would motivate them to purchase items from each of the differently named c-store operations. (For the purposes of illustration, I’ll use a made-up retailer brand in the examples below: Speedy Run Stores. In the survey, shoppers saw names based on the actual c-store they visit most often.)
Option 1: A name that directly incorporated the retailer’s brand (e.g. Speedy Run Foods)
Option 2: A playfully branded name, using a stylish derivation of the retailer's brand (e.g. SR Kitchens)
Option 3: A generic name that abandoned the retailer's brand altogether (e.g. Fast, Fresh Shop)
We asked shoppers how much each name would motivate them to purchase, and which name they preferred. What did they tell us? Overall, they preferred the generic name (e.g. Fast, Fresh Shop).
Really? That was surprising. Could a convenience store’s brand really dissuade shoppers that much? It didn’t seem possible that it would be such a turnoff. What was going on?
Clues to the Shopper’s Mindset
We had also asked shoppers to tell us why they chose the name they did. Their responses were illuminating. Here are some actual quotes from shoppers who preferred the name Fast, Fresh Shop.
- “It gives the customer the impression that they have fresh food that is very fast and convenient.”
- “Sounds a bit classier.”
- “It sounds the most appetizing.”
- “Fresh is appealing.”
- “Everyone likes fresh food that is fast.”
The shoppers’ responses revealed that the issue was not that they disliked seeing the name of the convenience store brand. Rather, it was that they really preferred the descriptive words “fast” and especially “fresh” in the name.
In other words, the name that we thought was bland and generic was not generic at all. It was actually a benefit-oriented name that conveyed the quality of the food shoppers would find there.
So, we wondered: What would happen if shoppers had been given a different option, one that combined the retailer’s brand and a benefit-oriented name? We ran a follow-up study to find out.
Confirming the Hypothesis
We recruited 800 new shoppers, again from the same four major c-store retailers. As before, we showed them a picture of a fresh, custom-made food section and asked them to imagine that operation in their c-store.
This time we gave them four options to choose from:
Option 1: A tightly branded name (e.g. Speedy Run Foods)
Option 2: A playfully branded name (e.g. SR Kitchens)
Option 3: A benefit-oriented name that excluded the retailer’s brand (e.g. Fast ‘n Fresh Café)
Option 4: A benefit-oriented name that included the name of the retailer (e.g. Speedy Run Fast ‘n Fresh Café)
The results validated our suspicion: The two benefit-oriented names (the ones that mentioned Fast ‘n Fresh Café) were more motivating to shoppers. But the name that was most motivating also incorporated the c-store’s brand.
What was it about the retailer’s brand that appealed to shoppers? For many, adding the retailer’s brand actually built trust in the food. As one shopper said, “To me, it makes a statement that they stand by it 100 percent.” Here’s how another put it: “This has the [retailer’s] name on it, which I trust, and it also describes that the cafe has fresh food and is fast.”
Here’s the important lesson from this research: The name of a custom-made food operation should suggest to shoppers that they’ll find quality foods there. Words like “fresh” or “fast” reassure them about the value they’ll be getting.
Is a c-store brand a dissuader? We didn’t see any evidence of that. If your shoppers like and trust your store, their affinity will carry over to your custom-made food operation.
In fact, many shoppers prefer that you include your store’s brand. It tells them that you stand behind the quality of your food, just as you stand behind every element of the store experience.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.