Three Ways to Modernize How Work Gets Done in Your C-stores
Your teams should be spending time providing a great experience, not on completing outdated tasks.
Vlad Rikhter, Zenput
The 1990s called, they want their paper checklists back. The way work gets done in convenience store operations has evolved. It’s time to take a good, hard look at how c-stores work today — the time lost, forgotten work, wasted materials, and missed communication vs. the potential of how it could be.
C-stores are no longer a quick pit stop for a gallon of milk. They are destinations that provide fresh offerings and unique customer experiences. From lunch combos and family-sized value meals to local, organic and gluten-free options, c-stores are drawing in quick-service restaurant (QSR) customers with a variety of competitively priced ready-to-eat/heat offerings.
Of course, any c-store that expands into freshly prepared foods has to be ready to deal with the challenges of operating a QSR in addition to the challenges of operating a retail operation; the businesses must complement each other. Yet, many operators are still living in the past when it comes to how work is being done in their stores.
You wouldn’t use a beeper to reach your employees. So, why are so many c-store operators still relying on pen and paper to get work done in stores? The digital era has arrived for c-store operations, and that means investing in tools and automation for more efficient and consistent work.
Here are three ways to modernize ops work in your c-stores:
1. Take tedious, error-prone administrative tasks off everyone’s plate
Whenever freshly made food is involved, relying on luck alone is no longer a viable option. With the right tools, systems and procedures in place, foodborne illness is highly preventable.
Manually checking equipment temperatures, such as coolers, freezers and makelines, every couple of hours is tedious and time-consuming. Receive automated alerts on your mobile device when equipment temperatures go out of range, so you can take action instantly. This frees up staff (60-plus minutes a day) to handle more important tasks like interacting with customers.
When employees are preparing sandwiches and salads, and food prep labeling is done manually, it eats up a ton of valuable staff time and risks costly downstream mistakes (e.g., mislabeled products, incorrect expiration dates, serving spoiled products to customers). With cloud-based ingredient lists, expiration dates are automatically calculated and hundreds of accurate labels are printed in minutes, which shaves as much as 30 minutes off food prep time.
2. Oversee store performance 24/7 from anywhere
C-store ops teams need visibility into potential issues before they impact the business. Having to visit and be present in each store to identify and address issues isn’t scalable.
From production sheets and planograms, to seasonal limited-time offers and beverage loyalty programs, get a clear picture of the work happening at every location without having to even step foot inside a store. Pull reports right from your smartphone and monitor task completion rates by store, district or operation-wide.
Receive automated alerts when assigned tasks, such as signage for snack or fountain drink promotions, are not completed or are done incorrectly. Plus, no more copying, scanning, printing, mailing, shipping or faxing paperwork back and forth between store locations, field leaders, and headquarters.
3. Improve the quality of work every day in every store
Consumer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been. This means every store has to perform like your best store. Living up to brand standards every day in every store should not be out of reach.
C-store operators are driving compliance with operating procedures, such as inventory and audits, and brand standards on shelf strips and pumptoppers, to help ensure customer satisfaction.
Photos of cooler signs and in-app tips to verify POP displays remind employees what a successfully completed task looks like, so they know exactly what they need to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be completed. Use processes and tools that can keep up with consumer demands to deliver a predictable experience at every location, one that consistently delights and keeps people coming back.
Your c-store teams should be spending time providing a great experience, not on completing outdated tasks. Manual systems and antiquated procedures will never be able to provide you with the visibility you need to gain critical insights and increase confidence across locations. Modern processes and infrastructure help ensure work is done correctly and on time every day in every store to keep your business moving and growing.
Vlad Rikhter is the founder and CEO of Zenput, an operations execution platform for multi-unit restaurants, convenience stores, and grocers. Zenput is used in more than 60,000 locations by top brands. For more information, visit zenput.com.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.