In today’s on-the-go lifestyle, consumers have sought instant gratification from cents off gas, buy-one-get-one products and scratch-off lottery tickets. Energy drinks are the latest convenience trend offering customers what they want – quick relief from mental and physical fatigue. Hundreds of products are available each with their own unique blend of ingredients in ready-to-drink, shot and powdered form. Energy drinks contain caffeine in combination with other presumed energy-enhancing ingredients such as taurine, ginseng, guarana, yerba mate, herbal extracts and B vitamins. They are tailored to invite every type of consumer with countless flavors and varieties, providing the consumer an immediate and detectable shot of stimulation. Retailers are devoting more shelf space to energy drinks as they are steadily outperforming carbonated soft drinks in sales and are delivering healthier profits. The popularity and continued growth in sales can be attributed to the diverse range of new & innovative varieties, which does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.
Take spring cleaning to the next level this year, clean up and revamp your foodservice program. Customers today are very picky when it comes to their food. They want it fast, they want it fresh and they want value. There is considerable pressure on c-store retailers to get their foodservice offering right. Any deficiency can drive customers away, perhaps forever. When you are ready to test your innovativeness and expand your menu, pay special attention to the following:
- Stay connected to the pulse of your community. In general, there is a growing demand for healthier options in the form or fresh fruit cups, salads, smoothies, hearty soups, wraps, grilled sandwiches, organic coffee and teas. Move slowly and cautiously when adding new items to your menu, making sure the demand is there.
- Build a better perception of c-store food by offering fresh foods constantly. Make sure to inform your customers with an eye catching sign, “Made Fresh Here” or “Guaranteed Fresh.”
- If you are not preparing the food in front of your customers, package it in clear containers or clear cellophane wrap. Be sure to include a label with the date the food was prepared.
- Convenience stores rely heavily on impulse sales, your foodservice area must be spotless and your staff on top of things at all times. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- If you are serious about improving your foodservice program, you need to develop a tolerance for waste. You will make more money down the road with happy, repeat customers.
- In revamping your menu, consider offering special combo prices or deals. The placing of the order is simplified and customers are rewarded with perceived instant savings. The retailer is rewarded with add-on sales and thereby increasing the sales amount average.
- The days are gone when customers would buy a food item and wash it down with a generic cup of coffee. Customers today have a much more discerning taste even driving out of their way for a great cup of coffee. Get those customers inside your store by offering unique flavors and espresso-based drinks.
The blue-collar man who smokes used to account for the majority of gas station/convenience store sales. Today, it is a very different matter. More and more, the survival of these stores is based on non-fuel offerings. The trend is to turn gas station/convenience stores into a destination. Paying for gas at the pump – means less impulse buys in the store.
Upscale innovative designs are being incorporated with unique colors, woodwork, art, coffee bars, fireplaces, free Wi-Fi access, and dining areas with big-screen TVs. The goal of this chic strategy is to make it a pleasurable shopping experience.
While offering requisite items, many stores are constantly retooling offerings. Price and value are still vital but the trend is to amplify the appeal of the establishment. Convenience stores built today are 25 percent larger than those built a decade ago. Many owners will tell you they make more off a 12oz cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up. Innovations of this epicurean uprising include homemade baked goods, garden-fresh produce, gourmet coffee, espresso bars, brick-oven pizza, packages deli-style lunch boxes, fresh seafood, and seating areas with magazines nearby. Many stores want to be perceived as a healthy alternative to fast food. Some states allow beer caves, a wine selection or roll-your-own-cigarette machines. To make the customer feel entertained and satisfied is the experience most inventive stores are after.
Swanky food won’t thrive in every neighborhood. Years of dreadful coffee and wrinkly old hot dogs have made customers reluctant to take convenience store food seriously. Today, it is not enough to say “Great location, extended hours or pretty good price.” How to find new ways to entice time-strapped patrons inside the store is the question; and innovation is the answer.