foodservice, foodservice management
Combining technology with fresh, sustainable, branded foodservice programs is helping international retailers attract new consumers.

At last week’s 2019 NACS Convenience Summit Europe, 11 leading convenience retailers battled it out for the coveted title of International Convenience Retailer of the Year. But like the famous line from the 1980s film “Highlander” said, “There can be only one.” When the dust settled, 7-Eleven Denmark took top honors.

When you look a little closer at these contenders, you’ll see something interesting. Mangan’s Centra Edenberry transformed an aging store into a foodservice destination; 24Seven Janakpuri is selling fresh bakery goods with dough imported from France; and Wawa’s long-loved, signature hoagies and specialty drinks continue to be a customer favorite. Notice a trend? The real winner this year was one of the convenience retail industry’s fastest-growing categories: foodservice.

Tracking the Trends

On World No Tobacco Day 2018, the World Health Organization released a report stating the number of global smokers had decreased by nearly 30 million between the years 2000 and 2015. While this wasn’t necessarily shocking news to convenience retailers who had been on the receiving end of falling tobacco sales for years, it did further emphasize the need to invest in foodservice strategies and solutions.

But declining tobacco revenue isn’t the only reason convenience retailers are tapping into foodservice. The transportation industry and, more specifically, the increasing adoption of electric vehicles, is driving change, too. According to BloombergNEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019, “By 2040, […] 57% of all passenger vehicle sales, and over 30% of the global passenger vehicle fleet, will be electric.” As yesteryear’s buyer personas give way to the new, well-designed foodservice programs tailored to attract this new breed of buyer will become increasingly critical to retailers’ success.

Ingredients to Foodservice Success

So, you know you need a foodservice program, but where do you start? If you expect to conjure award-worthy success from roller grill hotdogs and prepacked sandwiches, you may want to rethink your strategy. Today’s consumers aren’t settling for anything less than food options that fit their lifestyle and values. This is particularly true in Europe. Here are some things you should focus on:

  • Keep it fresh and customizable: Whether you’re offering made-to-order salads and sandwiches prepared with farm-to-table ingredients, made-from-scratch bakery goods, or fruit sourced from local farmers, make sure your program is satisfying consumers’ expectations for a fresh, customizable foodservice experience. For example, the Maxol Maynooth in Ireland—a top contestant for the 2019 International Convenience Retailer of the Year award—combines Wi-Fi, restaurant seating and charging stations with its fresh food options, which include a hot food bar.
  • Keep it sustainable: Sustainability is an important issue for European consumers, and they’re increasingly reinforcing their values with their pocketbooks. In addition to buying electric cars, these on-the-go customers are looking to recharge their bodies and vehicles at establishments that pair excellent food with sustainable practices. 7-Eleven Denmark, which carries more than 64 vegan and vegetarian products and uses environmentally friendly packaging, is getting it right on all counts.
  • Keep it branded: Developing a branded, private label foodservice program customers love is a great way convenience retailers can build awareness in the communities they serve and associate their businesses with issues consumers care about. Take Westfalen AG’s Zum Glück, for example. The retailer is offering its customers a new, branded food court complete with food options covering all dayparts, free Wi-Fi and a kids’ area.

Enhancing Your Foodservice Program with Technology

Like the focus on foodservice, a heavy reliance on technology was also a common theme among the 11 contenders for this year’s International Convenience Retailer of the Year award. From digital signage to inventory tracking, having the right solutions to effectively manage your foodservice program is as important as the foodservice offering itself. Retailers who are serious about driving operational efficiency and getting the insight they need to maximize foodservice profits typically have these technology and service solutions in common:

  • Comprehensive ERP solution: Using disparate systems to manage and report on multiple parts of your business is one of the quickest ways to fall prey to inaccurate information and unreliable insights. This is especially true of categories with complex, rapidly changing inventory management needs, including dry stock, wet stock and, of course, foodservice. Using a comprehensive solution that combines site, sales and vendor information to provide end-to-end, 360-degree visibility enables you to make the best, data-based decisions for your foodservice program.
  • Loyalty program: According to our latest Road to Rewards report, 43 percent of c-store shoppers choose a particular convenience retailer because they have a loyalty program. Similarly, our C-Store Shopper report indicates over 70 percent of shoppers increase their visits if they are members of that store’s loyalty program. When you take those numbers into consideration, the potential impact of a well-designed loyalty program on your foodservice profits is quite substantial. In fact, it’s a strategy longtime foodservice pioneer Wawa has banked on for years, and it’s worked. The retailer’s per customer, in-store spend is substantially higher than the industry average.

When it comes to building and managing a great foodservice program, there’s always room to improve and a lot to cover. Be sure to check out our blog on boosting foodservice performance to take advantage of other best practices and tech tips for success.

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