As people become increasingly mobile and their lives more hectic, more consumers are looking for non-traditional dining options. Foodservice items, such as salads, sandwiches, pizza and other foods that are prepared fresh in your store, will complement your sales of milk, bread and other packaged goods that have long been the standards of the grocery industry.
Not only will foodservice sales increase store traffic and improve profitability, they can also create shopper loyalty reinforcing the idea that your store will meet all of your customers shopping needs, and leading to increased sales.
The shopper can find a wider variety of food options in your store – not only burgers, or only pizza like in fast food restaurants. And, because you are able to respond more quickly to consumer preferences than fast food chains, your customer will find their choices and choose your store more often.
Foodservice has shown great growth in c-stores. According to NACS, prepared foods showed a 13.8% increase in profits in 2011. Even stores that already were involved with foodservice showed a 7.5% increase in their average profitability.
However, as is often the case, where there is opportunity, there are also challenges and potential pitfalls. Adding a foodservice operation is different than just adding a new category to your store. You need to be a better than average store owner/operator to make it work. Here are a few questions to gauge whether you and your store are ready to take on foodservice:
- Cleanliness: Is your store spotless?
- Rotation: Are you rotating products consistently and properly?
- Appearance: Are your shelves and product dusted? Are signs and POS materials up-to-date?
- Staffing: Are your employees knowledgeable, helpful and friendly?
- Experience: Are you currently offering coffee or fountain beverage programs?
Challenges in Foodservice
Moving into foodservice increases the complexity of your business. Youll need to forecast the usage of each item, insuring that you have enough stock on hand, while minimizing spoilage. Because there are many more variables: bread or rolls (white, wheat, rye), different types of meats and cheeses, etc., it is much more complicated to stock and manage foodservice items than pre-packaged items with longer shelf-lives.
Plan for Success
If youre ready to start a foodservice operation in your store, begin slowly with a well-developed plan; test individual programs and items before investing too much time and money. Use inventory and employee management systems to track efficiency and profitability.
Your employees are vital to your success. They keep your store clean and organized. They prepare the food properly and consistently. They answer customer questions about food quality and taste, and they offer recommendations. Keep them motivated and positive, and theyll make your operation a success.
Staffing a foodservice operation is very different from hiring a clerk for the typical convenience store. Youll need to match scheduling to the daily and weekly peaks and valleys of customer demand. Developing a system to manage this will help maximize efficiency in scheduling and allow proper staffing for food prep in advance of peak demand times.
Make sure that your employees have the right equipment and that its arranged to allow them to do their job effectively and easily. Let them sample the food; they need to know what theyre selling, so that they can make recommendations and answer customer questions. Offer them incentives and rewards to hit and exceed agreed upon targets.
Look around your store; how can you improve? Simple cosmetic changes inside the store can have a huge impact upon customer perception. Ensure that your customers have a positive experience in your clean, well-lit, organized store with a foodservice department that features food that looks and smells fresh and enticing.
Keep your employees motivated by providing thorough training, motivating incentives and a good work environment. Be involved in your community, and get your foodservice operation involved too. Stay positive, focused and motivated; and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Are you looking for recommendations about foodservice and deli items or supplies, or need some advice on how to set up a foodservice operation in your store? Ask your Hibbert & McGee sales rep, or contact us here.