Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Casey's General Stores Migrating with Consumers


Located in the middle of the country, Casey's General Stores has been evolving with consumers better than any other retail food brand according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® of Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Regular readers of this blog may remember that Johnson began sharing how this highly successful convenience store chain began to evolve its foodservice offerings back in 2009.

Casey’s today is reaching more than $1.2 billion in prepared food and dispensed beverage sales in 2022, Casey's Chief Merchandising Officer Tom Brennan believes that they should rank among the top 50 restaurant chains in the United States. The team at Foodservice Solutions® thinks so as well.

With more than the $1.2 Billion in grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food and beverage sales Brennan stated, "We've got a ton of runway," Taking aim at restaurant takeout and delivery sales Casey’s plans to lean into increasing its off-premise liquor licenses as one way to better differentiate itself and deliver for guests while adding top line sales and bottom-line profits.

How are they selling all that food?  Well, in the fall of 2020, Casey's launched a branding update initiative that included a new logo and visual identity to match its contemporary guest experience. The changes did receive some pushback — "any time you change something that's been around for 50 years, your guests are going to let you know about it" — but the reaction also indicated that Casey's customers had a strong attachment to the brand, which is especially notable considering more than half of its stores are located in towns of just 5,000 people or less, Brennan explained.

"We literally are a part of those communities, and we take a great sense of pride in that," he said.

Casey's also benefits from its reputation of having friendly in-store employees.

"One thing that we consistently hear is our team member friendliness. Having spent some time in convenience [and QSR], that's typically not what you hear, right? You typically don't get a lot of credit for your team member friendliness," Brennan said, adding that Casey's makes a point of maintaining and building upon this. Johnson says customer service is a point of differentiation and Casey’s has been working hard to edify its brand and employee relationships.

Success does leave clues and one of the clues Casey’s has learned is leaning into the competitive advantages that make a brand different and unique. In Casey's case, this includes its rural footprint, self-distribution, digital experience (which includes more than 6.4 million rewards members, half of whom are actively engaged on a monthly basis), and its business trifecta of fuels, general merchandise and grocery, and prepared food.

Brennan encouraged his fellow retailers in the audience to consider ways they can profit across dayparts, noting that Casey's "iconic" pizza offering gives it more flexibility in meeting consumer needs regardless of the time of day.

"Having that offering allows us to play across breakfast, lunch, dinner, even late night," he said. "For our stores that are open late, we should have that offer available."

Menu’s meals, and shacks at Casey's its approach to foodservice has evolved since it was founded in 1968 and continues to do so, but one key aspect it refuses to change is its use of fresh, quality ingredients for its handmade-from-scratch pizzas.

"We take a lot of pride in the quality that we deliver every single day," Brennan said. "We will not compromise on that quality."

Casey's winning formula for foodservice, is a combination of innovation, execution, and team. At the innovation stage of a new offering, the company asks whether it can achieve three key objectives:

·         Desirability: If it's not a craveable product, it goes back to the drawing board.

·         Feasibility: It must be feasible to execute, but trying to answer this question too early in the process is a bad idea.

·         Viability: If it's not driving profitability, it's time to start over.

Once launched, a product must be executed consistently or it will fail, no matter how innovative it is. Consistent execution throughout a brand's footprint is where the team comes in.

"That happens because of people," he said.

Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”.  Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company edify your brand with relevance.  Call 253-759-7869 for more information. 

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