Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Now is the Time for C-Stores too Cultivate Fresh Food Fanatics


Roll, roll, roll away roller grill, was the refrain from Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Clearly Johnson’s call was on target and years ahead of other industry experts.  Once again however, fresh prepared foods are a potential goldmine for convenience stores (c-stores), but convincing customers to ditch the roller grill routine requires a strategic shift. In this article, we'll delve into the insights of C-store foodservice expert Ben Lucky, who recently shared his wisdom at the 2024 Convenience Foodservice Exchange.

Who Are You? The Redwood Effect

Lucky's opening salvo, "Who are you?" challenges c-stores to forge a distinct foodservice identity. He likens successful programs to redwoods – rooted deep in understanding their customers. Unlike the "oil company mentality" of minimizing waste, fresh food necessitates embracing calculated risk.

The key is offering enticing options that go beyond microwave reheats. Customers are savvy and crave quality, which translates to long-term loyalty – a stark contrast to the short-term pitfall of prioritizing waste reduction over customer satisfaction.

Listen, Learn, Adapt: The Foundation of Fresh Food Success

Foodservice operators must become students of their customers' desires. Lucky emphasizes this as the foundation of a winning program. He urges c-stores to move beyond dictating preferences and instead prioritize active listening.

Building Your Recipe for Success

To curate a compelling fresh food program, Lucky outlines a three-step recipe gleaned from his conversation with foodservice expert Richard Poye:

1.       Define Your Vision and Mission:
A clear roadmap is essential. What will differentiate your offerings?

2.       Highlight Your Differentiators: Identify what sets you apart from the competition. Consider unique services or targeted products that resonate with your target market.

3.       Craft Your Content Strategy: With a strong foundation in place, you can develop a content strategy to effectively communicate your offerings.

Know Yourself, Know Your Guests: Obsessed or Just Interested?

Self-awareness is crucial. Are you passionate about fresh food, or merely dipping your toes in the water? This level of commitment will permeate your program's success.

The Secret Sauce: It's Not Just About the Food

Fresh, flavorful ingredients are a cornerstone, but the magic lies in the experience. Consider the visual appeal, enticing aromas, and even the sounds of your kitchen.

Standing Out From the Flock: It's All About Differentiation

In a crowded market saturated with chicken options, standing out requires creativity. Perhaps it's unique flavor profiles, innovative condiments, or a willingness to adapt your offerings.

The Secret Sauce Ingredients: It's a Team Effort

Lucky emphasizes that foodservice thrives on collaboration. Invest in hiring skilled staff and providing them with proper training in foodservice best practices.

Embrace Experimentation: Sample, Adapt, and Surprise Yourself

Sampling programs are a goldmine for gathering customer insights. Be prepared to let go of preconceived notions and embrace the unexpected.

Customization is King: Empower Your Customers

Simple customization options can elevate your offerings. Consider offering an array of condiments or toppings to cater to individual preferences.

Stay the Course: Thrive, Don't Just Survive

Once you've established your vision and cultivated a quality program, resist the urge to compromise. Deliver the exceptional customer experience you set out to create, and watch your fresh food program flourish.

By following these Grocerant Guru® insights and leveraging the power of fresh, prepared foods, c-stores can transform themselves into customer magnets, forging a loyal following one satisfied bite at a time.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

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