Re-envisioning the c-store

By 
Aimee Harvey, Managing Editor, Technomic

maverik

Convenience stores are working hard to shrug off their image as a grungy gas station stop during a road trip. Here are four ways next-generation retailers—including two colleges—are stepping up their visual appeal to match up with an updated food story around freshness, customizability and quality.

1. Convenience that comes to the diner

sphinx

How can updated convenience models meld with noncommercial to make dining programs unique and memorable? At Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, a takeout program called BYU Food to Go is making the “shopping experience as convenient and frictionless as possible,” says Cordell Briggs, director of finance for the school's dining services. The department converted a drive-thru bank building on property recently bought by BYU into a pickup point; customers who place their orders in advance (large-order catering customers frequent the format) go to the drive-thru lanes and call for assistance.

“Our attendants immediately deliver the order to the customer’s car and collect payment with a remote POS device, and our guest is ready to go, usually without even getting out of the car,” Briggs says. BYU Food to Go offers a wide range of offerings, with a full range of beverages, baked goods, breakfast, deli fare and hot foods, including barbecue, chicken entrees, pasta dishes and vegetarian options.

2. Bring it home

meal kit prep

If new mini markets, kiosks and c-stores in unconventional spaces are happening now, forward-looking formats such as home delivery of meal solutions and preparation kits could be next. In fact, such a program is already making its way into circulation at University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Ken Toong,  executive director of auxiliary enterprises at UMass Amherst, says that while the home-meal program was largely geared toward faculty and off-campus customers, the biggest surprise was how swiftly the delivery idea took off among students. It’s yet another example of how multifaceted the convenience narrative has become, even among an emerging customer base that previously may not have expected campus dining services to provide high-quality retail meals this way.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘how do we continue to tell our story?’ [Home delivery is] an audacious idea,” Toong says. “But our guests expect the best.”

3. Prep on display

maverik

Open-kitchen designs and preparation areas that are in full view of the customer are growing in popularity. Utah-based Maverik convenience stores are prepping for a systemwide rollout of assembly line-style prep models for street tacos, burritos and Neapolitan pizzas.

4. Techy touches

sheetz

Front-facing tech that allows guests to customize flavors and ingredients is typified by Pennsylvania-based Sheetz with its signature MTO platform, which offers kiosks for touchscreen made-to-order foodservice.

5. Enhanced visuals

wawa

Digital signage is being used to make menu listings and nutritional information more visually appealing. At Pennsylvania-based Wawa, digital menu boards list menu offerings and advertise current limited-time items and special promotions.

6. Food front and center

grab and go

Grab-and-go displays are moving to more prominent positions. Rutter’s Farm Stores, a Pennsylvania-based c-store chain, recently expanded its grab-and-go selection and invested in proprietary to-go packaging to more extensively promote items in its hot-hold section.

7. Labor upsides

micro-markets

The upside of micromarkets versus conventional vending machines is in the reduced labor hours and larger profit margin, say operators. “We have since opened two additional markets that replace existing vending banks,” Moravec says. “The first location replaced three existing machines, and the sales with the market are about 300% higher than with vending machines. The second replaced four machines and the sales are about 175% higher than with vending machines.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

When looking for a way to get more use out of its Canyon Cafe, open during the weekends only, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., tried something new: free cooking classes.

Classes are open to students, as well as faculty and staff, and are taught by Campus Dining Executive Chef Michael Albright, according to Mustang News .

The weekday classes, which are capped at 14 participants, have taught attendees how to make items such as probiotic overnight oats and “the perfect turkey.” Interested parties can sign up online via the school’s dining...

Managing Your Business
chef online sourcing

More than 40% of restaurants buy supplies from online sources such as Amazon at least once per month, reducing their reliance on distributors, according to new research from Technomic.

The bulk of the online shopping—what Technomic calls third-party e-sourcing, or 3ES—is for nonperishable foods and other supplies that can’t spoil, such as disposables. "Today, operators are most inclined to purchase products in the nonfoods and shelf space but are reluctant to source frozen and perishables from 3ES,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal of Technomic. “However, they can envision a...

Industry News & Opinion

Anchorage School District in Anchorage, Alaska, is offering free meals to students this week while schools are closed due to the recent earthquake, KTVA reports.

The meals are being served at nine schools throughout the district between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and are available to anyone 18 and under. The district has provided school buses at each location to allow students to eat inside.

Read the full story via ktva.com .

Industry News & Opinion

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced its final rule on school meal standards .

The final rule builds upon the USDA's changes to school meal standards announced last year . It will keep the sodium Target 1 limits in place through school year 2023-2024, and Target 2 limits will go into effect for the 2024-2025 school year. The final sodium target (Target 3) will be eliminated.

While operators have been able to meet sodium Target 1 limits, many felt that the second two would be difficult to acheive. Over 90% of respondents in a School Nutrition...

FSD Resources