Fresh Perspective for Your C-store

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In our fast-paced world, consumers are increasingly reliant on grab-and-go and convenient foods, yet they are also seeking out healthier and more freshly-made options. To remain competitive in today’s marketplace, convenience stores are finding they need to take a serious look at their operations and determine when, not “if,” they will jump on the foodservice bandwagon.

This exciting time of transition and growth in the industry is equally challenging for many c-store owners. Adding foodservice or enhancing the fresh options available within a c-store environment is not an overnight process, but one that takes careful planning and consideration before diving in.

To give our convenience store operators some “fresh” perspective on what it means to roll out or enhance foodservice offerings, we are planning a series of articles that tap General Mills’ own resident c-store foodservice expert, Tim Trainor.

A certified baker and corporate chef, Tim is also a trailblazer who has carved out a new role for himself at General Mills. Whether making frequent pit stops to and from his cabin in Northern Minnesota or through the on-site training he provides nationwide, Tim spends a lot of time in c-stores. Today, Tim is leveraging his passion for c-stores backed by his extensive culinary chops to help educate c-store retailers on what it takes to launch a successful foodservice venture. Following are a few of the frequently asked questions Tim encounters from c-stores looking to add more foodservice items. Stay tuned for more from Tim in the near future!

Q: What do customers expect from a “fresh” section in a c-store?

A: Customers in a c-store environment think “fresh” refers to something made that same day or the perception that it is made in the store. For example, think about what you might find in some of your favorite locations. It could be donuts and sweet goods in the bakery case. Move over to the cold case and you will see cold cut sandwiches, salads, wraps, fresh fruit, as well as Yoplait® yogurt and Nature Valley® granola parfaits.

The key for c-store retailers is to make products that get you credit for by making them in the store. For example, imagine your customers walking in and seeing your staff pull cinnamon rolls out of the oven. It is a great way to showcase a freshly-made item with huge impact via scent and overall experience within the small boundaries of a c-store. This all plays a role in helping you to become a destination for food.

Q: Is the term “foodservice” different than “fresh”?

A: The “fresh” section within c-stores would likely encompass all of the above—the freshly made items from prepackaged items e.g., parfaits, salads and sandwiches to made-to-order items.

Foodservice refers to a model where there is significant amount of production coming from an onsite kitchen or there are trained professionals who are making items from scratch to thaw and sell

Q: Why should I pay attention to foodservice or freshly made items in my store?

A: C-stores that don’t look at how they can expand their foodservice areas or add freshly made items are going to miss out on a huge opportunity. Simply put, times are changing. Consumer lifestyles and tastes are evolving, and they expect more from their c-store. To remain competitive and satisfy consumers’ appetites, it is critical to pay attention to these offerings.

Q: Who is doing a good job with foodservice in c-stores? Can you share an example?

A: Wawa is an obvious leader because they have been working at it very hard for many years. They own the made-to-order market in the East and train their people specifically in the areas of foodservice. Consumers can walk in and mix and match several ingredients on a variety of menu items—from burritos to breakfast sandwiches to hoagies. Casey’s General Store is a small retailer that is growing fast and moving the dial with freshly-made products. They make donuts each day from scratch and are also making their pizza dough same day. Both organizations are keeping the menu new and exciting.