The Challenges Facing C-Stores in the Modern Foodservice Landscape
Every aspect of modern foodservice is evolving. Consumers are changing the way they view what they eat, where it comes from, where they get it and how it fits into changing lifestyles – and convenience stores are no exception.
With a willingness to be agile in the face of these changing expectations, c-stores can succeed and position themselves as valuable options for consumers well into the future.
However, it all begins with an awareness of those expectations. Let’s dive into the challenges driving changes large and small in the c-store industry.
Consumers Want It All
When it comes to food, especially of the grab-and-go variety, consumers have evolved to want it all.
Trends indicate that not only do consumers want to have healthier options available – they want them without sacrificing the convenience and on-the-go ease they’re relying on more and more in today’s fast-paced lifestyles.
For c-stores, this likely means choosing healthier snack options and, if possible, providing fresher or made-to-order goods for consumers.
There’s also vast potential in targeting what’s become known as the “fence-sitter” segment, according to a report from the Hudson Institute. This is defined as those consumers who want to eat healthier, but face challenges to that goal in the form of limited knowledge, limited time, and more.
To address the challenge of healthier, yet still convenient foods, c-stores can:
Increase the visibility of healthier options already offered and leverage informational signage and more to educate consumers, particularly “fence-sitters”
Focus on breakfast items, when many consumers are looking for this healthy convenience most
Keep kids in mind – parents want healthier, fast-paced options for the whole family
Create a fresh, on-the-go section or a made-to-order counter to offer a more robust dining “experience” in the c-store setting
Imitate what works well in restaurants and other locations in their communities that are having success
The Challenges of Going Cashless
Cashless payment is the future – there’s no denying that.
However, this transactional ease for consumers will necessitate some careful navigation on the part of c-stores.
Credit card fee growth likely won’t slow down any time soon, and careful thought about which services to utilize and offer customers in the quest for cashless will be required to find success.
This movement could mean that efforts to cut costs elsewhere and a thorough search for operational efficiencies and ways to capitalize on what’s driving revenue now, such as beer, tobacco products, coffee and more, could help facilitate success and growth.
Don’t Be Left Behind in Tech
The time to be hesitant about adopting technology in c-store operations is long past.
Technology drives every aspect of the modern consumer experience, and c-stores not taking advantage will be left behind. Mobile applications, delivery, online ordering and more are starting to pop up in c-stores around the world.
This will take some creative thinking to best utilize, however.
Should c-stores move to a “subscription” model, where consumers can get unlimited deliveries or certain items on-demand for a fee? What capital concerns arise from investment in technology, and will its utilization offset them?
In particular, automation efforts, “next-level delivery” and frictionless experiences will be key, so start the innovation and efficiency engines now to avoid being left behind.
Like in the quest for cashless, new and innovative vending machine options with intelligent IoT capabilities, user-friendly touchscreen interfaces, app integration, custom options and more will play a critical role.
Maintaining a Community Presence
In the quest to keep up with other aspects of society, it’s important not to lose sight of a c-store’s unique role as a community presence.
C-stores can offer healthy options to underserved areas, build lasting community bonds through charitable acts and more, and work to create a positive and welcoming atmosphere.
As technology, frictionless experiences and more push c-stores into the future and challenge this grassroots vision, it will be critical not to lose sight of this key potential.
To keep up with the latest news in the c-store industry, stay tuned to SandenVendo’s thought-leading publications at www.vendoco.com.