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Design Erases Retail-Dining Line

Convenience stores and supermarkets can build on key elements to give customers a dining experience.
May 24, 2017

​CHICAGO – Convenience stores and supermarkets are increasingly getting into the foodservice arena with fresh prepared food and even tables and chairs. During a workshop at the National Restaurant Association Show’s Foodservice @ Retail Summit this week, Juan Romero of aPI and Tré Musco of Tesser discussed how convenience and grocery stores can eliminate the line between dining and retail, Supermarket News reports.

“Consumers care about what the experience is like, and 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual,” Musco said. “People form judgments instantaneously. In terms of design, perception is reality.”

To change customer perception of convenience stores as a place to fuel cars into a place to enjoy a meal, retailers need to leverage their “environment to create memorable experiences,” Romero said. “Customers can spend the whole day eating and enjoying [themselves in a supermarket]. There’s an entertainment value that’s happening in grocery design. The concepts inside supermarkets can go anywhere from fast casual to elegant to urban.”

The panelists recommended borrowing restaurant design elements to deliver three core customer needs: quality, convenience and care. “Grocerants tend to miss out on the care aspect, that sweet spot of comfort,” Musco said.

Here are Musco’s five ways to meet those core needs.
1. Lead with change. He pointed to Sheetz locations that have dining rooms and up-front kitchens as signaling to customers this is a place to eat good food.
2. Be a place to recharge. Have music, warm lighting and comfy seating to create an inviting space.
3. Go with the flow. Stick to what you’re good at, but make room for the food by making it easy to order and pick up.
4. Details matter. For example, restrooms should be spotless and the foodservice area should be brightly lit.
5. Dive into the deep end. The dining area shouldn’t feel tacked on just to fill an empty space.

For more on how to run a successful foodservice program—and on seating at convenience stores—look for the foodservice issue of NACS Magazine in July.