By Sarah Hamaker
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Over the past decade, foodservice has risen in importance at convenience stores, but how has the pandemic impacted consumer food priorities and what does that mean for convenience stores? How will you continue to innovate with your menu options? Two NACS Crack the Code Experience education sessions provide some answers.
In “Feeding the New Consumer: Health, Food Trends, Pandemics and More!,” presenter Jack Li, Haiku master at Datassential, shared data and trends about what consumers want in a foodservice concept. “The No. 1 message is meeting the consumer perception of safety,” he said. “Convenience stores are pretty high up on the list as one of the safest restaurants.”
That’s good news for retailers, but the continuing pandemic also creates foodservice challenges. Li pointed to the increase in automation when it comes to food preparation and distribution, citing the example of Sally the salad robot as one way retailers can use technology to safely serve salads.
He also discussed how healthy continues to be important to consumers, but that the definition of what healthy eating means has changed. “Functional foods or positive nutrition are foods and beverages that actually do something for you,” Li said. “We think this market will be huge in the coming years.”
Overall, the pandemic “has caused us to recalibrate our thinking across the board—nothing seems impossible now,” he said. “Food and flavor trends going forward … will be by and large the things that consumers were interested in pre-pandemic.”
In “Understanding Dayparts and Optimizing Each Hour of the Day,” presenter Alex Williams, COO of Hammer Williams company/Jiffy Trip, talks with Roy Strasburger, president of StrasGlobal, about how his stores use foodservice to differentiate from the competition.
Jiffy Trip has its own proprietary foodservice concept called JT’s, which offers self-serve and made-to-order options. For example, new Jiffy Trip stores have roller grills with JT’s branding and graphics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the roller grills are manned by crew members instead of allowing customers to serve themselves.
JT’s also serves extra-large pizzas, which are serviced from hot cases at checkout. “We built our checkout counters around being a food destination,” Williams said. “We put a pastry and donut case at checkout in the mornings and have our hot food cases there as well.”
Williams strongly recommended retailers add a frozen beverage program. “We have a frozen beverage corner in our stores that gives us 15 flavors of frozen items. This drives a tremendous amount of traffic from kids, etc. … It’s a missed opportunity to drive a lot of traffic if you don’t have one in your store.”
You can still register for your very own NACS Crack the Code Experience (CTCE). The NACS Crack the Code Experience runs through December 4, 2020, and features 24/7 access to forward-looking ideas and insights, plus innovative new-to-channel products and strategic connections. Your fellow convenience industry retailers look forward to seeing you there!
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Daily and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.