Comments (17)

  1. Ralph Whitley

    Ralph Whitley

    President, Performax Learning & Development

    Have to agree. Our standard comment when looking at TV ads for any fast food is, "Does the food ever look that good in real life?"

  2. Mehgan Belanger

    Mehgan Belanger

    Associate News Editor at Convenience Store News

    I think the value proposition is very subjective in both retailers' and consumers' minds. What is low quality to one could be good quality to another. It all depends on the base you are comparing something against. To me, value doesn't mean low quality and price together -- that I would call a waste of money -- it means decent or comparable quality that I can live with, at a price that makes me feel better because I saved some money.

    I think many Americans are thinking this way, given the increasing and ongoing proliferation of private label brands.

    And Ralph, I've never seen food in real life look as good as in TV commercials. Have you?

  3. Joachim Sawkins

    Joachim Sawkins

    Senior Operations Excellence Advisor at BP

    If we are going to examine Cstore Food Service we also need to consider the segmentation of the Market. Am I trying to attract the budget, fast fix, low cost customer or am I wanting to differentiate my offer with food that my customers can buy as a viable every day alternative.

    There is a market for both, however trying to be all things to all people will lead to dilution of your brand and confusion for your customers. Food items are one of those things most people will not compromise on basic quality (freshness), they do struggle to believe that C-Store food will be as good as a sandwich bar no matter the quality.

    How one overcomes this perception when the majority of the marketplace reinforces it is a challenge.

  4. Ralph Whitley

    Ralph Whitley

    President, Performax Learning & Development

    Joachim, as a former bp guy, I agree with your analysis of the different types of food customers. However, what bp in the US found with their Connect stores, which had a high end (for C-Stores) food offering, was that it was very difficult to attract enough customers who were looking for quality. Thus, the change to ampm, which appeals, in the words of Clark Griswold, to people who are "so hungry they would eat a sandwich from a gas station."

  5. Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore

    VP, Marketing

    As a consumer, it is rare that I go into a C-Store looking for something beyond a snack with regard to food. Mostly coffee or soft drink and a package or two of chips or candy. As fast food restaurants continue to venture into the C-Store/gas station environment, travel stops have more to offer. Who doesn't prefer a Wendy's single to a packaged/microwave alternative?

  6. Joseph Little

    Joseph Little

    Never underestimating the power of non-traditional marketing

    I know in the Midwest c-stores have turned a corner to provide fresh and healthy choices. Fresh made sandwiches instead of prepackaged on the shelf for 4 days. Plus fresh fruit choices along with more brewed iced tea choices. C-stores have to take a new approach to their food choices. I would pick a fresh turkey & swiss and apple than anything from Wendys.

  7. Steven Johnson

    Steven Johnson

    Grocerant Consultant

    Fresh is best and when you ask where is it going. It's going to the grocerant niche filled with prepared fresh foods. www.grocerants.blogspot.com Success does leave clues you will find more there!

  8. Mehgan Belanger

    Mehgan Belanger

    Associate News Editor at Convenience Store News

    But from a consumer's perspective -- how does he or she know whether that turkey and swiss sandwich has been sitting there for four days, or was fresh made this morning -- how can retailers push the concept of fresh?

  9. Dan Martelli

    Dan Martelli

    Co-Founder

    I think all quality standards have gone out the window as corporate c-store operators divest and sell sites to jobbers...who in turn put in dealers in place interested only in slinging gas. There are literally thousands of sites affected. Not only foodservice...but anything requiring an opearating standard or capital expediture. Look at the conditions of the car washs east of the Mississippi...yikes. Those who own and operate their own sites that are not "for sale" still have a decent quality standard...as long as you like food drowned in mayonaise:) Sheetz and Wawa maintain a high standard and get great traffic with the brand and product offering the have created over time. People do not think of those sites as a "gas station". Hess, Sunoco, Mobil, Circle K...not so much. Pre-packaged goods with an occassional hot pizza offering of something...their brand is "gas station".

  10. Billy Winkie

    Billy Winkie

    Owner/ Business Broker, County South Business Brokers, Winkie & Associates Realty, Inc

    Over the last few years I have been amazed at the lowered quality in some stores, but I must say that I am equally amazed at the fantastic customer service and quality of others. It seems to me that individuals still make all the difference, whether it is the independent owner, a jobbers dealer, or a employee Manager. Any of these can do a superb job in the communites that they serve and the experience for the customer is good. Give a manager who truly cares some authority and watch that store be successful. It doesn't really matter what company or brand.

  11. Darren Cheesman

    Darren Cheesman

    Business Development at YouGov SixthSense plc

    We have just done a huge study on this issue looking at things from the perspective of the consumer. We look at what people are going to the c-stores for, why they chose one store over another, satisfaction, etc. Pulls out some really intriguing findings.

  12. Bruce Mallen

    Bruce Mallen

    Perishable Management

    The credibility issue tends to loom large. Grocers and retailers had similar issues with instore foodservice program. Many failed to realize much in the way of potential. The ones who continue to do well share some common traits:

    -commitment to the foodservice piece; culinary people on a corporate level driving programs (not category managers who are easily wowed by vendor promotions)
    -clustering instore programs by demographics and volume, avoiding a one size fits all approach but staying consistent to core signature items
    -effective merchandising, marketing and display characteristics
    -Balance the fried offers out

  13. Tim Powell

    Tim Powell

    Dir. Research & Consulting Svcs

    I'm not sure the quality, flavor and focus on consumer satisfaction has gone away. I would argue, has it ever been there? I believe that if you looked at c-store foodservice from a product lifecycle perspective, it is still in the growth stage - largely based upon the profits that foodservice can command. It is not easy for a c-store to get in the mindset of behaving like a restaurant. I think once this happens, c-stores will be part of the consideration set for infrequent users.

  14. Ron Schumacher

    Ron Schumacher

    Southeast Regional Sales Manager

    Billy is 100% correct in that who ever is in charge of managing the food service program at a c-store location is the key. Having spent the last five years selling high quality branded concepts and foods to the c-store market, I can pretty much tell in the first minute if the account will succeed and it all comes back to people and execution. Those who care about their customers and the quality of their food service experience will become the destination point in their area. A clean store, clean hot food case, a clean menu board, a clean kitchen and clean employees give a customer confidence in their buying decision and generates repeat business. Those factors are not unique to the c-store vertical, QSR, Quick Casuals and other chain restaurants battle the same issues, not every McDonald's is well run, clean operation.

  15. Tim Powell

    Tim Powell

    Dir. Research & Consulting Svcs

    I walked into a Thornton's QuickCafe and was delighted by the layout of the coffees and isle cold case with fresh sandwiches. I am in the industry, so it is my business to record these changes. I am impressed. My wife? Three kids. Will not go into a c-store because, well, the three kids will trash the place. If the c-store had a drive-through OR (big thinking here) staff would actually bring the food to her while she pumped gas THEN she may consider returning. I think this is the real advantage that a c-store (w/gas) can bring to the table when competing against a QSR. It also would help convert non-users to "believers." Few non-users will appreciate the Fast Casual-like Thornton's if you can't deliver on the basics.

  16. Brian Tornquist

    Brian Tornquist

    Account Executive at Taste Traditions

    I happen to spend quite a bit of time in C-Stores training managers and their staff on our Mexican Express (a enchilada that is placed in a warmer as a grab-n-go item) and introducing their customers to the new item. What I have found is that the consumer does still appreciate a higher quality item when it is at the right price point. The consumer grabbing lunch in a C-Store is normally budget conscious and on the run however like all of us, still wants the best value for their hard earned money. I also know unless itís a younger person on a very tight budget without many choices they are not going to be back, at least for the product that does not meet their quality expectation. This game is going to be won by the C-Stores that have the higher quality items and provides them at a price comparable or below the fast food joint down the street.

  17. Stephen Minall

    Stephen Minall

    Director/Owner at Moving Food/Wrapid

    This issue has been going on for years in this sector, many ideas/brands have come and gone..biggest issue is putting a square peg in a round hole..Retailers trying to be Caterers and vice versa...we at Wrapid dot com, have designed a product to fit the need for "no brainer" hot food to suit the C-Store structure, with low risk to Health & Safety, Chill chain, not frozen, packaging to allow longer holding times and very high levels of spice/taste to allow for deterioration during cook off and holding times. Abuse factors are built in, as staff have little real ime to present a branded product in it's intended launch state..chilled product with 8 day shelf life is a starting point, with fast re generations time..same issue world wide..even our Dubai locations about to go into Forecourts suffer same old issues, guess this proves one thing..Retailers will never understand Food service brands!

 

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