Foodservice – Begining a C-Store Hot Food Program

It’s already a fast pace world, and it’s only going to get faster.  Energy drinks and grab and go food items have been flying off the shelves in Convenience Stores these recent years, it’s time you start your Hot Food Program and get some of those profits for yourself.

According to NACS Online “convenience stores have offered fresh, prepared foods for years, it is only in the last decade that the trend has accelerated. The reason is two-fold:

  1. More and more time-starved consumers want on-the-go meal solutions.
  2. Retailers have found that food service can deliver new customers inside the store and at a higher profit level than for items like gas, which has razor-thin profit margins.

The result is that convenience stores have continued to evolve from gas stations that happen to sell food, to restaurants that happen to sell gas.  The overall food-service category is broad and largely includes non-packaged consumables: food prepared on-site, commissary / packaged sandwiches, hot-dispensed beverages, cold-dispensed beverages and frozen-dispensed beverages.”

Keep it simple, and keep it clean.  Customers become hyper aware of sanitation and cleanliness when they look for food they’re going to potentially ingest.  You eat with your eyes first, and everyone knows quality has a lot to do with perception.  Keeping the total number of food choices available to a relatively small number, around 3-5, will help to prevent biting off more than you can chew in terms of keeping up with the flow and cleaning the food station.

Starting your new food program with a simple breakfast menu will ease you into the new waters of serving hot ready to eat food.  A strong coffee program is essential to the success of the new food program you will be starting up.  Customers in the store that are purchasing their morning coffee are drastically more likely to purchase the accompanying food, generating more add-on sales.  More than likely you already have a decent morning customer base that will be an ideal test platform for your new profit generator.  As for food products to start with, I suggest a breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito, and a seasonal limited time offering.  We want to start small and simple, and not disrupt the already successful routines that have been established in the store already.

A big part of making life and the food program easy will be purchasing the right equipment that can take the frustration out of the program.  Food Warming Equipment Co. better known as FWE, has developed a specialized low wattage oven that can cook and hold convenience items.  The technology in the cabinet can be used to first gently cook the food up to a safe and tasty serving temperature, then automatically switch it’s settings to become a hot holding warmer for the food.  This means you do not have to wait by the oven for the food to finish cooking, it will stay ready to serve at high quality for hours.  After the food has reached temperature it will be waiting for you to place it on the food serving station or hot food merchandiser.  This will allow staff to stay focused on the number one concern, the customer.

Have patience and most importantly listen to your customer’s feedback and criticisms.  Give them what they want, just make it better than they expect.

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