How to Create Compelling Foodservice

Follow these top 10 steps to ensure your foodservice offering is positioned for success.

By John Schaninger

In today’s convenience environment, do you need to have a compelling food offer? The answer is a resounding yes.

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If you’re new to foodservice or limited in your current offer and have a desire to expand, there are several items to consider to improve your program.

Today, we will focus on 10 key considerations.

1. Determine why you want to sell food. Are you losing traffic to declining fuel and cigarette trips? Is there a competitor in the market with an attractive offer that is pulling customers? Do you want to drive higher gross profits? All (and more) are valid reasons.

2. Where do we begin? It’s been often said in our business that if you own the morning, you own the day. Maximize your breakfast offer, and then when you think you have it…improve it again…and again…and again. Once you have all processes and systems perfected, and are consistently able to execute breakfast, then it may be time to consider expanding to other dayparts.

3. What food category should you focus on? Where is the opportunity in your market? Can you offer a great sandwich, or is a great fried chicken offer what is lacking or perhaps a phenomenal burrito offer priced right? Measure the opportunity as part of your assessment.

4. Assess your company capabilities and commitment. Commitment begins at the top. Adding a foodservice operation is not the same as taking in the newest snack chip or candy bar. Think about your biggest investments: real estate, fuel and people. Foodservice is just as important and just as long term. Commitment at all levels, from senior management through all store operations and the support center, is paramount.

To that end, you should develop a corporate structure that facilitates process and systems, and the people to manage them. Where does that person, or persons, fit in? Do you have the correct people for food development and daily management?

5. Assess your distribution partner. Is your current grocery distributor forward looking and food focused? Should you assess the need for a foodservice partner or a local foodservice operator to provide fresh-made direct delivery?

6. Don’t forget advertising and promotions. There are a few keys to driving food sales: innovation, promotions and limited time offers. There is a reason that the local coffee shop always has some new variety to offer, typically for a set time period—it drives sales! Great promotions drive trial, and if it’s a great product, repeat sales.

7. Choose between proprietary or branded. There are pros and cons to proprietary or branded foodservice from advertising, systems and processes, to the effects on sales and net profitability. Be careful in analyzing, again, reviewing your current and future capabilities.

8. Create a quality/value strategy. “I want to sell the best sandwich anywhere.” Yes, you can, remembering there are cost of goods and retail factors to analyze. Assess the market, know the competitors, and find your best price point and quality for your customers.

9. Develop a strong plan. You wouldn’t build a store without a ground up plan would you? Of course not, and foodservice needs long-term and short-terms plans to drive people, products and profits.

10. Know the near future. What does the future bring? Read the trade and  restaurant magazines and go to the shows. Follow the bloggers. One of the best ways to learn what’s happening is to take a tour in a great food city and see what concepts are flourishing. Go out to eat at new places.

There’s a host of things to think about and a lot of work to do when you decide to sell food. Do your analysis, bring in external assistance, if needed, but if done right, your customers and team members will be thanking you.

I love talking foodservice and marketing. Should you have a question or comment, send me an email. I know some wonderful c-stores where we could grab a great cup of coffee or lunch.