Early on, I began the habit, when visiting a convenience store, of pretending it was the first time I had ever seen the location. I viewed the store with fresh eyes and recorded a list of the things that impressed me, or conversely depressed me, about each location.
I made sure that some of these visits occurred at night, so the third shift didn’t feel abandoned or unappreciated. It should be noted that the third shift, to me, is the most important shift. Why, you ask?
If the third shift fails to adequately ready the store for the incoming first shift, it negatively impacts the entire day at the store. If it’s not ready for customers in the morning, the first shift must struggle to make up the third shift’s tasks, and subsequently the second shift has extra tasks to make up — all during times when more vendors and customers are arriving.
Because the store is busy during the day, first and second shift workers have scant amounts of time to address store cleanliness. That means this important burden rests predominantly on the third shift.
Therefore, I suggest convenience store retailers follow my example and pop into the stores for quick inspections. Think of these as walk-throughs instead of formal inspections. Such walk-throughs can help you coach your employees on areas where they need to improve ahead of or between more formal inspections.
To begin, select an area of focus for the store visit or consider one to two items in multiple areas.
If curbs, forecourts, doors and windows were my visit focus, I might ask myself the following:
- Are the drive areas, sidewalk and dispenser islands in need of pressure-washing?
- Are the dispensers all in service, and are they clean?
- Does the pricing on the dispenser match the price sign?
- Are the grassed areas, shrubs and trees looking good?
- Is the reader board message timely and spelled correctly?
- Are the lights all working and in good shape, including on the canopy, building, price sign and perimeter?
- Are the windows and doors clean and free of excess/unapproved signage? NOTE: No more than two signs/decals on each door — more really is less to avoid sensory overload.
Inside the Store
If I’m inspecting the inside of the store, I’d consider the following:
- Look up: Are the lights above me all working and clean?
- Look down: Are the floors clean? Are they in good shape? Are “wet floor” signs properly placed, and are they clean? (A dirty wet floor sign sends a very poor message.)
- Enter the restrooms. Do they have a pleasant odor? Are all areas clean and properly equipped? Remember, it’s hard to have a successful foodservice program without stand-out restrooms.
- Mingle with employees. Let them know they are appreciated. Are the employees well groomed and in clean uniforms with name tags? How is their interaction with customers? Are they checking IDs on alcohol, tobacco and lottery?
- Look at the merchandise. Is the store well stocked? Are the main brands of tobacco, alcohol and confections in stock and on clean shelves? Is the deli area clean and inviting and are the hot items within the tolerance range — including the coffee bar? Do the fountain drinks taste fresh? Remember, cashiers often only clean what they can see, so check the tops of drink machines to ensure they have been cleaned. Is the checkout area adhering to plan? How is the open-air cooler looking — inside and out? Is it the proper temperature?
- Check for proper pricing and check key items for in date/code.
Obviously, there’s more to monitor, but this list will get you started and motivate your employees to keep stores in top shape for customers.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CStoreDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected]