From the infancy of the drug store soda counter to cold dispensed beverages at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants today, the fountain drink has been an integral part of serving thirsty customers.
The subject is an extremely nostalgic one for me. Indeed, sweet memories and tastes return to my ancient mind and, despite the many years that our elders warned would fly by, those memories are still crystal clear.
I vividly recall the bright, new single-spout fountain machine arriving and being installed in our family business, Callahan’s Pharmacy, nestled deep in the quaint Adirondack Mountain hamlet of Bloomingdale, New York. That store and soda machine became the center of my universe.
Unlike those early days, most c-store chains now feature 20 or more dispensed drink offerings along with slush and high-end frozen whistle wetters – this alone gives c-stores a huge advantage over all other competitors.
The key to the success of any fountain program is taste. Don’t be fooled – the same product won’t necessarily taste consistent over time. Failure to clean the dispensers both thoroughly and often alters the taste drastically. Failure to maintain the correct water-to syrup-ratio does the same. Make sure you keep an eye on the CO2 tank gauge, too – it’s all about that cool, crisp taste, folks. Thirsty or not, customers throw flat drinks away. And then fill their soda cup elsewhere.
Fountain drinks don’t sell themselves, either. Operators must advertise and promote their thirst-quenching lineups. There’s pretty much no better way, though, than to bundle fountain drinks with deli, candy and/or a salty snack.
Make sure that it’s somebody’s job to monitor the fountain area, too. Frequent cleaning, cups and lids fully stocked, every spout operational with all flavors flowing will set you apart from a dirty store whose fountain is ignored by staff who feel they’re too busy to care.
Give the fountain the attention it deserves, a nice mix of flavor choices paired with favored food or snack items, and make sure customers know about it. Do that … and you’ll be on your way to drinking in some cool profits.
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].