When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, c-stores began adjusting their business practices to hold on to foodservice customers in the midst of state lockdowns, like adding curbside pickup and delivery services, if they didn’t already have those options in place. Many c-stores, accustomed to providing the best packaging for instant dashboard dining, began adjusting takeout options with delivery and drive times in mind to ensure products arrived at their destination in top form.
Let’s explore the journey our food and beverages take to reach our customers and discover how we can improve the quality of the customer experience.
Imagine it’s 120 degrees Fahrenheit outside and your convenience store’s foodservice menu is offering salads, burgers and fries. You’ve added order-ahead and delivery through your new mobile app due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A delivery order has just come in, and you have to get this salad, burger and fries, plus cold fountain drink, to a customer several miles away.
How will you keep the icy fountain drinks from melting and spilling? The key is to use coolers with cup holders designed to keep beverages upright and snug and add re-freezable food-safe freezer packs to keep them cold. Make sure lids stay securely in place, ensure straw holes stay closed during transport, and use sip-saver plugs. If melting ice waters down drinks, keep ice and beverages in separate cups for delivery.
Are you keeping cold items apart from hot items? Separating hot and cold food in different compartments or delivery bags can result in a better eating experience. Bonus points for catering-style, branded boxes that include wrapped cutlery and showcase your thoughtfulness.
Pro Tip: Play offense with hungry delivery service drivers and give them their very own small fries, half-dozen doughnut holes or small sweet tea. Write the cost into the delivery fee and show hospitality to the driver as you thank them and trust them to leave the rest of the food undisturbed.
In order to gauge your takeout packaging quality, begin with what you have. Start by placing your top-selling food and beverages in current packaging, close the takeout bags and boxes, and set everything on a counter. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then dive into your meal. Very objectively, make a judgement call on the quality. Is this as good as fresh?
If you see room for improvement to the texture, try some basic adjustments to your current packaging. Often boxes have overlooked perforated sections for ventilation that can be opened to let steam and moisture out of crispy items like fries and chicken tenders. If your package doesn’t have that option, then play the role of packaging engineer, cut holes and see if quality improves in round two. If that works, perhaps you can source some new ventilated packaging.
Pro Tip: Leave paper bags open when they contain fries; this non-technical move will absolutely result in lower temperatures, but higher-quality fries. You may also want to consider moving to coated or battered fries or thicker-cut fries, which stand up better to ride times.
Another easy win for successful takeaway experiences: Present obvious choices to meet consumer demand for speed and touchless interactions on single-serve items. Search locally and online for creative ways to uniquely package customer favorites for a great takeaway experience.
For example, a pre-packed box of a dozen doughnuts and a half-gallon of coffee can be a significant upsell from your normal $1.99 combo, allow customers a touch-free experience and save precious morning commute time.
Whether you decide to invest in specialty delivery equipment, discover that small packaging upgrades improve quality or include a thank-you to your delivery driver, you can make a positive impact on the way your customers experience your brand on the go. CSD
Jessica Williams founded Food Forward Thinking LLC as a consultancy to meet the operational demands of foodservice in restaurants, convenience stores and groceries. She enjoys helping clients solve problems and elevate food quality. She can be reached at [email protected].