Convenience stores can grow their frozen dispensed beverage business by sticking to basics, which today includes instilling consumer confidence on the sanitation of the machines.
Cold and frozen beverages both took a major hit due to the pandemic, but the section can be re-established — and sales built back up to pre-COVID levels.
First, the obvious: Convenience store operators need beverages and flavors the public know and want, priced right and marketed effectively, including social media and signage in foodservice areas, on windows and out at the pumps.
Convenience store retailers should use all of the promotional savvy at their disposal, including coupons, bundling with other products, limited-time offers, buy-one/get-one deals and discounts for loyalty card holders and app users.
Contests and prizes for the most original flavor combinations, and ballots for voting on the most popular flavors, also get customers aware and involved. Making use of sports teams and sporting events, celebrity endorsements, TV and movie tie-ins and seasonal/holiday promotions will also help move the meter substantially.
Sanitation was important long before the arrival of COVID-19. The consensus is that, while dispensing units should be wiped down regularly, a more thorough cleaning need only be done — this will vary by municipality — about once a week. Some of the basic steps include having employees wash their hands before handling the dispensers; mixing the cleaning solution; removing nozzles and soaking them in the sanitizing solution; and wiping down the entire unit, including the drip pan, with anti-virals.
Make use of signage to let customers know the steps being taken to ensure their safety. For example: These machines are sanitized after every use or every 15 minutes. Keeping cups and straws behind the counter until a drink is purchased will also make a good impression on shoppers. Social-distancing decals on the floor will validate the store’s commitment to COVID safety.
Some convenience store operators have taken the step of relocating the entire dispensed beverage section behind the counter of the foodservice area, with store personnel handling the dispensing chores. Still, others are offering individually wrapped cups, straws and utensils. Bringing frozen dispensed beverages to foodservice areas also gives team members an obvious opportunity for suggestive selling to help build the overall ring.