The 2021 NACS Show’s education sessions continued Wednesday, Oct. 6, covering a range of topics important to convenience retailers and supplier partners alike.
In The Convenience of Drive-Thru: Are C-Stores Asleep at The Wheel?
This session looked at the recent exponential growth of drive-through sales for QSR and fast-casual brands — the brands that are competing for c-stores’ foodservice business.
The convenience of drive-through — and curbside — is here to stay, said Howland Blackiston, speaker and principal at King-Casey.
Blackiston shared a video about Starbucks’ drive through innovation — direct, clean, tidy visual presentations on 46-inch digital screen with a weather canopy and new face-to-face interaction technology that provides customers with the personal interaction they’ve come to know and expect from Starbucks.
“(Starbucks) leveraged technology to solve issues and, frankly, delight customers,” Blackiston said. “The drive-through improvements generated hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to the bottom line.”
While the drive-through experience and convenience will keep c-stores competitive with their QSR counterparts, there are a few key things to keep in mind in this space.
“In the drive-through, stick with food and beverage or you’ll never compete successfully with the QSR,” Blackiston advised. “What about merchandise? Well, I don’t think that’s going to work, and I would strongly urge you not to do that.”
He provided 11 drive-through success factors, including taking the time to plan carefully; having a POS system that separates interior and drive-through transactions; and starting small, and scaling up as you learn from your experience.
Food Sampling Techniques and Why They Work
In this foodservice-focused session, Enmarket Director of Food & Beverage Ryan Krebs and Jerry Weiner, foodservice consultant and former VP of foodservice at Rutter’s, spoke about sampling as a proven strategy to build brand recognition and grow demand at c-stores.
Weiner has 45 years of experience in the R&D of foodservice programs and has managed operations of proprietary and branded foodservice programs for convenience stores and restaurants. He’s also managed branded programs, including KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, TCBY, Nathans, Orion Food and Subway.
“Foodservice is one of the ways you can become a destination,” said Weiner.
And sampling will set your stores and their foodservice offer apart.
“Food sampling gets them interested in a part of your store that they may not have even thought of,” added. “There’s an opportunity there to create a consumer. … If they like it, and they realize you’re the only place they can get it — now you’ve created a destination.”
For retailers just starting out with foodservice, Weiner advised they start with breakfast.
“Breakfast is the easiest daypart to execute,” he said, “the fewest SKUs to manage, and — quite franky — it’s the easiest to be competitive on.”
Then, when sampling, he recommended a program of two hours a day on two rotating sampling days a week.
“The vendor community will work with you on this,” he added. “They will because it works, and they know.”
General Session Featuring Kendal Netmaker
As part of the final session of the day, Kendal Netmaker, an entrepreneur, author and speaker, told the story of his childhood as an Indigenous person of Sweetgrass First Nation in Canada, and related his experience and the lessons he learned throughout his life to the convenience retail industry and its leaders.
Regardless of where you come from and what challenges you face, he said, you have the power embrace resiliency and enact change.
One of Netmaker’s companies is Neechie Gear — a lifestyle apparel brand that gives back a percentage of its profits toward funding underprivileged youth to empower them to take part in sports. He is also the author of the book “Driven To Succeed.”
No matter who you are, no matter your role or where you’ve been, he said, every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise.
“The more we understand each other’s stories,” he said, “the more we can work together, the more we can thrive together.”
The NACS Show will run through Friday, Oct. 8, at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.