The 2022 NAG Conference in La Jolla wrapped up Wednesday, March 30 with two general educational sessions followed by a boot camp where attendees shared ideas and best practices.
The first session of the day featured speakers Gaurang Maniar, executive director of marketing at Dash-in; Joy Almekies, senior director of food services at Global Partners/Alltown; and John Lofstock, executive director of NAG.
Titled “NAG Custom Research Discussion: Expanding the Evening Daypart,” the panel opened with Kevin Rice, executive vice president of Bounteous+Hathway, introducing research his company conducted with NAG.
According to the research, delivery and digital ordering are growing. A majority of the respondents plan to use digital platforms more in the future.
“The reality is this is a cross-category opportunity for convenience retailers,” said Rice. Not only can digital and delivery services be used for foodservice items, but also for convenience items.
Eighty-six percent of respondents are interested in bundling cross-category products. Additionally, 44% said the availability of mobile ordering was the biggest criterium for choosing a retailer.
The retailers discussed proprietary foodservice offerings, third-party delivery, ease-of-access for customers in finding which menu items are offered at which locations and more.
Almekies said that the Alltown Fresh brand is Global’s most lucrative for foodservice and performs its own delivery services. According to her, this ensures the customer has a best-in-class experience.
“We became an experience for the consumer,” Almekies said.
The brand offers items such as smoked pulled pork, Japanese bento boxes and meal kits. Fully prepared meals for families have become popular, and if customers walk into the store for pickup, they may pick up beverages and other items.
Dash-in, which Maniar said has 56 Mid-Atlantic stores, offers remodeled kitchens at over two-thirds of its locations. The kitchens are on display for customers, allowing them to see their food being prepared. The rest of the stores will be remodeled within the next few years.
Offering items such as quesadillas, wraps, subs, pizzas, wings and breakfast sandwiches, the quesadillas are the brand’s top-selling category. The unique aspects of Dash-in, according to Maniar, are its proprietary recipes, made-in-house sauces and fresh veggies.
As advice for other retailers, Almekies noted that not everything can be done in every store.
Maniar mentioned the abundance of learning, testing and tweaking for developing a foodservice program.
“Be patient, it is a marathon,” he said.
Panelists Brenda Ellsworth, chief operating officer at Pete’s Corp.; Shelley Coleman, category and merchandising manager at Stinker Stores; and Patrick Raycroft, associate director at W. Capra Consulting Group., discussed customer loyalty.
“How to Build Customer Loyalty Through Engagement” revolved around the facets of different loyalty programs and the programs’ ingratiation into company culture, as well as loyalty analytics.
Coleman spoke about Stinker’s loyalty program, which prioritizes ease for the customer, engagement for the customer, ease for the retailer and growing the customer count.
Its app is easy to understand, join, redeem and navigate. The active rewards are together, as well as the loyalty stamp cards and CPG offers.
One method Stinker uses to engage customers is offering rewards daily through gamification.
“We’ve done some really great launches with this,” Coleman said, adding that Stinker is “getting more customers signing onto (its) app each and every day.”
One method Ellsworth noted Pete’s uses to engage customer loyalty is starting with engaging employees. For example, the store places pamphlets and scripts on each register about the loyalty program so employees feel comfortable relaying relevant information to customers.
Additionally, near the beginning of the launch of the program, Pete’s offered “Double Tuesdays,” in which customers received double the points on Tuesdays.
“Everybody needs to understand if you’re going to have a loyalty program, it’s going to require an investment of time and resources,” Ellsworth said.
She stressed that the loyalty program must be a part of the company’s culture.
Raycroft, who discussed the importance of loyalty analytics, which includes performance analytics and the resulting strategic and automated insights, implored retailers to ensure that the analytics trigger action.
NAG ended the conference with an ideas boot camp, led by Brad Chivington, senior vice president of High’s of Baltimore, Almekies and Lofstock.
Starting wages, the tools for building a foodservice program that works for different areas, testing new offerings and bean-to-cup were debated among the retailers. They continued the conversation with topics such as third-party delivery, energizing team members, digital technology and other conference takeaways.
The next NAG Conference will take place in Austin, Texas at the JW Marriott Austin from March 26-29, 2023.