If you’d seen the excitement that greeted the recent opening of a Wawa in a Florida community, you might have been scratching your head. But one reason stood out to explain the enthusiasm: fresh food.
Convenience stores can offer a lot more than chips and snack cakes, and many do. Wawa takes this philosophy to a higher level with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many of its items are made to order – for instance, a breakfast burrito or a panini. It has an Express Case with salads, wraps, fresh fruit and other items. It also offers soups and sides served hot.
This is a case of slowed-down fast food – it’s still fast, but it’s made especially for each customer. More people are looking for meals on the go. And for consumers looking for more healthful, fresh choices, fresh food is a compelling reason to visit your convenience store.
Another bonus for store owners: Food offerings can be offered at a higher profit level than fuel.
Wawa is not the only convenience store that is capitalizing on fresh food as a staple of their store. Orlando Chevron store owner Akbar Parpia has had food in his store before it was popular. He grosses on average a 35% margin with simple, made to order food items like breakfast sandwiches and cheeseburgers. “I like to have items that are easy to make on the spot since I run the store by myself most of the time. I generally make around $150 per day on the food alone, but those customers more times than not end up buying complimentary items like drinks and snacks to go along with their meal.”
If you want to keep up with the competition like Akbar, and offer fresh food in your store, there are several considerations.
Plan on launch costs. It will take a while for your customers to get wise to your fabulous new offerings. That means there may be some waste at the beginning, because the catch with fresh food is that you must discard what doesn’t sell right away. When planning your launch, factor some waste into the cost.
Figure out how the food will be ordered and made. The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing (NACS, founded as the National Association of Convenience Stores) says more retailers are using touch-screen ordering kiosks that let guests customize their food orders. Touch-screen ordering allows faster, more accurate orders.
Coffee is hot. Of hot dispensed beverages, coffee generates 77 percent of sales, NACS reports, mostly in the morning. Customers love extras, including flavored creamers, different types of milk, and sprinkles of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with seasonal flavors. Higher-end coffee drinks, like cappuccino, can earn higher margins for stores.
Cold drinks need great ice. Fountain beverages have been a longtime convenience-store staple, but now more healthful options, such as green tea and fruit juice, are seen among the sodas. And since customers like to savor the ice that comes with them, more stores are offering a softer ice cube that NACS calls a “nugget” or “chewy ice.”
As organizations like the Wellness Coalition work to get more fruits and vegetables in convenience stores in areas where there aren’t a lot of options to get fresh foods, retailers are taking the idea a step further.
In Alabama, the coalition and other groups have begun hosting cooking demonstrations in convenience stores to teach customers how to use the veggies, according to CSPnet.com. Retailers are seeing enough success to expand the program into more stores.
Fresh food isn’t just tasty, it’s profitable.