“Honey, Please Pick Up Some Grilled Tilapia at the Gas Station.” by Bryan Miller

March 13, 2017

Last week we attended “The Really Big Expo” in Myrtle Beach, SC where there was much discussion about the growing and changing food service options in C-Stores.  We attended NACS  “Ideas 2 Go” program discussion which showcased emerging concepts that redefine convenience stores.  Another huge topic of conversation is how the millennials are changing the way people eat and shop. Gone are the days of a dried hot dog spinning on a warmer as your only option.  C-Stores are ‘destination spots’ – not just a place to fill your tank.  Bigger selections and healthier options are becoming the norm.

http://sepetroshow.org/


Here’s a great article from NACS:

WHEN C-STORES AND THE NEW YORK TIMES COLLIDE

Feature highlights hidden gems of single-store operator foodservice programs that rival any restaurant.

March 13, 2017

LEESBURG, Va. – The New York Times captured a growing trend throughout the U.S. convenience store industry, particularly among small, single-store operators, in a feature titled, “Honey, Please Pick Up Some Grilled Tilapia at the Gas Station.”

If you’ve seen the 2013 NACS Ideas 2 Go program, then you’ll recognize many of the retailers the NY Times visited: Thai Pan, Flory’s and Seoul Food D.C. Each establishment was part of a segment on some of the best gourmet ethnic food found at a single-store operation, and the retailers behind these businesses that deliver exceptional food and innovative new ideas.

“Encouraged by the changing tastes of consumers and the potential for profit, a metamorphosis has taken place in at least 1,500 locations nationwide: at independent gas stations as well as those owned by oil giants like Shell and Exxon and convenience store chains like 7-Eleven,” writes the NY Times, adding that “fresh produce, elaborate sandwiches and even grilled tilapia and Korean bibimbap” are becoming more ubiquitous at the local convenience store.

These locations “are now cool to discover and tell others about,” Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president for strategic initiatives, told the news source. In fact, the industry has come a long way from food offers that merely served up punchlines for movies such as “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” where Chevy Chase laments, “I’m so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station.”

“We definitely see, year after year, convenience stores presenting a competitive threat to quick-service outlets like McDonald’s,” Donna Hood Crecca, associate principal at Technomic, told the news source. Citing NACS State of the Industry data (newly released numbers will be presented next month at the State of the Industry Summit), in 2015, about 34% of in-store profits at convenience stores came from foodservice, up from 22% in 2010.

Larger convenience store chains, such as Sheetz, are adding drive-thrus and touchscreen ordering kiosks to accommodate their growing foodservice operations. The NY Times writes that there’s also “an increasing number of roving food trucks” at c-stores, such as Andrae’s Kitchen, in Walla Walla, Washington (hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches), and the Brew Pump, in Asheville, North Carolina (eight beers on tap, beer garden and sandwiches).

“Food industry analysts now consider convenience markets competition for some of the most powerful names in the restaurant industry,” writes the NY Times, adding that an estimated 10% of the 154,000-plus convenience stores across the country—a $575 billion industry—“could be described as food-forward.”

Read full NACS article here

 

 

LEESBURG, Va. — Last summer, when two women were looking for a restaurant space in this Northern Virginia town of 48,000, one of the options held multiple enticements: It was affordable, it had a good location, the kitchen was fit for Asian cooking and it was in a gas station.

They signed on the dotted line and retained the name of the previous business, Thai Pan. Now, while the brick exterior is connected to a Liberty gas station and resembles a well-fortified bunker, the authentic Thai fare served in a charming dining room is drawing locals and adventuresome foodies from throughout the region.

“People come in here and say, ‘Wow, I never expected something like this,’” said Wilaivan Kammoongkun, one of the women behind the new Thai Pan.

The restaurant is part of a wave of gas stations and convenience stores capitalizing on a growing demand for fresh, healthful and convenient road food. Encouraged by the changing tastes of consumers and the potential for profit, a metamorphosis has taken place in at least 1,500 locations nationwide: at independent gas stations as well as those owned by oil giants like Shell and Exxon and convenience store chains like 7-Eleven.

Photo

Wilaivan Kammoongkun helped open Thai Pan, which is attached to a Liberty gas station in Leesburg, Va., and serves authentic Thai fare. “People come in here and say, ‘Wow, I never expected something like this,’” she said.CreditAndrew Mangum for The New York Times

As a result, roller-grilled hot dogs and little packaged cakes of indefinite shelf life are, in many places, giving way to fresh produce, elaborate sandwiches and even grilled tilapia and Korean bibimbap. Popular food trucks and food carts are adding to the variety, many setting up shop just feet from gas pumps to take advantage of a steady stream of customers.

Continue reading the main story

The locations “are now cool to discover and tell others about,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president for strategic initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores.

It certainly hasn’t always been this way. In fact, convenience store food regularly stood in as a joke. In the 1983 film “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” a hapless dad behind the wheel of a station wagon, played by Chevy Chase, laments, “I’m so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station.”

Major oil companies still tend to shy away from the complicated and risky food business. But in the early 2000s, when a long-term decline in revenue from food, gas, cigarettes and other products approached troublesome levels, many gas station and convenience store owners started to rethink their business models.

Now, an estimated 10 percent of the 154,000 convenience stores across the country — a $31 billion industry — could be described as food-forward, the National Association of Convenience Stores says.

Photo

Flory’s, a family-owned enterprise, has four locations. “We were apprehensive about doing this because we were not sure about customers wanting to eat in a convenience store,” said Jamy Flory, a co-owner and vice president of the business. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The largest chain, 7-Eleven, with 10,900 stores in North America, has been polishing its game for more than a decade. Nearly all of its fresh food, heavy on fruits and vegetables, is prepared in regional commissaries.

The service station strategy appears to be working: In 2015, about 34 percent of in-store profits at convenience markets came from food and beverage service, up from 22 percent in 2010, according to the trade organization. Food industry analysts now consider convenience markets competition for some of the most powerful names in the restaurant industry.

“We definitely see, year after year, convenience stores presenting a competitive threat to quick-service outlets like McDonald’s,” said Donna Hood Crecca, associate principal at Technomic, a research company that follows the food industry.

Upgraded convenience stores are found across the country, especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Greater Dallas and the area around Harrisburg, Pa., are two hubs. The Tigris and Euphrates of the genre, though, might be the region in and around Washington. Here, one can feast on a variety of treats, including house-cured corned beef, Thai specialties, regional Mexican fare, homemade pizza, fried chicken and barbecue.

In 2012, Jon Rossler had the opportunity to permanently park a corned beef food truck at an Exxon station in Olney, Md., north of Washington.

Photo

Thai Pan draws both local people and adventuresome foodies from throughout the region.CreditAndrew Mangum for The New York Times

The following year he moved inside, opening a spiffy 20-seat restaurant with faux brick walls, granite counters and large computer screen menus. Today, Corned Beef King goes through 150 pounds of corned beef and pastrami weekly, and 100 pounds of brisket. The business started with two employees; today there are 16.

“It’s wild,” Mr. Rossler said. “I think I may have gotten too big.”

Occupying part of an Exxon station in suburban Silver Spring, Md., is Seoul Food D.C., a cheerful, three-year-old art-festooned cafe serving gorgeous Korean dishes like bibimbap (sticky rice with vegetables, greens, a sunny-side-up egg and choice of protein) and the super bowl (rice, caramelized kimchi, spicy relish, two cheeses and Korean red sauce).

The experimentation also extends to the Hudson Valley town of Fishkill, N.Y., and the family enterprise Flory’s, which has four locations.

At first glance, especially at night, one of its stores — sleek and modern and large at 1,900 square feet — resembles a small casino with 14 gas pumps.

All food is made in-house: sandwiches, salads, soups and prepared meals. There is also a healthy fare section and make-your-own-milkshake machines. Two cooks toil in a small open kitchen preparing specialties like chili, lasagna, quesadillas, fried chicken and stuffed sole. Breakfast begins — with 16 types of coffee — at 4 a.m.

Photo

Recent offerings at Flory’s included macaroni and cheese, vegetables, rice, chicken stew, fried chicken and French fries. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Jamy Flory, a co-owner and vice president of the enterprise, said the concept had succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations. When he first opened, he said, the meat and cheese purveyor Boar’s Head was reluctant to be associated with a gas station. Flory’s is now a regular customer.

“We were apprehensive about doing this because we were not sure about customers wanting to eat in a convenience store,” Mr. Flory said.

Taking cues from fast-food restaurants, many convenience stores are also providing drive-through windows and ordering kiosks. Sheetz, a chain of 541 gas stations based in Pennsylvania, has a store near Harrisburg that welcomes customers to relax outside at umbrella-shaded tables that afford the exhilarating view of automobiles being topped off.

There is also an increasing number of roving food trucks at service stations, among them Andrae’s Kitchen, in Walla Walla, Wash., (hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches), and the Brew Pump, in Asheville, N.C. (eight beers on tap, beer garden and sandwiches).

“We want to be about good food but also about some fun,” said Mr. Flory, proudly showing a customer his arctic-themed “beer cave” with a giant simulated polar bear on top. (It’s where beer inventory is kept.) “People get a kick out of it, so why not?”


Visa Security Alert Threat Landscape: Pin Pad/POS Skimming

June 3, 2016

Incident Details

Visa Global Payment System Risk is aware of increasing incidents involving suspects placing skimming devices on point-of–sale (POS) terminals for the purpose of collecting payment card information, including PIN numbers. Perpetrators use this information to create counterfeit cards re-encoded with the stolen card information and make unauthorized ATM withdrawals. The primary targets for these recent skimming events are self-checkout terminals in supermarkets. However, any POS terminal may be at risk, including those that are often unattended, such as terminals near deli counters, coffee stands, etc. The perpetrators are mobile and will target multiple stores within a geographic area for a period of time before moving on to a new location. Most entities targeted are using payment devices that have not yet been upgraded to accept EMV cards.

Placement of Skimming Devices

Skimming devices can be placed at any time of the day but placement usually occurs during slower times of business when the perpetrators can go undetected by employees or other customers. The perpetrators will usually work in teams of two or more with one person being a lookout, one person placing the skimming device on the POS terminal and another creating a barrier so that no one can observe the skimming device being placed. Perpetrators have been known to use large items such as packs of paper towels to block the view of POS terminals. In some instances, it was reported that the suspects created a distraction in the store by faking a medical incident or causing commotion that distracted the attention of store personnel away from the POS terminals. The skimming devices will mimic the look of the front of the POS terminal.

Recommended Inspection & Response Actions

1. Prevention Through Device Inventory Management

  • In accordance with PCI DSS Requirement 9.9, ensure implementation of security controls to protect POS devices from tampering and substitution. Examples include:

Maintain a list of devices including the device serial number or other method of unique identification. 

Keep a list of device location either by store or physical location within the store itself (i.e., self-checkout, deli counter, manned checkout). 

Train personnel to be aware of suspicious behavior and to report tampering or substitution of devices.

 Verify the identity of any third-party persons claiming to be repair or maintenance personnel, prior to granting them access to modify or troubleshoot devices.  

2. Physical Inspection of POS Devices

  • Implement security procedures to inspect POS devices at least twice each day and at random times.
  • Physically examine the device. Skimming devices are typically attached with minimal adhesive allowing them to be place and removed with ease, so devices may be detected by giving the front of the POS/PED a good grab-and-pull. Weighing the devices may also identify tampering.
  • Please note some skimming devices are Bluetooth enabled and data can be captured without the device needing to be recovered.
  • When inspecting devices, use backup security personnel to monitor from a distance as suspects may watch compromised terminals and suspects are trained in counter surveillance to avoid detection/arrest.

3. Device Recovery Response

  • If a skimming device is discovered on a POS terminal, do not handle it, as evidence may be damaged.
  • Notify local law enforcement and the FBI or USSS office so they can recover the skimming device.
  • Protect any video surveillance that may be used to identify any perpetrators and confirm timing of when the device was placed on the POS terminal.
  • Initiate incident response procedures and notify your Acquirer so that Visa can assist with the investigation.

 

Information from VISA April 2016

For other questions, please contact Cyber Intelligence & Investigations via email at USFraudControl@visa.com

Additional Resources:

What To Do If Compromised

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Support for older versions of Internet Explorer Ended

May 31, 2016

What is end of support?

Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. Internet Explorer 11 is the last version of Internet Explorer, and will continue to receive security updates, compatibility fixes, and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.

Internet Explorer 11 offers improved security, increased performance, better backward compatibility, and support for the web standards that power today’s websites and services. Microsoft encourages customers to upgrade and stay up-to-date on the latest browser for a faster, more secure browsing experience.

What does this mean?

It means you should take action. After January 12, 2016, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for older versions of Internet Explorer. Security updates patch vulnerabilities that may be exploited by malware, helping to keep users and their data safer. Regular security updates help protect computers from malicious attacks, so upgrading and staying current is important.


Potential risk of using older versions of Internet Explorer:

Security

Without critical browser security updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your business data and information.

Compliance

Businesses that are governed by regulatory obligations such as HIPAA should conduct due diligence to assess whether they are still able to satisfy compliance requirements using unsupported software.

Lack of ISV Support

Many Independent Software Vendors(ISVs) no longer support older versions of Internet Explorer. For example, Office 365 takes advantage of modern web standards and runs best with the latest browser.

Click here to read more

 


Chargebacks on Credit Cards Happening NOW! #EMV

May 10, 2016

RETAILERS ON THE HOOK FOR COUNTERFEIT TRANSACTIONS

Chargebacks are on the rise following the October 2015 EMV liability shift, and convenience retailers are fighting back.
May 10, 2016

NEW YORK – Beginning with the October 2015 EMV liability shift, retailers that have not upgraded their payment terminals to accept EMV chip-card transactions are

on the hook

for counterfeit transactions, writes the Wall Street Journal, and this particular cost of fraudchargebacks—is adding up.

The news source reports that chargebacks among small and medium-size merchants increased 15% in Q4 of 2015 from a year earlier, according to a Strawhecker Group survey, adding that the volume of chargebacks has likely increased even more since then. Although the group didn’t put a dollar figure on the chargebacks, other experts put the total around the tens-of-millions of dollars mark.

Since the October 2015 EMV liability shift, many retailers are experiencing an outrageous increase in chargebacks that are mostly erroneous. Mike Lindberg, payment solutions manager at CHS Inc., commented during the Conexxus Annual Conference last week that some smaller retailers have reported a $10,000 to $15,000 increase in chargebacks per week, while larger retailers are experiencing $1 million in chargebacks per week.

I can’t imagine what will happen at the pump come October 2017,” Lindberg warned.

The No. 1 chargeback reason code since October 2015 is

merchandise not received,”

he said, which in theory makes no sense for the big box retailers. Some retailers are even seeing multiple chargebacks on the same credit card, and indicating that there is very little interest from card issuers or acquirers to help solve this costly problem.

Due diligence, however, can pay off. Convenience retailers experiencing a higher volume of chargebacks can successfully reverse the charges on challenge because convenience retailers aren’t within the October 2015 liability shift specification for type and applicability (i.e., the fuel dispenser).

“The banks will hopefully learn from the first October 2015 liability shift what is chargeable, because right now it’s a

‘charge it all back and see what gets challenged’

approach,” said Gray Taylor, executive director of Conexxus. He previously told NACS Daily that this approach to chargebacks “will have dire consequences for small to mid-size retailers, who can scarcely afford dedicated chargeback staff.”

NACS Online article found here


EMV is real, like it or not.

March 31, 2016

CAN WE GET A ‘MEH’?

Survey finds that consumers don’t seem to care whether payment terminals are EMV capable.

March 31, 2016

​NEW YORK – Forbes writes “there was a lot of hoopla” surrounding the October 1, 2015, EMV liability shift date, where retailers that did not upgrade to EMV-capable payment technology would become liable for any fraudulent purchases that resulted from chip-card transactions.

According to a recent CardHub survey, 42% of retailers have not updated terminals in their stores to make them EMV-compliant—and consumers don’t seem to care, writes Forbes. The publication added that CardHub found “some 56% of people surveyed don’t care if a retailer’s payment terminal is chip-enabled, and 41% of consumers say they don’t have—or don’t know if they have—a chip-enabled credit card.”

Of the retailers CardHub included in its survey, only 60% that said they would complete equipment upgrades by the October 1, 2015, liability shift deadline have finished updating all of their terminals.“We were a little bit surprised by just how slow the uptake is here,” Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at CardHub, told Forbes, adding, “The banks did their part, the financial institutions got their chip-enabled cards out, and the retailers really are taking their time.” She also says that retailers “aren’t feeling the pressure of being responsible for fraudulent activity” because it hasn’t become a financial reality.

However, as Conexxus Executive Director Gray Taylor points out, many retailers haven’t flipped the switch to accept EMV payments “because they can’t, reasonably or unreasonably.” There’s also strong indication from retailers that the October 1, 2017, liability shift for outdoor payment equipment (i.e., dispensers) will be difficult to reach for those same reasons. “What has resulted is retailer abuse—starving innovation, paying premiums for development, putting equipment into the market with the understanding that multiple site-down visits will be required—has never been seen before in any mandate,” he told NACS Daily.

Furthermore, the card companies aren’t calling EMV a mandate, but for retailers who don’t do it, chargebacks will go from a light sprinkle to a massive downpour.”

Forbes writes that installing EMV-compliant terminals is a dual-cost process for retailers. The first cost is upgrading (or in some instances replacing) all of their terminals, and the second cost is terminal activation. For consumers, their “meh” attitude is likely because education about EMV chip cards hasn’t emphasized the security aspect.


Retailers may have a “Meh” attitude but EMV is real and MUST be addressed.  It’s a difficult process for everyone but our QIR Certified Staff can help to answer your questions. Don’t wait until the chargebacks start to happen, as was the case with one of our customers.

Give us a call – 518-633-4111 x 103
EMV Chip
 insightRS_blkblu

BACKUP YOUR DATA!

March 30, 2016

 

spring-clipart

That means spring forward

change the batteries on the smoke detectors

and

   —   BACKUP YOUR DATA   —

Backing up your data is like flossing your teeth.

You don’t have to floss them all

 just the ones you want to keep.

backup-backup


PROPOSED SNAP RULE COULD MAKE C-STORES INELIGIBLE

March 10, 2016

NACS reaches out to Capitol Hill to protest changes around definition of staple foods.

March 10, 2016

​ALEXANDRIA, Va. – This week NACS told policymakers about industry concerns with a proposed rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that includes problematic new eligibility standards for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The proposed [SNAP] rule would make tens of thousands of small businesses ineligible to participate in the Program. Small businesses will be harmed and SNAP beneficiaries, who rely on these small stores in both urban and rural environments, will lose options they need to feed their families,” wrote NACS in a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, and the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.

As previously reported by NACS, on February 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule altering eligibility requirements for retailers participating in SNAP. While the proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill provisions, which NACS supported, it also makes other changes to retailer eligibility requirements that Congress never intended to address in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposal would impede neighborhood retailers’ ability to participate in the program, which in turn would hinder food accessibility for SNAP recipients that use their benefits at these small format retail locations.

“It appears that FNS is trying to push small retailers out of the SNAP program altogether, for no sound public policy reason,” NACS wrote to Congress, adding that Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Undersecretary Kevin Concannon recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee that there are more small stores participating in SNAP “than we really need.”

The USDA’s SNAP proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill “depth of stock” provisions, which require retailers to stock 7 varieties of products in each of the four “staple food” categories. Problematically, the proposal also includes several changes that were neither required nor envisioned by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The proposal redefines the term “staple foods” and limits the items that may count as staple foods for depth of stock determinations. Under the proposal, multiple ingredient items (e.g. soups or frozen dinners) would not count towards depth of stock requirements. The proposal also expands the definition of “accessory foods” to include foods consumed between meals, like snacks (e.g. hummus and pretzel packs).

Because accessory and multiple ingredient foods may not be counted as staple foods for depth of stock determinations—the proposal essentially narrows the universe of acceptable foods that a retailer can stock to participate in SNAP, ultimately raising the stocking numbers beyond the numbers established by Congress.

Next week in Washington during the NACS Government Relations Conference, industry stakeholders will be communicating to members of Congress and their staffs that convenience stores play a fundamental role in SNAP, particularly for low-income Americans who live in rural or urban environments. By making it increasingly difficult for small format retailers to participate in SNAP, the proposal would essentially punish SNAP beneficiaries by requiring them to travel outside of their local neighborhoods where larger format retailers may not exist.

A memorandum analyzing the proposal is available online exclusively for NACS members.


Ever Heard of Advocacy Cards?

February 26, 2016

You haven’t, because they don’t yet exist. Read on to find out if the concept is something you should consider for your operation.

Advocacy cards. They don’t have quite the same ring as loyalty cards do, but maybe get used to the idea?

While advocacy cards are not a living, breathing thing, advocating for customers is fast becoming the new way retailers should approach customer relationship-building beyond simple loyalty efforts.

While a loyalty card program rewards consumers for quantity of goods and services bought, advocacy cards could go a step further to inform the qualitative aspect of the retailer-customer bond— rewarding shoppers who buy healthy foods, for example, with points, gift cards or other incentives.

Sounds like a daunting task for a retailer, but it’s one that all retail channels should think about.

Retailer advocacy for customers was discussed during the webinar “Top Food Trends for 2016.” Sponsored by The Food Institute and BMO Harris, the session was comoderated by Phil Lempert, known as the “SupermarketGuru,” and The Food Institute CEO Brian Todd.

In addition to citing consumers’ thirst for additional product information along with coming to grips that the “retail world is in flux,” Lempert said advocacy might be the new loyalty. In that spirit, “focus beyond relationships and think beyond loyalty to advocacy,” he said.

Your consumers are already vigilant when it comes to the food selection process—like vetting a political candidate. They abide by concepts of “free from” and “less is more,” the latter meaning products with five or fewer ingredients and no artificial ingredients. Foods labeled with health attributes saw sales increase 13%, said Lempert, citing the National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru 2015 survey.

The broad picture: A new way of eating will be defined by new proteins, algae, insects, vegetable, yeast, cricket flour and nut powders. Rewarding your customers for participating in the trend could incentivize those higher-margin items, and earn you goodwill and higher sales in the process.

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Consumers Tell All

February 25, 2016

Guess what customers are saying about your stores? Some of the answers surprised even us

By Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, Convenience Store Products , Feb. 2, 2016

consumer-opinions.png

Illustration by Jean Jullien

From behind the two-way mirror, we exchanged glances—we were perplexed, surprised, amazed. A colleague and I sat with our notebooks in the dark, prepared to hear a lot of things we already knew: Customers like variety, fresh food, clean bathrooms, etc. But when our two focus groups arrived at Product Evaluations Inc.’s offices in Oak Brook, Ill., we heard a lot of things we weren’t expecting. Did you know they don’t consider convenience stores and gas stations to be the same thing?

Product Evaluations, a foodservice market research company, usually focuses only on food. Its expertise is on your roller grill or coffee bar. But for us the company bent the rules, focusing the line of questioning on the forecourt, backcourt and new products—and, of course, foodservice.

When we began developing the questions, we realized this could be a unique opportunity to truly discern between millennial customers and all the others. So we broke them into two groups. The first group was made up mostly of Gen X shoppers, with some baby boomers. The second group was composed entirely of millennial customers.

It’s worth mentioning all panel participants are from the Chicago area, which is flush with 7-Eleven, Speedway, BP, Thorntons and independent locations. None of our participants had even heard of Wawa, much less Rutter’s, Kwik Trip or Stripes. (Maybe next year we’ll conduct a panel from Florida and see what they think …)

Read on to see the differences and surprising similarities among respondents—as well as actionable tips based on their feedback. And keep an eye out at CStoreProductsOnline.com to read some of the outtakes.

> Consumer Loyalty Programs <

MILLENNIAL

Q: What makes you loyal to a particular convenience store?

Liz (Household income <$25,000): I look for a rewards program. I have one that’s an app on your phone and you can get free coffees and different free things. … I know if I get something, I’m going to get something free next time. It’s easier on my wallet. 7-Eleven had free coffee for the entire week recently, so I was there a lot. I went out of my way to get to that.


Q: Who has used rewards cards? Does it make you more loyal to those brands?

Mary ($75,000-$99,999): Yeah, at Speedway if you say you don’t have [your card], half the time they’ll just scan a new one for you. They pass them out like candy.

Tom ($100,000 or more): Yeah, they have bonus points that you buy like, say you buy a Red Bull, you get a hundred more extra points or something like that [at Speedway].

David ($100,000 or more): You buy three pieces of pizza instead of two, you get a bunch of extra points …

Convenience Store Products: So do they “get you” on that?

David: Oh yeah, I’m a sucker for that.


Big Idea

Liz: When I go to get scratch-o­ffs, I always go to the CITGO in Glenwood, Ill., because they have all the machines right next to each other. They also have an area where you can sit down and scratch them o­ff. It’s much better than other places.

 

Altria Scan Data

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What are you purchasing when you go to the convenience store?

Lorraine ($25,000-$39,000): When I go to a c-store … I might get some feminine products. I don’t want to necessarily go through the hassle of going to Wal-Mart, standing in line, going to search for it. The convenience store has got your drinks over here, you got your other stuff over here, you go, “OK, let me just grab it real quick and go.” The big stores, you have to deal with people, the crowd, and you got to really search. You ain’t got time for that.

Catherine ($100,000 or more): I usually just go there for drinks, like AriZona tea, or just a bag of chips and then go.

David ($100,000 or more): Beer, lottery tickets, scratch-offs—that’s probably it for that.


Do This!

Mobile payment, souped-up loyalty programs, at-pump ordering, connected cooking equipment and more can greatly affect your foodservice program. According to an NCR study from earlier this year, 67% of restaurant owners and managers said that technology has a direct effect on increased revenue, and 35% are more dependent on tech tools than they were a year ago. Just remember to do your due diligence. Don’t invest in something your customers won’t use.

New-Product Strategy <

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: How often do you go into the convenience store vs. just staying out at the pumps for gas?

Liz (Household income <$25,000): Most of the time I go inside.

Peter ($25,000-$39,000): I always go inside. When I’m not getting gas at Costco because it’s cheaper, whenever I stop at one of those stations, I always go inside. If I stop at one of those stations to get gas, it’s because I’m almost empty.

Jane ($40,000-$74,999): If I’m at the pump, and it’s at a convenience store, I always go in. Not that I need to go in. I don’t know why. I want to look at something. And I don’t pay at the pump.

Anne ($40,000-$74,999): Even with your credit card. Just go in. You just got to go in.


Convenience Store Products: You say you don’t ever pay at the pump?

Peter: I don’t because of security reasons. … I’ve heard so many things. I always go inside and pay, even if I want to swipe my card—I just don’t swipe it at the pump.

35%

The amount of gas customers who also go inside the store —2015 NACS Consumer Fuels Survey

 

Q: What piques your interest when you walk in a store? What will catch your eye?

Peter: Sometimes a display. What’s in front of your face—sometimes it’s a new product.

Anne: You know when you were a kid in a candy store, you see something at that display and you think, “Let’s go check that out.”

Peter: New Gatorade just came out. New flavors. Oh, that looks good. I’ll just take it.


MILLENNIAL

Q: What makes convenience stores unique from other kinds of stores?

Catherine ($100,000 or more): No lines.

David ($100,000 or more): In and out—it’s quick.

Lorraine ($25,000-$39,000): Everything is conveniently placed, so it’s not a whole search through a maze. Most of the aisles are open, so that when you’re walking through diagonally, you can see most of the things as you’re going. The setup is more open than a regular store.

Tom ($100,000 or more): Everything is accessible—easy to find.

“I’ll be out at lunch, and I don’t want to be at work, so I’ll find the gas station, go in there, look around, take my time, find something to snack on, then go back to work.” —Liz (<$25,000)

Do This!

New products matter! Work on developing your new-product strategy, but first strengthen Your core offer. Implement the proper analytics to measure your core products before investing in too many new-product tests. Of course, consistency could be the key—your customers are coming to you to find new products and will go to the same area or merchandiser to find them each time. Develop a plan and stick to it.

Store Atmosphere <

MILLENNIAL

Q: How do you choose one store over the other?

Amanda (Household income $40,000-$74,999): I judge it on the size of the gas station. If I’m driving around or on a road trip, I’m going to hit the gas station that’s the biggest if I’m looking for snacks. I’m not going to go into, like, a little square shop …

Convenience Store Products: Why wouldn’t you go into the little place?

Amanda: Because then I feel like there’s less selection. If I’m going there specifically for food or whatever, I’m going to look for the biggest one. Even for a bathroom, I look for the biggest one because it means it won’t be outside.


Q: What do you buy at convenience stores?

Jenna: I remember when those Cheetos things came out, with all like the weird balls and everything, and I was like, oh my God, that’s going to be amazing. I was looking for them and I figured the gas stations would have it, so that’s when I was just knocking down the door. I finally found them.

57%

The amount of convenience stores (127,588 total) that sell motor fuels —NACSonline.com

 

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What does the size of the store mean to you?

Peter ($25,000-$39,000): The small ones—it’s too cramped in there. There’s too many people in there. And it’s not just the inside, but the outside also. When you’re pulling up to this huge place, where there’s 10, 12 pumps and a big parking lot … with good lights.

Jane ($40,000-$74,999): Yes, you want the good lighting. It would be a safety issue.

Jack ($100,000 or more): A cramped place doesn’t feel as safe.

Jane: I will bypass those [small stores]. I’ll go to a bigger one. I would definitely go there before I’d go to a smaller one—it’s just safer.


Big Idea

Patty ($40,000-$74,999): What they need is oatmeal. Everyone else has oatmeal. I want oatmeal. It would be perfect for a convenience store—defi­nitely.


Do This!

Surprisingly, both demographics differentiated between “gas stations” and “convenience stores.” To explain, Liz said, “I feel like the size is what distinguishes it. If it’s a really small building, then we feel like it’s just a gas station, nothing special. If it’s a bigger-size building and there’s more square footage, then it’s more of a convenience store.” Installing brighter lights and decluttering could go a long way toward attracting that new customer, boomers and millennials alike.

Foodservice  <

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What’s your favorite food to buy at convenience stores?

Lorraine (Household income $25,000-$39,000): Pizza. You’re not expecting to get a supreme pizza—like, it’s going to be your most basic pepperoni, sausage or cheese.

David ($100,000 or more): I’m one of the least pickiest eaters out there, so it’s like I’ll get a Speedy Dog, and just load it up with all the ingredients, and I’ll go to town and I will love it. I’ll get their pizza and I’ll love it. That’s just me.

3 in 4

The number of shoppers who say it’s important to feel good about the foods and beverages they consume —Technomic’s Consumer Trend Report

 

Q: Which foods belong in convenience stores, and which do not?

Convenience Store Products: OK, so you’ve indicated that these items don’t ­fit at all: deli salads; chicken, either fried, roasted or grilled; soup, chili, dispensed ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Jenna (<$25,000): Where are you cooking the chicken?

Convenience Store Products: What about ice cream, soup or chili?

Amanda ($40,000-$74,999): I haven’t seen those.

David: Yeah, me neither.

Catherine ($100,000 or more): I think it’d be hard to keep the frozen-yogurt machine clean, but I’d totally get it.


MILLENNIAL

Q: How have your perceptions of convenience-store food changed?

David: Before, I always just assumed that it wasn’t good, that it wouldn’t taste good—I don’t know. … Once it became convenient to where I was working, and it was easy, convenient to get food there, I tried it. I said, “What the heck? Let’s do it.” And it tastes good. Let’s do it again.

Amanda ($40,000-$74,999): I feel exactly the same. I always thought it was just disgusting, and people might sneeze on it or something, but then it’s like, my guy would have me go pick up a pizza or something. Okay. And then I’m like, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Then I ended up getting a few things for myself after that.

Tom ($100,000 or more): I felt like coffee was really bad at convenience stores, but I actually found out that at 7-Eleven, their coffee is much better than I thought.

“A large Slurpee from 7-Eleven—at 2 a.m., every time I was studying … we’d all go. It was awesome. And they go great with those little taquito things.” —Jenna

InsightRS Scan Data

Do This!

These customers have changed their view of the food in your stores. Believe it or not, as much as perception of c-store fare has improved, there are still opportunities to be had. And freshness is the key. According to Technomic, 76% of consumers say positive terms such as “natural flavors” are perceived as resulting in enhanced flavors. And shoppers are demanding more transparency in their food. Non-GMO-fed, verified fresh eggs, chicken, pork and even sausages from brands such as Fork in the Road will be worth watching. Try it. They might like it!

http://www.cstoreproductsonline.com/foodservice/opinion-consumer-perspective

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Convenience Stores Offer More Convenience

February 23, 2016

Convenience Stores Sell Time

Convenience stores offer speed of service to time-starved consumers who want to get in and out of the store quickly. These shoppers recognize this channel of trade for its convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go foodservice, variety of merchandise and fast transactions.

The average convenience store is 2,744 square feet. New stores are bigger, with 3,590 square feet, with about 2,582 square feet of sales area and about 1,008 square feet of non-sales area — a nod to retailers recognizing the importance of creating destinations within the store that require additional space — whether coffee islands, foodservice areas with seating or financial services kiosks. Convenience stores also have expanded their offerings over the last few years, with stores become part supermarket, restaurant, gas station and even a bank or drugstore. (NACS State of the Industry data)

The convenience store industry is America’s primary source for fuel. Overall, 83.5% of convenience stores (127,588 total) sell motor fuels, a .7% increase (960 stores) over 2013. The growth of convenience stores selling motor fuels is nearly double the overall growth in the industry, as fuels retailers added convenience operations and convenience retailers added fueling operations.

Convenience stores have an unmatched speed of transaction: The average time it takes a customer to walk in, purchase an item and depart is between 3 to 4 minutes. Here’s the breakdown: 35 seconds to walk from the car to the store, 71 seconds to select item(s), 42 seconds to wait in line to pay, 21 seconds to pay and 44 seconds to leave store. (NACS Speed Metrics Research, 2002)

The convenience store industry is a destination for food and refreshments. With falling revenues from fuels and tobacco products, foodservice sales are increasingly becoming convenience stores’ most profitable category. In fact, convenience store foodservice is roughly a $41 billion industry contributing 19.4% to in-store sales in 2014 (NACS State of the Industry Report of 2014 Data).

Convenience stores are everywhere. There are 152,794 convenience stores in the United States — one per every 2,095 people. Other competing channels have far fewer stores, such as supermarkets (41,529 stores), drugstores (41,799 stores), and dollar stores (26,572). (Source: Nielsen, as of December 31, 2014)

Consumers are embracing convenience stores like never before. An average store selling fuel has around 1,100 customers per day, or more than 400,000 per year. Cumulatively, the U.S. convenience store industry alone serves nearly 160 million customers per day, and 58 billion customers every year.

Self-serve at the pump is a part of most convenience stores’ fueling operations. The first self-serve gas station was opened by Hoosier Petroleum Co. in 1930, but was closed by the fire marshal as being a fire hazard. Frank Ulrich reintroduced the idea in 1947 at the corner of Jilson and Atlantic in Los Angeles. Modern self-service began in 1964 with the introduction of remote fueling; an attendant was no longer required to reset the pumps after each transaction. Today it is now available in 48 states. (New Jersey and Oregon still require full-service operations; New Jersey’s law was enacted in 1949; Oregon’s in 1951.)​

http://www.nacsonline.com/Research/FactSheets/scopeofindustry/pages/convenience.aspx

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