A worksite wonder: A look at Sodexo’s convenience offer

Running over 60 convenience stores and 40 taverns, mostly at energy and resource sites in remote regions of Australia, Sodexo is a unique and vital convenience offer.

Operating in 53 countries, Sodexo’s 422,000 employees serve 100 million consumers each day. In Australia, Sodexo has more than 5,000 employees serving clients in over 100 locations across the country through its unique combination of on-site food and facilities management services.

Daniel Zarew, Head of Retail at Sodexo Australia, said that Sodexo’s aim is to provide customers with a retail experience that not only compares to what they would find in a metro retail outlet but exceeds their expectations with offerings that are outside the typical convenience norm.

“They are operated as company sites, however, given we have numerous clients, we remain flexible and tailor the offer according to our clients’ needs and those of their employees and local residents.”

Servicing customers on their lunch break or before or after work means customers have a very limited window in which to shop before they head off to work.

“Ensuring the range is easy to shop, well-stocked, and quick to transact is a crucial component of what we offer.”

Sodexo currently offers a comprehensive café program within its outlets, with the ‘We Proudly Serving Starbucks®’ coffee offer as well as an Indigenous coffee program.

“This is partnered by a café foodservice program offering a range of fresh pastries and hot food items along with freshly prepared meals.”

Zarew explained that some of what Sodexo stocks is bespoke to specific clients to suit their requirements, while also managing a mainstream database of over 1500 everyday SKUs.

“Our team constantly reviews the range and manages what is stocked for each client and contract. Trends are important, and we work hard to stay close to them and ensure our customers have access to the latest products.”

In addition to the core range, Sodexo also sells sporting goods to support its national Health and Wellness program, along with pharmaceutical over-the-counter medications, clothing, and high-end telecommunications.

Over the past few years, Zarew has noted a shift in consumer behaviour, reflecting the broader demand for better-for-you alternatives, however the number of core hero products sold reflects a maintained desire for everyday staples.

“Both our clients and customers are demanding healthier alternatives be offered for sale; from 0.0 per cent alcohol beverages in the tavern to zero sugar beverages and better-for-you snacks in our convenience stores.”

Implementing innovation

Consumers are not the only ones creating change at Sodexo, with a number of sites rolling out self-serve checkouts, a move which Zarew said has seen sales exceed expectations.

“We are currently in discussions on a frictionless store pilot with a goal to launch our first such offer at the start of 2024.”

Implementing these technologies and ideas may seem like a complex and in-depth process but when offering advice to other retailers on how best to run a successful site, Zarew breaks it down remarkably simply.

“Work hard, pay attention to the details and try not to overthink things. Too often we see delays in decision making which can be costly and slow down any learnings. Don’t be afraid to take a risk either and look outside to other businesses to see what they are doing.

“You don’t need to have all the ideas; just be excellent at your execution which sounds easy enough but takes a lot of work and focus to achieve. Sodexo’s business is based around hospitality, which is in our DNA, so I think we do this very well.”

It’s that emphasis on good old-fashioned hospitality and great customer service that Zarew believes some retailers have forgotten about.

“To some extent, retailing needs to go back to basics, as some retailers have forgotten this. There is a lot of focus on omnichannel retailing and innovation, which is all well and good, but the simple experience of amazing customer service by an engaged customer service attendant is too often missed. No doubt the move to frictionless and digital retail will continue, but to lose sight of that critical customer service could prove costly for some.”

This article originally appeared in the October/November issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine, which is available online here.

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