In his latest opinion piece, Theo Foukkare, CEO, AACS, explores a strategic advantage that convenience stores and roadside retailers have over most other industries through their expansive reach.

If you are like me, you love eating great food, you probably have your favourite cafes or restaurants and you are a creature of habit especially when it comes to fuelling your body. We make emotional decisions that we can connect with from our past experiences whatever the occasion. Your decision on where to eat during the week will be influenced by where you are, where you are going or where you plan to be later in the day.

You always choose where to fuel your body based on the time of day, variety available, the speed of service, the physical location of the store, whether it is healthy or a treat or even based on what else you can do at the same time when you stop to maximise your time. In a world where we are all looking to save time to either be more productive or have more quality time with your family, consumers have a wide variety of choice.

Most Australians will consume 21 meals per week, and currently in Australia 10 of these occasions occur out of the home. Winning your customers hearts and minds to be selected into their preferred choices to fuel their body is a key driver to ensure the longevity of your business. Here is where the real opportunity lies for convenience retailers.

Consumers over the years have learnt to love the consistent taste, speed and availability of McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and Subway to name a few. They like that they can sit down and recharge while they eat, they like that they can grab a healthy or not so healthy option, they trust the fact that the emotional connection to the experience was a positive one. Now not only are they stealing potential customers from you while they are on the road travelling, but they are also delivering into their homes when customers can’t be bothered to get off the couch.

In my opinion, convenience stores and roadside retailers have a strategic advantage over most other industries through their expansive reach in every state and territory. We trade longer hours, are closer to more homes than any other channel and we continue to see this migration to food and coffee retailing occur.

Our industry has fuelled vehicles since their inception and we now feed peoples bodies to keep them going, but we are only scratching the surface. Understanding your local customer base and their movements is key to developing your food range to maximise the opportunity.

Having the same range in very store isn’t the answer, however having a consistent good quality offer that is fresh, exciting, in stock when your customers expect it to be in stock is part of the magic formula to winning in foodservice. No sandwiches on display at lunchtime or no pies ready to be eaten when the tradies finish their day on site won’t give your customers a lot of confidence that they can choose you as their preferred location in one of those 10 occasions that they are eating out per week.

Being a food retailer isn’t easy, there are lots of lessons to be learnt and spoilage while you learn, but once you work through this you can then start to build on the range. Sometimes as retailers we focus on trying to provide our customers with a broad range, but the basics are not rock solid, and we disappoint the customer.

My advice to any retailer wanting to develop a repeat food customer is that they need to be able to trust you when they need you. So, get the basics right; focus on quality, have the right range for your store based on location, give your customers somewhere quiet and aesthetically pleasing to enjoy their food, and build from there. Don’t try and be all things to all people as you will fail and not maximise the opportunity ahead.

To be a real threat to QSRs and be a considered choice for online delivery, continue to build your offer but only after you’re positive that operationally you can deliver a consistent product day in day out.

This article was written by Theo Foukkare, CEO, AACS, for the June/July issue of C&I Retailing magazine.

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  1. Good quality food is of paramount importance catering to vegan and vegetarian clients. I personally can vouch for this having purchased food for myself and a friend who is vegan. Keep up the good work guys.

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