It’s no secret the four main food channels—restaurants, supermarkets, on-site foodservice facilities and c-stores—are looking more alike by the day. But there are still ideas unique to each for bolstering traffic and sales. Here, we present 12 tactics that could translate from one sector to the next.
1. Sell add-ons online
Casey’s General Stores Inc. continues to prove it’s a strong player in the pizza industry as its online ordering takes off. The retailer recently converted all of it stores to the format.
Bill Walljasper, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the chain, said Casey’s is happy with pizza sales, but even more so with the add-ons. “We are seeing a significant uptick in the add-ons with respective things like breadsticks, Buffalo wings and even extra toppings on the pizza,” he said during an earnings call.
2. Let someone else do deliveries
Aramark has partnered with a third party to offer mobile ordering, pickup and delivery. The foodservice vendor and the supplier of an app-based service called Tapingo will roll out the service at more than 25 universities during the first phase.
Aramark entered the partnership because it sees mobile technology as fundamental to its growth, and Tapingo had already been successful at two universities.
“Across the business landscape, the most successful companies are leveraging mobile to stimulate consumer engagement while streamlining operations,” said Brent Franks, Aramark’s COO of education, in a statement.
3. Keep delivery in-house
Panera Bread said it will invest even further in delivery and catering in the coming year, with plans to bring delivery capabilities to more than 10% of its system in 2016. The chain will use in-house delivery drivers at those 200 units rather than employ a third-party service, as many of its competitors have done. Twenty-five units currently offer in-house delivery, which Panera had been testing during recent months.
The chain continues to double down on delivery hubs for large-scale orders, which serve as a linchpin in its plan to drive its catering segment. Catering sales at the chain were up 16% during Q4, which CEO Ron Shaich said was the largest catering sales growth the chain had seen in two years.
4. Add services to attract new guests
A growing number of c-stores have added kiosks that let customers buy Bitcoin, the digital currency that lets users pay for online transactions but is more often used as an investment. One start-up, National Bitcoin ATM, has eight kiosks in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas. “We’ve taken complicated technology and made it accessible,” said Jessica Dunham, spokesperson for National Bitcoin. What’s in it for retailers: traffic and potentially new customers, who may buy a sandwich while there.
5. Speed up the line with mobile orders
In an effort to reduce student wait times in dining halls, Washington University in St. Louis has launched the Get Food app, which allows students to order food from their mobile phones, reports the university’s newspaper, Student Life.
With the app, students can order food for pickup from three campus dining locations and can pay using either their Bear Bucks or a debit or credit card.
6. Make it easy for kids to grab and go
Two high schools in the Rowan-Salisbury school system have seen an increase in school meal participation since implementing breakfast kiosks just inside their main doors, reports the Salisbury Post.
Although North Rowan and Salisbury high schools in Spencer and Salisbury, N.C., respectively, offer breakfast to everyone, students were not taking advantage of what was being served in the cafeteria, officials say.
That has changed with the grant-funded kiosks. Students now stop at the station on their way into school, input their ID number and choose a fruit, muffin and carton of juice. North Rowan expects both the cafeteria and kiosk to feed more than 200 students each morning.
7. Make it easy for grown-ups to grab and go
For its second location of Beatrix, multiconcept operator Lettuce Entertain You opted for a restaurant-plus model, marrying a market with its casual full-service eatery.
Signage in the market, located in Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, helps guests navigate the space and make choices quickly. And customers dictate their own experience and price point—a point of difference, says EVP and partner Marc Jacobs.
8. Test new takeout formats
The Dickey’s barbecue chain is marketing a batch of meals this spring as middle-ground options between garden-variety takeout and catering orders.
Dickey’s is offering three sizes. The Picnic Pack is intended to feed two to four people, with a pound of meat, two sides and four rolls. The Family Pack promises to feed four to six people with two 1-pound servings of meat, three sides and six rolls. The largest option is the XL Family Pack, with three 1-pound servings of meat, four sides and eight rolls, or what Dickey’s says is enough food for six to eight people. The chain is touting the packaged meals for occasions such as family reunions, graduation parties and picnics.
9. Build your own meal kit business
Square One Markets, a convenience store in Bethlehem, Pa., has launched a pilot for a new dinner kit that allows customers to quickly prepare nourishing family meals in less than 30 minutes.
The dinner kits provide all-in-one meal ingredients and recipe cards that contain everything time-stressed families need to prepare a meal. They sell for about $20 and are designed to feed a family of four. At $5 per person, the dinner kits are less than half the price of meal delivery services, and eliminate the packaging waste and carbon footprint from shipping.
10. Leave cash payments in the past
Microsoft may be at the forefront of technology, but Mark Freeman, senior manager of global employee services, admits he himself was the biggest obstacle to turning his foodservice operation cashless. He was skeptical of how payment apps and paying online would affect the experience.
“When new concepts are brought to me, I first analyze them in my head for customer acceptance,” Freeman says. “Will they use it? Will it provide a superior experience? I also need to understand that it is a stable product and we won’t have to allow for constant downtime.”
The proof for Freeman has been in the numbers. The app has upped cafeteria traffic by 24% since it first was implemented three years ago, Freeman says, and the check average is up 14% to 18%.
11. Rock out a food truck
North East Independent School District in San Antonio operates breakfast carts outdoors at some of its schools to supplement indoor cafeterias and make it more convenient for students to grab a bite before class.
“A lot of the campuses have courtyards with benches … [and] areas set up to let kids play and talk and socialize, and then when the bell rings, it’s too late for them to come to the cafeteria to eat breakfast,” says Sharon Glosson, the district’s executive director of school nutrition.
12. Add a drive-thru
Parker’s has opened a new convenience store with a drive-thru window in Claxton, Ga. The company’s 43rd c-store, and the first to offer drive-thru foodservice, features a hot deli that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The full menu is available, including its breakfast bar with eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese grits, breakfast casseroles and biscuits. Sit-down dining is available for those who want to get out of their cars.
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