How does a convenience store’s range of food to go hold its own against the likes of Costa, McDonald’s and Leon?
According to Mark Rogers, who oversees operations of the Spar at Strensham Services, the answer is choice. “Our sandwiches are made on site, and we’ve got a broad range of price and quality. We don’t run a meal deal offer as this can be restrictive, but we merchandise a wide range of options together,” he says.
Despite these three foodservice giants located just a few metres away inside the unit, the store’s coffee machine is one of the most popular features, with the sandwiches located at the back of the store regularly creating a pinch point for customers coming in ahead of lunchtime.
The choice is promoted as soon as you walk into the store, with a brightly-lit chiller filled with fruit backed against an aisle – a place where a promotional gondola end of crisps or chocolate sharing bags might otherwise be. The chiller is flanked by a Dots doughnut unit and a bakery display, indicating that indulgence and health is available.
The result has turned the usual convenience offer on its head. Sales of healthy chilled snacks, such as chicken, boiled eggs and quiches, are now higher than crisps. The store’s strategy is to strive for a higher price and supply the quality that matches, whether that’s with sandwiches made on site or with special partnerships, such as premium Italian ice cream supplier Dolcetti or a local florist.
“Years ago, the last places people wanted to buy flowers were motorway services,
but now our range looks like they could be from a florist – because they are,” he says.
Rather than dictating orders, the relationship works by the Spar team giving the florist data, such as historical sales volumes and an idea of the price customers are looking for. The florist then looks into the specifics.