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.
Digital labels are a no-brainer. They save on paper, printer and ink costs, and increase the accuracy and efficiency of changing promotions
We trust them – they’re the experts, not us. They know what’s available at the flower auctions and what’s in season. We find this type of relationship works because it keeps our suppliers engaged,” Mark says.
The store also benefits from digital shelf-edge labels, which feature on every line throughout the store. These labels display the price, offers and can highlight products that have won awards or have been featured in newspapers or magazines.
“Digital labels are a no brainer. They save on paper, printer and ink costs, and increase the accuracy and efficiency of changing promotions and updating prices,” Mark says.
Mark and the team are also analysing data from the bakery and food to go, and are preparing to pre-set times that the labels reduce prices to minimise wastage. “We might want to reduce prices early afternoon throughout the week but then on a Friday, as we’re a bit busier, reduce to clear later in the evening. The new prices will automatically scan at the till,” he says.
The store’s success with breakfast and lunch have encouraged the team to target for evening meals. “We know we’re not hitting our target of evening meal sales, so we’re planning on bringing in Spar’s Tonight’s Tea range, which we believe has the quality to drive sales and continue to show you can get quality from our services,” he explains.
1. Invest in availability
“The team regularly makes food to go to ensure the shelves are always full. At times you’ll have to have an abundance of food to go. People have to see that they have choice,” Mark says.
2. Keep on top of technology
“We’re looking at app payments to continue making shopping easier for our increasingly busy customers. Tills might not exist by 2025 and we need to be ready,” he explains.
3. Don’t be afraid of competing on food to go
“One of our biggest sellers is our Costa Express machine despite a Costa being located next to us. You have to be bold with what you offer,” Mark says.