By: Bruce Reinstein | August 11, 2023

Keeping it simple, but maintaining standards is key for c-store foodservice success.

Simplification does not mean lowering standards.

During the last few years, the foodservice industry was forced to simplify its operations due to labor shortages, supply chain disruption and cost inflation.

“Sacred cows” were eliminated from menus, and in most cases, consumers did not miss many of the items that were eliminated. The idea of trying to be everything for everybody was not possible and still is not. The simplification mindset works and will stick as we move forward, but simplification has nothing to do with reducing quality standards. It is actually about raising the bar on standards by taking the complexity out of the business for both the staff and customers.

Here are six steps to balancing simplification with sustainable foodservice growth:

1. Establish consumer friendly order/payment/pickup. If a customer can’t figure out the order and payment process, and is not clear on where to pick up, an operator is unlikely to get this customer back a second time. Whether on a phone, pump, computer, kiosk or face to face with a cashier, the process must be simple and easy to navigate from beginning to end. The pickup process must be equally simple, and there should be multiple pickup options to choose from, including pickup windows, curbside, pump side, drive through and more.

2. Don’t over-complicate the menu or the process. Providing consumers with the ability to customize their menu items without having to spend a lot of time figuring out what the options are, and what the up charges will be is a great way to get repeat business. Below is a simple approach to sandwiches. One price, choose your bread and protein, choose as many condiments as you want. The same process has been effective with bowls and salads in the foodservice industry. Yes, some of the items will have a high food cost and some will be low, but the overall food cost will balance out and the consumers will be back.

3. Stick to the brand’s core. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. If you are known for having great burgers, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great chicken sandwich, but can you have great burritos, salads, pizza and more? The larger that your menu gets, the more likely you will fall short on guest expectations of many of those items. Every brand started with a particular menu item that was its signature. They then built on that item to create a category. From there it was about adding more and more items to compete with others and trying to satisfy an entire group of customers. There is no better time to innovate around these core items.

4. Make it easy for your team members to consistently execute. One thing that has changed in foodservice is the necessity to have a team that is trained to do more with less. The labor force may have increased, but simply adding bodies is not in the best interest of an operation. In order to consistently execute with a smaller team, employees must be cross-trained, and the menu items must be easy to produce. This starts with simplified prep and fewer steps in producing the actual items. Complexity leads to mistakes, and consumers do not have a great deal of patience for orders that do not meet their expectations.

5. Take emotion out of decision making. The success of foodservice is impacted by how decisions are made. Simplification becomes much easier when both customers and team members are engaged. Emotional decisions tend to be complicated and are made without a true understanding of what consumers are looking for and whether it is feasible for team members to consistently execute the item

Differentiating your brand can be done in very simple ways. Keeping the mindset that “different is better than better” sends a clear message that just because you think you are better, does not really mean that you are. The consumer is the one who makes that decision.

6. Focus on SKU rationalization and build multiple recipes from each SKU. The pandemic taught us to reduce the number of SKUs being purchased and to incorporate those ingredients in as many recipes as possible. Single use SKUS simply have no place in foodservice. They take up space and increase waste. Pizza is a great example of a product with limited SKUs and with the options of creating other recipes from the basics. Pizzas have now spun off into bowls, folded sandwiches, bread sticks, calzones and much more. Culinary innovation can be simple, but still extremely appealing to consumers.

Bruce Reinstein is a partner with Kinetic12 Consulting, a Chicago-based foodservice and general management consulting firm. The firm works with foodservice operators, suppliers and organizations on customized strategic initiatives as well as guiding multiple collaborative forums and best practice projects. Contact him at [email protected]  or learn more at

Source: CStore Decisions