By: Bruce Reinstein | Partner with Kinetic12 Consulting | February 26, 2024

Follow these six tips to ensure you’re satisfying customers’ wishes with your menu offerings and the overall foodservice experience your store provides.

When it comes to foodservice, what is the consumer looking for? The answer is not a simple one. It will vary from market to market and location to location. Regardless of the market or location, consumers’ expectations have dramatically increased. This is mainly due to cost inflation in all aspects of their lives.

Where convenience store foodservice used to be about convenience alone with limited expectations, it is now about convenience with “over the top” expectations. This involves quality of product, great service, excellent value and an environment that is clean, easy to navigate and has clear differentiation from others.

From Kinetic12’s Q4 Emergence Convenience Store Foodservice Group Report

Here are six strategies for meeting or exceeding customers’ foodservice expectations in 2024.

1.) Consistent execution: Keep it simple. Regardless of what the consumer is purchasing, they want it the same way every time. They have made the choice to visit your brand and expect that it will look and taste the same every time or they will be forced to choose an alternative.

Customers are well educated in today’s marketplace. They understand when portions and quality have been reduced. They no longer have patience for labor shortages or other excuses. The result must be achieving the same standard of quality every time.

Operators must keep their menu simple with as few steps as possible for their staff. Taking the potential for problems out of the equation will ultimately lead to the guest satisfaction.

2.) Well-trained staff focused on the guest experience. A great team starts with great leadership. It is very apparent to customers when team members are enjoying their time at work. It is clear when their focus is on providing customers with great products with an even better experience.

Management must provide a solid team engagement platform to allow team members to voice their thoughts on all aspects of what can drive an outstanding, consistent guest experience. Engagement areas include menu options and standards, packaging, technology integration and loyalty. There must be a clear focus on training with incentives for employees to gain training on multiple stations.

Team members are looking for a quality work-life balance. A happy team member will perform at a higher level and the guests will reap the benefits.

From Kinetic12’s Q4 Emergence Convenience Store Foodservice Group Report

3.) Technology integration. There are many options for operators regarding technology, but there is a significant cost associated with these options. The best option is one that enhances the customer experience. If you can make it easier for customers, it becomes that much easier for the staff to execute the orders.

Improved online ordering, mobile apps and digital/touchless payment options can have a positive impact on guests. It can also potentially raise the average check by putting orders in the hands of the consumers instead of the employees.

4.) Continuous menu innovation: Adapt to trends. Today’s consumers want new options to pique their interests. It is true that people tend to be creatures of habit, but these habits are changeable based upon several factors.

Differentiation continues to be a crucial factor in what drives a consumer into a foodservice operation. Quality, consistent products remain the top desire of customers. It also must be consistent every time, whether it is eaten on premises, in their car or after delivery.

Consumers are also more educated about food and beverages as they are watching more cooking shows and are more engaged at home in preparing trendy foods. They expect to see their favorites available, but also new and exciting options.

5.) Provide great value: Understand your customers. Value is defined in many ways. It is not just about the price. A c-store foodservice operator must understand their customers’ preferences, needs and expectations to decide on the type of menu, service levels and environment that they will have. Value may be defined by the least expensive price alone, but for many consumers, there is a balance they look for between price and value.

It may be about portion size, quality, how the product holds up from purchase to home, ability to consume the product while traveling, time it takes to get the product after ordering, ability to customize and so much more. In the end, consumers want to feel that the operator met or exceeded their expectations. Customers will pay different prices for that perceived value.

From Kinetic12’s Q4 Emergence Convenience Store Foodservice Group Report

6.) Consumer engagement: Be flexible and adaptive. Never assume you fully understand your customers. It is crucial to keep them engaged and listen to their needs. One thing that is very clear is that consumers want it to be easy to order, pay for and receive their food and beverages. It should not be difficult for customers to figure out where to go or what to do to get their food and beverages.

There also must be some level of customization available for consumers. Yes, grab and go is crucial and those products are ready for the customer to choose and take with them, but some customers want it “their way.” Loyalty is based upon great execution, but also providing the customer with a voice. They know what they want, and their feedback provides the operator with the ability to adapt. It is important to be flexible rather than upset by change.

Source: CStore Decisions

Bruce Reinstein is a partner with Kinetic12 Consulting, a Chicago-based foodservice and general management consulting firm. The firm works with leading foodservice operators, suppliers and organizations on customized strategic initiatives as well as guiding multiple collaborative forums and best practice projects. Join the Emergence Convenience Foodservice Group and get two detailed reports per year and the potential to attend Kinetic12’s April and November foodservice forums. For more information: or [email protected].