Balancing Simplification With Sustainable Foodservice Growth

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

Improving Supply Chain Practices

By: Emily Boes | August 11, 2023

C-store retailers are still navigating the supply chain post-pandemic, learning which strategies lead to success and focusing on struggling categories.

A few years ago, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain proved a constant source of stress for convenience store retailers. With out-of-stocks aplenty and hardships maintaining inventory in a timely manner, c-store operators had to be creative with solutions.

“Overall, the pandemic brought about significant changes in the supply chain, prompting companies to rethink their strategies, embrace digital transformation and prioritize resilience and flexibility in their operations,” said Nick Triantafellou, director of marketing and merchandising, Weigel’s, which operates 74 c-stores in Tennessee.

Now, supply chain issues aren’t as prevalent, but they haven’t quite gone away.

“Supply chain for many items had been constricted (during the pandemic), with many items not available or only certain sizes or flavors available,” said Fred Faulkner, director of sales and marketing for Jaco Oil Co., which operates 55 Fastrip stores in California and Arizona. “The inventory levels started to improve in late 2022, and now in 2023 they are better; however, they are not 100%.”

Judy Wall, purchasing/product analyst and marketing for Corner Store, agreed that the supply chain could still use improvement, although it has been getting better with time.

Based in Seminole, Texas, Corner Store broke ground on its fourth location in June. Recently, the chain has noticed a change in product supply.

“Various items that were gone for months are back in production, and we’re able to make our customers happy by bringing them back,” said Wall.

For Weigel’s, the pandemic led to the chain adopting practices that it still maintains to allow for stronger business.

“It took great partnership, staying nimble as a company and communication skills to get through the pandemic. In the past year, we have come out stronger with our vendor partners due to what it took to get out of the pandemic,” said Triantafellou.

Supply Chain Struggles

At this time, Fastrip is still struggling with the supply chain for confectionary and grocery items such as pet food, dry goods and condiments.

Corner Store, on the other hand, is still experiencing issues with supply for bottled drink and mineral water products.

For Weigel’s, supply chain issues are occurring with primarily center store categories.

“It pops up randomly with things you wouldn’t expect like marshmallows. Or as products start to bounce back from their pandemic dip (i.e. gum) with significant growth over the last year, our top manufacturers can’t keep up and have caused huge holes in regrowing subcategories,” said Triantafellou. “We closely watch commodity reports to try to gain any insight we might be able to gain about future issues in our supply chain, like the cocoa shortage the world is entering.”

Weigel’s is currently preparing for potential shortages in products that rely on cocoa beans, readying helpful strategies.

Inventory Solutions

Convenience stores have experimented with different methods to find solutions for out-of-stocks.

Recently, Fastrip has explored alternative supply sources, either as secondary or primary sources depending on the category.

“And of course (we have been) staying on top of situations when needed or applicable to encourage prompt delivery or supply,” Faulkner continued.

When the situation is dire, Fastrip acquires inventory even if it means purchasing from a competitor such as Costco, Walmart or Sam’s Club.

“The bottom line is we try not to be out of stock at any time on anything,” said Faulkner. “We may also on occasion substitute sizing to accommodate our customers — 24 ounces vs. 16 ounces, etc.”

Faulkner said he believes the best way to manage the supply chain is to stay ahead of changes in the marketplace. He encouraged convenience store retailers to anticipate challenges and follow instincts. “You have to make decisions and then react quickly. Sometimes you win, sometimes not, but you have to react,” he said.

Triantafellou concurred that reacting and staying nimble are key to finding solutions for out-of-stocks.

For example, Rebecca Gregory, Weigel’s center store category manager, adjusts planograms (POGs) on the fly to fix holes by filling them with similar products that Weigel’s is able to source from its wholesaler. She also sends out new POGs and tags to all stores, weekly if necessary, Triantafellou said.

“She has stayed on top of her merchandising principles and makes sure stores always have a solution to issues we are seeing,” Triantafellou said. “Instead of throwing up her hands when an item all of a sudden hits a supply chain issue, she stays nimble and acts fast.”

Weigel’s deploys a seven-step process for top supply chain management.

With all vendor partners, Weigel’s enhances visibility, diversifies the supplier base, strengthens collaboration with suppliers, prioritizes inventory management, embraces technology and automation when possible, invests in omnichannel capabilities like Vroom and Uber Eats, and continuously assesses and improves.

“We are always looking at ways to collaborate and communicate with our vendors more while following our best practices,” said Triantafellou.

Corner Store’s Wall emphasized the importance of having backup vendors and establishing good relations with the companies and representatives they work with.

Additionally, Corner Store built more storage space to hold extra items. If a product is struggling to be stocked, the chain will order an additional case of that product when it places the order.

When it comes to out-of-stocks, “unfortunately there is no perfect solution,” Wall noted.

“Whenever we notice we’re struggling to receive a certain product, we reach out to our additional vendors to see if they are able to supply us with that item,” Wall said. “One of the downsides is that the secondary vendors are normally not able to match the cost price of the original vendor.”

This then results in either the company’s reduction in the gross profit margin or a new change in price for the consumer. Triantafellou also stressed that in the c-store industry there will never be a “perfect, no-issue” day.

Therefore, he continued, adaptability, resilience and leveraging technology effectively are the keys to best supply chain management post-pandemic.

“By implementing these best practices, you can enhance efficiency, mitigate risks and meet the evolving demands of the convenience store industry. It is the ability to react quickly and find solutions that will see your stores through any challenges they face,” said Triantafellou.

He noted that the best partnerships are built on growing the overall category’s business.

“Increase focus on building strong relationships with suppliers, logistics partners and customers to address challenges and find innovative solutions. Collaboration platforms, video conferencing tools and real-time data sharing become essential for effective supply chain management with your partners,” Triantafellou advised.

Source: CStore Decisions

Convenience Drives Contactless Payments in C-Stores

By: Zhane Isom | August 10, 2023

As the demand for contactless payment continues to grow, retailers are enhancing their systems while keeping an eye on data security.

When COVID-19 arrived in March 2020, retailers rushed to implement contactless payment options to keep shoppers and employees safe. Three years later, customer demand for contactless payment continues to increase given its speed and convenience.

To accommodate the increased use of contactless payments, retailers are enhancing or upgrading their systems while taking data security into consideration to keep customers’ information safe.

It is estimated that the global contactless payment market will be valued at $90.6 billion by 2032, up from $22.4 billion in 2022. It is expected to exhibit a compound annual growth rate of 15.4% during the forecast period 2023 to 2032, according to Market.US’s Global Contactless Payments Market Report.

Technological advances and retailer adoption are expected to help spur growth in the segment.

“Simplicity, which goes hand in hand with speed, is the most important feature for customers,” said Perry Kramer, managing partner for retail management consulting firm Retail Consulting Partners. “This is often best facilitated by allowing the customer to tap before the conclusion of entering the items, and by minimizing the excessive questions that many retailers clutter their payment terminal with at the time of checkout.”

At Pete’s Convenient Stores, which has 53 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, more customers are using its Express Lanes for self-checkout because they’re convenient and get them out the door faster. The Express Lanes accept cash, credit and EBT (electronic benefit transfer). The c-stores also feature scan-and-go, which customers can use to scan and pay for their purchases through their smartphones. Both offer a contactless solution in the sense that customers don’t have to interact with employees.

“We found that the customer likes to have both cash and credit options. They also want to have the capabilities to pay for fuel through the Express Lanes,” said Brenda Elsworth, chief operating officer for Pete’s Convenient Stores. “In some of our stores, a second and third Express Lane were installed as customers preferred the Express Lanes.”

Elsworth has also seen an upward trend in customers’ use of contactless payment and a downward trend in lines at the point of sale, which has caused the convenience store to enhance its contactless payment systems.

“We are banking our Express Lanes together at the main pay spots, and we are also running more promotions online to incentivize the customers to use our online payment system,” said Elsworth.

The New Normal

Now that contactless payment is offered in most convenience stores, customers are more frequently seeking it out over more traditional forms of payment at the register.

“We have reached a tipping point with customers that they now see some type of contactless payment as a default process,” said Kramer. “It could be a contactless credit card, QR code on a phone, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. This has been driven by the expansion of contactless hardware and software into almost all retail locations.”

Nonetheless, Kramer noted that even though most stores have contactless payments, some retailers still have not fully adopted the technology. Some retailers have been slow to adopt the technology because they want to get every use out of their payment hardware and have little desire to deal with the challenges that new highly complex software brings, he suggested.

Considering Data Security

Since contactless payment has become customers’ go-to source of payment, retailers have to start considering improving their data security to keep customers’ information secure when using contactless payment.

“All of our credit information is run through our P66 processor, which allows our customers’ card information to stay safe and secure whenever they use one of our contactless payment systems,” said Elsworth.

Kramer suggested retailers should focus on using payment tokens whenever possible and invest in modern payment systems at every point in the payment ecosystem. He also noted that retailers should avoid building custom solutions and leverage mature products.

“Like most software and products, there is a need to maintain operational efficiencies to support the security process,” Kramer said. “This includes patching and maintaining upgrades for all software and hardware and showing endless due diligence.”

“Take data security seriously,” added Elsworth. “Have a security analyst run tests and ensure you are protected, as well as your customers.”

The Future of Contactless

Contactless payment is expected to continue to rise in popularity at c-stores as consumers continue to prioritize speed and convenience while in the store.

“We think contactless payments, whether through online, mobile devices or express lanes, will only grow,” said Elsworth.

Overall, convenience store retailers should continue to improve their contactless payment systems and data security to keep up with technology and customers’ needs.

“Contactless payments will continue to evolve in the quick-service restaurant and convenience store vertical faster than in other areas due to the ever-increasing need for speed and convenience in these verticals driven by labor shortages and the consumers’ need for a frictionless experience,” said Kramer. “Retailers will continue to try and use mobile applications, (QR codes and near field communication on phones) to link payment tokens with customer rewards, memberships and basic customer relationship management identification, merging tendering and customer capture into a seamless and rapid process.”

Source: CStore Decisions

Should I Stock Candy Snack Mixes?

By Howard Riell | July 7, 2023

Candy and snack combinations fulfill c-store customers’ salty and sweet cravings.

If American consumers like Product A, and they like Product B, it just stands to reason that they will absolutely love Product A+B. This is why convenience store retailers should be sure to stock candy snack mixes.

Think hybrid cars. Or chocolate and peanut butter: two great tastes in one candy bar.

The appeal of dual tastes is the reasoning behind the rise of candy snack mixes, an example of channel blurring between both popular product categories — and of an idea whose time has clearly come.

The proof that the reasoning is sound lies in the fact that several of the largest, smartest and most successful candy companies in the U.S. have decided to roll out candy and snack mix combos, and sales thus far have been brisk. Among the recently released hybrid products are snack mixes that include chocolate-covered pretzels or chocolate and popcorn.

Another candy giant is combining chocolate and peanut butter with nuts and pretzels.

The sweet taste meets the intersection of candy and snacks, and it continues to rise in popularity. Chicago-based market research firm Circana, formerly IRI, reported that sweet snacks such as snack bars, granola bars and clusters rolled in at $819 million in 2022, a powerful 9.5% gain.

These types of snack and candy medleys are a trend, and a growing one, and the reason is self evident. These items play on customers’ love of salty and sweet combos, giving them candy and a snack in the same item.

Indeed, mixing and matching of familiar flavors has itself become an innovative strategy among candy makers, rendering the old new once more.

This was clearly in evidence at the National Confectioners Association’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in June at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

It is axiomatic that while consumers always have their favorite brands and long-cherished varieties of candies and snacks, they also enjoy mixing things up a bit with new products and/or interesting and unique flavors and flavor combinations. That alone should signal a green light to convenience store operators to fully embrace this trend which, after all, only gives consumers more of what they already love.

Source: CStore Decisions

C-Stores Elevate Chicken, Pizza, Roller Grill Menus

By: Marilyn Odesser-Torpey | June 2, 2023

As a growing number of consumers are looking to convenience stores for meals and snacks, retailers are going all out to meet their demands by offering a variety of their favorite foods fast, fresh and at value prices.

Chicken, pizza and roller grill items have been convenience store mainstays for years, but there is always room for innovation and experimentation among these core convenience store offerings. C-store retailers are finding new ways to elevate these foodservice staples as they look to attract new customers.

Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa sell “a ton” of chicken, according to Paul Servais, the director of research and development for Kwik Trip and Kwik Star, which operate a combined 800 locations.

“Right now, chicken accounts for a little more than a third of our total hot food sales,” Servais explained. “And it’s rapidly becoming a bigger piece of that category’s sales.”

Sold under the company’s Kitchen Kravings proprietary foodservice brand, the chicken is hand breaded and fried fresh in the stores. At Kwik Trip and Kwik Star there is a chicken package to suit every preference and appetite, from the best-selling three jumbo tenders and crispy chicken sandwich to two-, four- and eight-piece bone-in pieces and whole oven-roasted birds.

Servais pointed out that the company introduced the whole roasted chickens to help drive home the notion of Kwik Trip and Kwik Star as top-of-mind dinner destinations. To promote the roasted chickens, the stores feature them at a value price of $5.99 every Monday.

Surprisingly, while the fresh-fried chicken has experienced what Servais described as “incredibly rapid growth,” it has not at all cannibalized the stores’ pizza or burger sales.

“Our sales of those two items have grown as well,” he said. “We believe that the freshness of our chicken legitimizes all the other items in our foodservice program.”

The stores first launched the chicken program in 2019 and had fully deployed it chainwide in 2020. It will also be a featured attraction at several new stores the company plans to open in Illinois, Michigan and South Dakota this year, Servais added.

Pizza Remains Profitable

Pizza is a powerhouse, accounting for 20% of foodservice sales at Fleetway Market, which has a total of 23 stores in central and southern Mississippi, stated Casey Comfort, foodservice and beverage director at Fleetway Market’s parent company Fleet Morris Petroleum. On average pizza sales at Fleetway have increased over 10% year over year for the past two years, he noted.

Fifteen of the stores feature a Hunt Brothers Pizza program. The other eight are located in non-compete areas where Hunt Brothers already operates. New stores in areas where Hunt Brothers does not already have a presence will also include the program, Comfort added.

Not surprisingly, lunch and dinner are the most active dayparts for pizza sales. But, Comfort noted, morning is also a dynamic daypart at many of the stores, not only for the eggs-bacon-sausage-cheese breakfast pie, but for dependable pepperoni and sausage pizzas as well.

Companywide, Fleetway sells more hunks — one-quarter of a 12-inch pizza — than whole pies. But some of the stores in rural areas without competitive pizza shops can sell more than 100 whole pies a week, he pointed out.

The stores promote their pizza offering with collateral materials such as limited-time offers (LTOs) every quarter and window and in-store signage provided by Hunt Brothers. Fleetway’s stores also include pizza on its rewards app and social media posts. Further, the chain is getting into bundling, such as Red Bull and a breakfast hunk or whole pizza and two-liter Coke combos.

Roller Grill Opportunities

For years, Dandy Mini Mart has limited its roller grill offerings to hot dogs and sausages. And for some of its 65 stores in New York and Pennsylvania, that has been enough to earn the grill its place on the countertop in its foodservice area, said James Fry, the company’s foodservice director.

“Some of our stores are destinations for workers who are in a real hurry and only want to grab a quick hot dog,” he explained. “In other stores our sales are flat, and that has made us debate whether to get rid of the grill and cook our hot dogs in our speed oven.”

Before making that decision, Dandy management is looking to the plethora of other items available for roller grill such as specialty hot dogs, tornados, taquitos and roller bites.

“The opportunities are out there, and we need to explore them,” Fry noted. “But we know that we are going to have to either go in whole hog or get out of the roller grill business altogether.”

In July, Dandy will be featuring four kinds of specialty hot dogs on its roller grills to begin to explore the possibilities of the category, he stated. The test will span a two-month period.

Source: CStore Decisions

Candy, Gum & Mint Sales See Upward Momentum

By: Zhane Isom | May 18, 2023

Candy segments at convenience stores are experiencing double-digit increases, with larger sizes rising in popularity.

While chocolate dollar sales grew 14% for the four weeks ending Jan. 28, 2023, according to NielsenIQ, consumers have been especially gravitating toward non-chocolate confections, including gum, mints and gummy candy.

Confection dollar sales were up 21.4%, while gum sales increased 37% and mint sales ticked up nearly 25% for the same four-week period, per NielsenIQ.

S&S Petroleum Inc., which operates 80 locations throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California, is one c-store seeing a tremendous increase in candy sales so far this year.

“We are seeing an increase in the candy category as a whole because more and more consumers are out traveling and stopping for candy and snacks,” said Mike Jones, category manager for S&S Petroleum Inc. “Also, candy sales are increasing because consumers can buy their favorite candy and still be in their budget range. So in consumers’ minds, they can splurge on candy and still be in the $3, $4 and $5 range which is critical, especially with inflation.”

The Rutter’s Cos., which operates 83 locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, is another c-store chain seeing a rise in candy sales.

“The candy category is off to a hot start so far in 2023, seeing increases in both dollar and unit sales,” said Joseph Bortner, senior category manager for The Rutter’s Cos. “I’d anticipate units to see some softness in the second half vs. the first half of this year after another round of pricing from suppliers, but overall, it should be a strong year for confection.”

Big Candy Bags Are Back

Despite inflation, customers are increasingly selecting larger bags of candy that offer greater variety. Jones has also noticed customers gravitating toward big bottles of mints and larger packs of gum.

“As far as anything else, bag candy is on fire,” he said. “It really has to do with the different flavor innovations out now, including anything sour. I also think the reason consumers are going for larger bag sizes is because the price has decreased, allowing them to get more bang for their buck.”

But even with candy sales on the rise, c-store retailers must work to ensure they’re keeping candy customers engaged with the offering.

“The biggest hurdle for retailers will be how we can create value for our customers,” said Bortner. “With inflationary pressure all around, we need to ensure we’re creating offers that resonate deeply with our consumer base. As suggested retail prices rise, this will continue to be our biggest challenge to find what works best in the days ahead.”

S&S Petroleum and Rutter’s are continuing to enhance their candy categories by stocking new products and adding promotions to keep customers intrigued by their candy offerings.

“We are looking at different ways to promote our candy offerings,” said Jones. “So we are trying to do things like buy one get one for a dollar or some variation of that. We are also looking at opportunities to bundle our candy offerings with other categories, whether it’s with coffee or fountain drinks.”

What’s more, Rutter’s has even started incorporating candy into a few of its proprietary foodservice offerings.

“A staple of our foodservice option is to find new and unique ways to capitalize on the brands our market loves,” said Bortner. “Through the years, we’ve done this by incorporating our favorite confection items into shakes prepared in the kitchen. Thus far in 2023, we’ve taken it even further by creating a sweet and savory peanut butter burger.”

All-in-all, retailers are bullish on the candy category for the year ahead.

“We expect to see significant growth in the candy category as consumption continues to outpace per year, even with higher price points,” said Bortner. “If that pace continues through the rest of the year, we’ll see a record year in confection.”

Source: CStore Decisions

Reaching Hispanic Shoppers

Getting to know your Hispanic customers and their preferences is key in attracting this demographic.

By Erin Del Conte | 
October 13, 2022

As the U.S. Hispanic population continues its rapid growth, c-stores need to consider how they are catering to this important and expanding demographic.

Pew Research Center found that the Hispanic population in the U.S. hit 62.1 million in 2020, up 23% compared to the previous decade, and far outpacing the country’s 7% overall population increase during the same time period. By 2025, Hispanics are expected to account for 12% of all U.S. buying power, according to data from Insider Intelligence. 

CStore Decisions spoke with Sylvia Klinger, founder of nutrition and culinary consulting company Hispanic Food Communications, to learn more about how retailers can attract and retain Hispanic shoppers.

CStore Decisions (CSD): What are the top three things convenience stores can do to better appeal to their Hispanic customers and why? 

Sylvia Klinger (SK): Hispanics continue to be a significant growing population in the U.S. And you should know that Hispanic customers are seeking your attention. They too are looking for convenience stores that cater to their needs. Here are the top things you can do today to attract more Hispanic shoppers. 

  • Assess their needs — continually ask what they are looking for, and if you don’t carry their favorites, find them.
  • Treat them with respect — go overboard with customer service.
  • Respect and embrace cultural traditions — embrace their celebrations (Quinceañeras, baptisms, Christmas, Easter, Day of the Dead and Mexican independence are just a few of them.).

CSD: How do you see the needs of baby boomers and Gen X differing from those of millennials and Gen Z within the Hispanic shopper demographic? 

SK: One of the biggest differences may be language. The older (baby boomers and Gen X) generations tend to master the Spanish language better, while the younger (millennials and Gen Z) generations may speak the language but may have difficulties writing in Spanish. Nevertheless, they feel connected with their Spanish language, therefore ads/posters should be displayed in Spanish or a combination of both English and Spanish. 

Every generation seeks different food combinations. The older generations tend to look for traditional authentic dishes, while the younger generations are more accepting of combining traditional Hispanic foods with traditional American foods. Know that all want to be treated with respect regardless of age, culture, skin color, sexual orientation, etc. It is easy to display biases, but do not be deceived by looks. Get to know them personally, and always greet them by their name or nickname. 

CSD: When it comes to fresh prepared food, how can retailers best appeal to Hispanic customers?

SK: Once you find out what fresh or prepared foods they love, either pair with a local vendor that can provide some of their favorites or ask your preferred vendor to provide you with their preferred foods. Then make sure you market them and remind them you have their favorite fresh prepared foods available.  

Here are the top 10 dishes and their country of origin:

  • Quesadillas — Mexico
  • Baleadas — Honduras
  • Pupusas — El Salvador
  • Arroz con Leche — multi-countries use this dish
  • Empanadas (beef, corn are most popular) — Argentina
  • Arepas — Colombia
  • Ceviche — Peru
  • Tortilla Española — Spain
  • Tacos — Mexico
  • Sopes — Mexico

CSD: Hispanic shoppers come from different backgrounds depending on if their ancestors are from Mexico, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, etc. How can retailers ensure they’re offering the right products for the demographic they serve? 

SK: The majority of Hispanics in the U.S. come from Mexico, but we can’t neglect the others. I recommend that you find out where exactly your c-store customers come from and make sure you provide the products and foods they are seeking. But know that Hispanics in general consume more rice, tomatoes, citrus fruits, whole milk, beef, eggs and legumes. 

Recognizing national flavor differences can help you get a head start, especially between Mexican cuisine and Hispanic Caribbean cuisine, which are the largest groups in the U.S. Here is an example of the flavor differences between these two cuisines.

Mexican favorite ingredients: tomato sauce, chiles, pibil sauce, cinnamon, cumin, cilantro, thyme, marjoram, epazote and black/red beans. Beverages: horchata, Jamaica (agua fresca), Jarritos (sodas).

Caribbean favorite flavors: okra, black-eyed peas, greens, garlic, coconut milk, condensed milk, adobo seasonings and black/red beans. Beverages: malta (a dark non-alcoholic grain-based) and Coco Rico (soda). 

CSD: What is the best way to market to Hispanic customers? 

SK: Interact with your Hispanic customers. Get to know them personally and their families. Make an effort to greet them and talk with them so you may gain their trust and become part of their “family,” and their everyday routine.

CSD: What else do you want retailers to know about Hispanic shoppers?

SK: Know that Hispanics will stay loyal to your services, if you provide the products/foods they love along with top customer service.

Source: CStore Decisions