4 Key Convenience Store Trends to Explore

/ Convenience & Grocery Stores, Foodservice Tips / November 19

Convenience Store Trends to Explore

Whether it’s on the go or in case of emergency, convenience stores are a big part of everyday life. They carry everything from beverages and snacks to toiletries and first-aid items, so customers can grab anything they need quickly. Like other establishments in the foodservice industry, c-stores also are eyeing new innovations and ideas to attract business. We’ve outlined some potential convenience store trends you should consider going forward.

NOTE: This article includes trends and designs to meet potential guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consult the latest health and government regulations in your area for proper guidance.


Touchless Solutions

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a push to adopt more hands-free options in c-stores. These can be used everywhere from checkout areas to beverage equipment. Below are some touchless solutions to incorporate:


  • Drink dispensers – Beverage manufacturers have created items that minimize direct touching. For instance, Bunn has Tap-Kins paper slips for customers to use on tap handles, and Wilbur Curtis developed touchless drink adapters that let users push their clean cups against a plate to pour beverages.

  • Mobile & quick pay – Integrate multiple payment apps options, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, so you cater to different mobile users. Also, make sure your current POS system has the capability to support these quick-pay options properly. You might need to update software for a better all-in-one solution.

  • Condiment dispensers – If you offer grab-and-go foods like sandwiches, hot dogs or salads, a hands-free condiment machine can be a game-changer. For example, Server makes a touchless condiment dispenser that adds a proper portion with just the wave of a hand.

  • Touchless bathrooms – These have been around for years, but now is the perfect time to add upgrade your establishment if it has standard bathroom solutions. Hands-free faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel machines, hand dryers and auto-flush toilets all operate using sensory technology.

  • Hands-free door openers – While automatic sliding doors might be out of your price range, consider some more affordable and practical options. Install forearm and foot openers, so customers can open doors without having to touch the handles.


Self-Checkout

You didn’t think this was only for grocery stores, did you? Self-checkout is one of the convenience store trends you should look into as soon as possible. Depending on the size of your store, think about altering your c-store design to add two to four lanes. This allows customers to get in and out as quickly as possible. Of course, spacing is very important to ensure safety and to prevent lines from spilling into other areas of the store.

To keep lines organized, create boundary markers using tape or stanchions. Inside each line, add floor decals that indicate where each customer should stand as they wait. Be sure to space each decal at least 6 feet apart. As an additional measure, post signs near the self-checkout area that inform shoppers to follow any floor markers and to stand at least 6 feet apart from other customers.

Healthy & Alternative Foods

When people think of c-stores, foods like hot dogs, nachos, pizza and salty snacks typically come to mind. However, healthy choices are one of many growing convenience store trends each year. In addition to veggies and salads, you also should consider adding more organic, vegan and gluten-free option to your store’s selection. That way you have a wide variety of foods and beverages that suit different customers.

If you offer fast food or freshly made items, consider incorporating some meat and dairy substitutes. For example, offer veggie burgers and plant-based alternatives in addition to meat. Do you have a coffee bar or cafe? Think of sprinkling in some non-dairy creamers like oat and almond milks. While you might think plant-based proteins and dairy-free choices are just for vegans or vegetarians, they’re also used to help with dietary restrictions to limit high intakes of meat and dairy.

Third-Party Delivery

Delivery has been a growing trend for many small restaurants and large fast-food chains, but it can be a great ally for convenience stores as well. If your establishment serves freshly made food and meals, you can benefit from partnering with third-party delivery services. Services like Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates help increase your store’s reach and potentially attract new customers. They also take the hassle and costs out of running an in-house delivery program.

Of course, c-stores carry more than fast-food options. That’s why you should look into partnering with grocery-based delivery services as well. Companies like Instacart, Shipt and goPuff are worth exploring if you want to make other items available for delivery. However, if you go down this road, think about setting certain parameters, so you get the best possible return for adding these services. For instance, make sure customers spend a certain dollar amount or purchase a set number of items in order to use delivery.

NOTE: Some third-party delivery services have waived or reduced commission fees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consult their websites for more information.


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