Category Archives: Blog

Speed of Service

Speeding Up the Foodservice Experience

By Angela Hanson – 10/18/2017

CHICAGO — Having tasty menu items is integral to building a quality foodservice program, but other factors can make or break a promising initiative. One of the most important ones is speed, according to the “Breaking the Speed Limit on Your Customer Experience” education session held at the 2017 NACS Show.

Presenters were Peter Berger, vice president, customer engagement for SMG, and Shianna Peace, program manager for Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. Erin Pressley, vice president of publishing for NACS Media Group, served as moderator.

In-store sales are the largest growth area for the convenience store industry, and foodservice is the second-largest inside sales category behind tobacco, with double the growth margin, according to Berger. “Obviously, [it is] a great category to continue to expand,” he said.

Sheetz turned to SMG’s customized market intelligence tool BrandGeek to understand the thoughts and motivations of fuel- and food-focused convenience store customers compared to quick-service restaurant (QSR) customers. Behavioral data was captured from 12.7 million c-store visits and 15.8 million QSR visits in a 12-month period.

Overall, the data showed that customers are far more satisfied at c-stores than at QSRs, and they rate their experiences even higher when they purchase both food and fuel. Additionally, food-focused c-store customers are “far more motivated” by speed of checkout and a past good experience, while fuel-focused customers are motivated by speed of checkout, a past good experience, and the selection of merchandise.

BrandGeek data highlighted that many of the c-store brands that overindex on speed of service are also known for their foodservice, including QuikTrip, Wawa and RaceTrac. The data also showed that even fresh, made-to-order food can cause consumer ratings to fall during the lunchtime hours due to slower speed, reflecting that it’s worth the time and effort to focus on speed of service.

Through the partnership with SMG, Sheetz found that for both fuel- and food-focused customers, speed of service is a top driver and offers the greatest opportunity.

“Not only is it the top driver of an experience with Sheetz, it’s a huge opportunity for us,” said Peace, noting that it can help to build customer loyalty.

To increase speed, it’s important to know where the delays stem from. Fuel-focused customers reported reasons for their negative experiences were mainly operational, such as a card reader problem or a lack of a printed receipt driving them inside the store, where they had to wait in line at a single checkout. Food-focused customers who have negative experiences are more likely to talk about inattentive store associates, overlong wait time, preparation errors or a lack of urgency.

When customers perceive a good attitude and helpfulness from associates and also experience speedy service, that’s when they’re most likely to return, Peace explained. “It’s when fast meets friendly,” she said.

Peace highlighted Sheetz store #587, where a general push to just “do things faster” didn’t work. Since the store saw its lowest satisfaction ratings at lunch and dinner, it took specific steps to address the problems with speed at those times. This included 30-minute cleanliness checks of the store’s Fizz City offering and seating area, and a cashier/kitchen support plan that provided a procedure for getting assistance when foodservice orders began to stack up. As a result, the store’s satisfaction ratings began to rise.


Supply Chain Executives and Social Media

Supply chain and logistics executives should be using their celebrity on social media to be the public face of their businesses and an extension of their brands.

Here at Fronetics, we talk a lot about the importance of a social media presence for supply chain and logistics businesses. Most companies use social media to build brand awareness, communicate with a target audience, and, of course, attract new leads and customers. It’s highly effective.

But I am a strong believer that executives should also be on social media, as themselves, representing their brands and establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry.

With their relative celebrity, supply chain and logistics executives are uniquely positioned to attract a following of customers, prospects, potential talent, industry peers, and admirers. They can use social media to connect with these people, share their ideas and industry news, and become the human face of their brands. It amplifies the company’s social media efforts in a way brands can’t do themselves. After all, social media is about connecting with people.

It makes sense, right? But in reality, 61 percent of fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence whatsoever. It’s an enormous missed opportunity.

Think of what these 3 CEOs’ social media presence has done for their brands.

1) Richard Branson

With almost 12 million Twitter followers, the founder and owner of Virgin Group was named the top CEO on social media. Branson insists on creating his authentic content — from funny, personal stories to pictures — himself, and his commitment to posting daily keeps followers engaged. The resulting dialogue and relationship with followers has helped elevate his personal brand and Virgin as well.

2) Arianna Huffington

Co-founder, president and former chief editor of the Huffington Post, Huffington was an early adopter of social media as a marketing tool. She has used her success at Huff Post and her personal social media presence to increase visibility to her newer projects, including Thrive Global.

3) Elon Musk

Musk has committed to being authentic and open about the ups and downs of his business ventures, and his followers have responded favorably with an almost cult-like following. His personal account’s audience is more than double the number of followers combined for his three companies. Taking a page from Apple’s play book, Musk has used the reveal of new Tesla models and Space X rockets to stir up a buzz about projects. These live stream reveals are flashy, yet cool and casual, and have garnered over a million views.

Supply chain and logistics executives killing social media

This is not to say that there are not some supply chain and logistics executives who are capitalizing on using their personal brands on social media. Here are some as an example:

  1. Kelli Saunders, Morai Logistics
  2. Peter Tirschwell, IHS Markit
  3. Hailey McKeefrey, EBN

Drone to Hand Delivery

Drone-to-hand delivery could become a thing


Source: Cambridge Consultants/DelivAir

Oct 20, 2017

Matthew SternRetailers and tech developers have piloted many creative drone delivery solutions in recent years as they try to envision the future of the last mile. But while most have focused on how to get a package to a customer’s home, one startup is working on getting it directly into their hands.

Cambridge Consultants’ DelivAir app allows individual consumers to order products from their smartphones and have them delivered directly to their current physical location, wherever that may be, according to Engadget. Using GPS technology, the app communicates the user’s location to the drone, which seeks out the user, sending requests for location updates along the way. When the customer sees the drone approaching in the air, s/he points the smartphone at the vehicle, transmitting a signal that confirms s/he is the correct user. The drone then lowers the package using a winch and returns to base.

While it might not make the most sense for bulkier packages, such as service could offer convenience for, say, busy commuters without stores on their paths to and from public transportation, or for people who work outdoors.

Being able to deliver directly to an individual, with no address necessary, could also put vendors selling custom products direct-to-consumer in more immediate contact with customers.
The future of drone delivery – a DelivAir story from Cambridge Consultants on Vimeo. has received the most press for drone delivery with news of patents appearing every few months for concepts as futuristic and varied as mechanical beehives for drone deployment and drones outfitted with data collection capabilities.

Most recently, Amazon has been considering ways to use drones outside of package delivery. The company recently patented a method of using a drone to deliver a freshly-charged battery to an electric car, according to TechCrunch. This provides a potential solution for drivers who may run their batteries down to zero outside of the range of a charging station on long trips.

Logistics providers like UPS are also getting in on the drone innovation game, with solutions like truck-mounted drone deployment to fly packages to hard-to-reach delivery spots.

Smart Speakers

Amazon holds 68% of smart speaker market share

New Convenience Stores

Convenience Store Food May Be Changing For The Better

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Fruits, vegetables, and other healthier foods may become more common in convenience stores. (Photo: Courtesy of Toni Carey/Partnership for a Healthier America)

If your image of convenience store food is mayonnaise mixed with mayonnaise salad in a plastic box, petrified meatsicles on a roller and enriched uranium-appearing nacho cheese, that may not quite match reality. As Stephanie Strom reported five years ago for the New York Times, various convenience stores such as 7-Eleven have been trying to stock healthier food options. And at this year’s National Association Of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show, the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and NACS just announced new initiatives to bring more healthy food to convenience stores.

Why are convenience stores important? As I’ve described previously for the HuffPost, you are where you eat because you tend to eat what is around you. For example, if you are surrounded by doughnuts, doughnut be surprised if you become one. And chances are the closest food source to you is a convenience store, unless you live on a farm, grow food in your living room, or live in a supermarket. In fact, for many locations such as low income urban neighborhoods that are food deserts (one “s,” not two), convenience stores are the only available and accessible food sources. Indeed, according to the NACS, 93% of Americans live within 10 minutes of a convenience store. The 154,535 convenience stores in the U.S. collectively serve close to 160 million customers each day. That means for over half the population, the answer to the question, “where the heck were you yesterday?” could be, “at a convenience store.”

You also may be more likely to eat something the shorter the “see it” to “enter your mouth” time is, which is probably why bake-your-own-turkey stores wouldn’t be very popular at ballparks, workplaces and street corners. According to NACS measures, it takes on average only 3 minutes and 33 seconds to get food from a convenience store. That’s based on 35 seconds walking from your car to the store, 71 seconds selecting your purchases, 42 seconds waiting in line to pay, 21 seconds paying (depending on how many pennies you use to pay) and 44 seconds leaving the store.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama (L) is the Honorary Chair for the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

All of this makes convenience stores a major source of food for many Americans, especially those in low income neighborhoods. Indeed, as NACS has reported, in 2016, total convenience industry sales reached $549.9 billion, which would rank them at twenty-first (just below Switzerland) in terms of gross domestic product if American convenience stores collectively were a country. That’s why PHA and PHA Honorary Chair Former First Lady Michelle Obama decided to work with NACS, the association representing the nation’s convenience stores, to develop ways to improve the availability of healthier food in convenience stores. Convenience stores could play an important role in changing the diets of many Americans for the better, which is urgently needed since, if you haven’t heard, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

As PHA President & CEO Nancy E. Roman explained: “With more than 23.5 million people living where healthy and affordable foods are limited or unavailable, we have a significant opportunity to address one of our nation’s biggest challenges. As PHA continues to work with NACS and the convenience store industry, we’re discovering more opportunities to meaningfully address food access, while supporting each aspect of the supply chain.”

At the NACS Show, PHA and NACS unveiled the Healthier Product Calculator, which convenience retailers can use to determine what products may meet the PHA’s Healthier Food & Beverage Product Criteria and are based on the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. PHA also announced at the show that several major food and beverage distributors for convenience stores (Harold Levinson Associates, S. Abraham & Sons, Core-Mark and McLane) will work towards making more affordable healthy food and beverage options available for convenience stores. Additionally, PHA declared NACS an official partner of PHA’s Drink Up campaign, which encourages people to drink more water.

This next generation of convenience stores is not your father’s convenience store, unless of course your father still owns a convenience store. With continued changes in the convenience store industry, “well, isn’t that convenient,” could be more than the Saturday Night Live Church Lady’s saying and apply more and more to healthy food and beverages.