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September 23, 2022

Photo: Transact Technologies

As convenience stores improve their fresh food programs, the food service industry is asking a new question: Are c-stores the new quick-service restaurants?

Originally known for “cokes and smokes,” some of the biggest names in convenience have integrated delis, grab-and-go food and even full kitchens in locations across the US, and it’s no wonder why. According to the Convenience Store News 2022 Industry Report, food service sales increased by 20.5% from 2020 to 2021, resulting in a profit of $43.2 billion. Of all in-store purchases, prepared foods (prepared on or off-site) accounted for 12.31% of sales, rivaled only by cigarettes at 25.9% and packaged beverages at 13.75%.

Adding a foodservice program to every c-store sounds like a no-brainer, but it is far from it. Unlike prepackaged food offerings such as groceries, candy, ice cream and salty snacks, fresh food requires more staff, cooking areas and additional health and safety requirements. Additionally, California’s new fast food minimum wage bill points to a larger problem in the food service industry. Labor is not only hard to find but is becoming more expensive every day.

So, how does a c-store create a fresh food program that rivals some of the largest quick service restaurants in the country? In particular, convenience store retailers are turning to back-of-house technology currently used in QSR kitchens. Back-of-house technology often solves some of the processes and problems inherent in food service programs.

One of the main advantages that c-stores can use is labeling. With strict FDA guidelines, all food items must have clear and accurate labeling on each container. Technology like BOHA! Labeling, prints grab-and-go labels on demand. This eliminates the costly possibility of removing thousands of labels when menus or recipes change. As an added benefit, up-to-date labels mean retailers don’t have to worry about potential fines from compliance issues.

Digitizing temperature and monitoring equipment also makes a significant impact on c-store’s ability to run a thriving fresh food program. Most retailers are already familiar with HACCP logs, but integrating the kitchen into the store introduces new requirements. Each ingredient must be carefully monitored, and software such as BOHA! Temp allows retailers to automate logging by automatically adding temperature values ​​from Bluetooth thermometers to digital HACCP logs. It’s not just about the ingredients, however; equipment must also maintain a specific temperature range. Software like BOHA! Sense automatically records the device’s temperature and notifies the retailer remotely if it’s out of range.

Finally, task management plays a big role in labor savings. Digitize checklists using software like BOHA! Checklists save valuable hours by ensuring tasks are completed correctly and on time. Attach instructions to any task so inexperienced staff have easy-to-access directions whenever they need them. Tasks can be easily edited, added or deleted to customize to meet the specific needs of each location. The checklist can also manage tasks outside of that for the fresh food program. Manage basic safety and cleaning procedures throughout the store.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that c-stores are encroaching on territory previously held by quick-service restaurants. Consumers benefit from the same convenience, availability and price point in convenience and fast food programs. Looking into 2023, food services are predicted to continue to grow in profits and share of profits in stores. Only time will tell, but QSRs should watch their c-store competitors closely—they are not far behind.

BOTH! is a suite of food-service-specific applications and hardware that automates time-consuming, error-prone c-store tasks. The all-in-one, cloud-based platform digitizes labeling processes, takes temperatures, monitors equipment and provides critical operational insights. To learn more about using BOHA! for the fresh food program, click here.

This post is sponsored by TransAct Technologies

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