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September 20, 2022

Photo: Transact Technologies

As grocery stores ramp up their fresh food programs, the food industry is asking a new question: Are c-stores the new quick-service restaurant?

Originally known for “coke and smoke,” some of the biggest names practically have integrated delis, grab-and-go foods, and even full kitchens at locations across the U.S., and it’s no surprise why. According to the 2022 News Industry Report, food service sales grew a whopping 20.5% from 2020 to 2021, resulting in $43.2 billion in profits. Of all in-store purchases, ready-made food (prepared on-site or off-site) accounted for 12.31% of sales, rivaled only by cigarettes with 25.9% and packaged beverages with 13.75%.

Adding a food service program to every c-store sounds simple, but it’s far from it. Unlike other pre-packaged food offerings such as groceries, sweets, ice cream and salty snacks, fresh food requires more staff, cooking space and additional health and safety requirements. Additionally, California’s new fast food minimum wage law signals a larger problem in the food service industry. Labor is not only hard to find, it’s getting more expensive every day.

So how do c-stores create fresh food programs that rival some of the nation’s largest quick-service restaurants? First of all, in-store vendors are turning to home technology currently used in QSR kitchens. Back-of-house technology often addresses the multiple processes and issues found in food service programs.

One of the primary advantages that c-stores can take advantage of is tagging. With strict FDA guidelines, all grab-and-go foods must have clear and accurate labels on each container. Technology like GOD! Labeling, printing grab-and-go labels on demand. This eliminates the costly possibility of discarding thousands of labels when menus or recipes change. As an added benefit, the updated labels mean retailers don’t have to worry about potential fines due to compliance issues.

The digitization of temperature monitoring and equipment also has a significant impact on a c-store’s ability to run a successful fresh food program. Most retailers are already familiar with HACCP protocols, but the integration of kitchens into stores introduces a new range of requirements. Every ingredient must be carefully monitored, and software like BOHA! Temp allows retailers to automate logging by automatically adding temperature readings from Bluetooth thermometers to a digital HACCP log. However, it’s not just about the ingredients; the equipment must also maintain a certain temperature range. Software like BOHA! Sense automatically records the temperature of equipment and notifies retailers remotely if it falls out of range.

Finally, task management plays a big role in saving manpower. Digitization of checklists with software such as BOHA! the checklist saves precious hours by ensuring that tasks are completed correctly and on time. Include instructions with any task so that inexperienced staff have instructions readily available whenever they need them. Tasks can be easily edited, added or removed to suit the specific needs of each location. Checklists can also manage tasks outside of the fresh food program. Manage basic safety and cleaning procedures throughout the store.

It’s increasingly clear that c-stores are encroaching on territory previously held by quick-service restaurants. Consumers benefit from the same convenience, availability and price in convenience and fast food programs. Looking ahead to 2023, foodservice is projected to continue to grow in both profitability and in-store profit share. Only time will tell, but QSRs should keep a close eye on their c-store competitors – they’re not far behind.

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

This post is sponsored by TransAct Technologies

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