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Foodservice at retail moves beyond the concept of “on-the-go”
“Foodservice at retail” can have a few interpretations. It can be anything from a food court in a large shopping complex to a modest beverage case near the cash register. Brian Nixon, director of retail channel planning and development at Coca-Cola Refreshments, said the definitive area that generates the most excitement is the foodservice area inside traditional retail outlets, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, club stores and mass merchandisers.
“A growing number of retail outlets are investing in this part of the store as a way to provide more value to their shoppers,” Nixon added. “These sections drive great margins, and more and more people are looking for meal solutions that are convenient, fast and already part of a singular shopping trip.”
Foodservice at retail is also known as a quickservice restaurant (QSR) Retail, and it’s one of the fastest-growing segments in foodservice industry Nixon said QSR Retail first started to show strength in 2009, when its market share increased from 1% to 5% in 2009. For the past four years, that percentage growth has risen steadily.
Creating the Environment
The growth of Foodservice at Retail over the past handful of years is due to a shift in consumer perception. As Nixon explained, people have come to expect foodservice options in retail, and, depending on the destination, there is real potential to customize the experience by playing to the strength of the outlet.
For example, in the convenience channel, it’s all about speed, availability and a breadth of beverage selections to pair with the food choices in the store. Although breakfast items typically are the strongest sellers in the convenience category, lunch and dinner items have vast potential as well.
At supermarkets, customers associate this channel with freshly prepared foods. “Shoppers have traditionally associated the grocery store, particularly the deli, with freshness,” Nixon said. “Therefore, there is definitely room for retailers to take advantage of this shopper mindset and offer meal solutions that provide a better perceived value than what can be purchased at a fast-food restaurant.”
Leveraging the convenience factor and healthful perception, grocery retailers in particular are increasing efforts to create a dining experience in their stores. Restaurant-style seating, coffee bars and even amenities such as flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi are becoming more commonplace in grocery stores across the country.
“Combining fresh meal options with an inviting setting and the customer service to carry it all through is the real objective for QSRs today,” Nixon added. “It’s all about creating a dining experience inside the outlet.”
The Finishing Touch
Empathica, which provides solutions for customer-experience management, recently conducted a QSR benchmark survey of more than 10,000 consumers on the top 62 QSR brands. Respondents were asked to rate food, order accuracy, speed of service, menu selections, restaurant atmosphere and cleanliness, as well as staff attentiveness and overall value of the meal.
The study found that top-notch service had a strong influence on customer satisfaction. According to the study, Empathica said, speed wasn’t necessarily as high on the priority list for customers as the actual human element of politeness and product knowledge.
The survey found that the likelihood of a return visit to a QSR increased from 20% to 81% when guests received excellent customer service. What’s more, most satisfied guests indicated they were four times more likely to recommend a QSR because of the quality of the customer service.
When it comes to bringing people together – over a beverage or occasion, The Coca-Cola Company has more than a century of experience. “We have a great historical knowledge of the foodservice occasion, especially with a nearly 80% share in QSR and traditional restaurants,” Nixon said. “With this, we can help build foodservice strategies for retailers looking to enter this dynamic area of sales growth. Obviously, beverages are a very profitable complement to the food occasion, and we look forward to helping retailers create unique, memorable experiences around food and beverage occasions to promote that message.”