Management Keys for C-Store Food Service

Image of fresh pizza preparation for c-store food service. It is clear that there are five keys to grow food sales. C-store managers thrive when the keys are practiced well.

Management keys for c-store food service utilize existing store manager skills, but require a few important new skillsets to maximize results. C-store managers have a complex job and the demands on their skills continue to grow.  C-Store operations’ complexity has increased with a combination of new services, technology, marketing and staffing challenges. The expansion of food service is considered the leading indicator of future c-store relevance, market share, and profitability. Given the expected reduction of existing sales categories (e.g., cigarettes, beer, candy, and fuel), it is essential to grow new services to maintain customer value and sales growth.

Food Is a Must

image of c-store chicken meal with french fries.C-Stores have committed to food. Large chains such as Casey’s, Sheetz, and Wawa are define more about their food service than their fuel or traditional convenience offerings. Ironically their fuel, tobacco and other traditional offerings are expanding as pump counts, sku enhancements, and customer counts are increasing along with the food growth. That is, food has become the main draw and the past ‘traditional’ services have benefitted from the increased traffic and service options. That is, the new food offers lead to increased sales of existing categories as well.

Store Management Profession

Expanding food service requires the store manager to provide not only all the old duties, but also manage more employees, train more job-duties, comply with more regulations and administer more sophisticated technologies. Much like professionals in the initial IT work force transformation over the last few decades, the onceimage of happy c-store food service staff ‘blue collar’ store manager now utilizes IT and HR extensively. Their responsibilities now compare in complexity, once the exclusive domain of ‘professional’ management staff. Those professions, that in the past, credentialed themselves with 4+ years of college degrees and often specialized licenses.

Food service adds management complexity. The good news is that the responsibilities and challenges mirror those of the traditional stores in many ways. Therefore, store managers utilize their existing skills. However, over-reliance on doing things like we have always done risks missing a few key differences that can make or break the food service success.

Similarities of Food Service and Traditional C-Store Operations

1. Customer Service

‘Customer service is customer service’ according to

2. Clean

3. Teamwork

4. Store Presentation and Customer Experience

5. Joy

Jo Marie Burns has a secret for her staff. Customer service is 50% faking it. That is, no matter what is happening in your day, the customer gets a smile and great service. We leave the problems at the door. The ironic result of making other’s day brighter is that it makes us feel better when we help others. It is the customer that makes the job joyful.

Differences of Food Service and Traditional C-Store Operations

Image of cook preparing fresh eggs for a breakfast offer.

1. Food Rotation

2. Waste

Spoilage is the shrink of omission rather than the shrink of commission. Just like theft can make a c-store fail, wasted food (too much as well as too little) can make food service fail. Abigail Cerra, ReFuel suggests that a key difference with food from the staples of convenience is that need to do less more often. Ordering and cooking. We do just fill up the warmer all day long. We prepare as needed to avoid waste. Of course, there are times when the rush is coming that we want to have our food as full as the expected need.

3. Onboarding

Training for time and temperature is the key before staff are ready to provide food service. No one can get ill from the food. Operators must ensure food safety. Quality is the foundation for all staff training.

Maximizing the Old and the New Management Approaches

  1. Size matters. At some point the food service may be large enough to warrant a separate management position.
  2. Adjusting customer service to food is straightforward. Use the keys and add new ways to upsell and build customer relationships.
  3. Cleanliness on Steroids

image of food service work in a convenience storeRetail Operations Keys

It has been proven that management keys for c-store food service match and utilize the standard skills used for a c-store with no food at all.  Any experienced store manager has the exposure to the foundation for even the most complex store. If they can manage five people, then they have the basic skills needed. Of course, growth is dependent on the individual, but if they have the desire they can be taught and coached. It is important to remember, that more management may require more management skills both in managing managers and in the new technologies.

As with all success, getting buying (e.g., alignment to the company goals) is key to individual motivation. Taking the time to address the people side is as important, if not more important, than picking the right technology and food offerings. The store manager sets the tone and leads the team.

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