Coffee gets its legs
Adding disposable beverage transports to the lineup can give a jolt to the industry's leading gross profit margin category—hot dispensed beverages— while reinforcing a retailer's brand image. Such bulk transports, pioneered by vendors like LBP Manufacturing (www.lbpmfg.com), enable customers to take multiple cups of coffee—10 to 12 per fill-up—on the move, adding an extra layer of convenience for construction crews, tailgaters, office workers or anyone else in need of large quantities of joe.
Convenience retailers including Royal Farms and Cumberland Farms have already rolled out their own "branded" carafes through vendor International Dispensing Corp. (www.idcdispensing.com). The internal bladders of these durable carafes can hold more than 100 oz. of coffee, and have the ability to keep product hot for up to three hours. At a cost of $3 to $5 per unit for IDC's carafe, the full transport carries an SRP of $9.99 to $12.99. The carafe may also be used to boost sales of hot soup or cold dispensed beverages. BD
As more sophisticated foodservice operations become prevalent in the convenience store industry, so do the possibilities of foodservice-related injuries and illnesses. Retailers must strive to keep employees safe while maintaining quality and efficiency. But they have plenty of options to help take some of the human error out of the food prep process:
'The new sandwich'
America has adopted Mexican food as its own. And 7-Eleven Inc. (Dallas, TX) hopes one day it can say the same of sushi. While sushi is already a staple among the college set, yuppies and consumers living healthier lifestyles on the coasts, 7-Eleven President Jim Keyes hopes to make "onigiri"—also known to the Japanese as rice balls—part of America's collective diet. Rice balls are about as popular in Japan as the sandwich is in the States.
"The movement toward the onigiri, or rice ball product, is certainly in development," Keyes tells Reuters. "But we are probably two or three years away from being able to have the right quality and taste combinations."
Keyes is a realist. He's not considering puffer fish fillets and seaweed rice balls for 7-Eleven's U.S. stores. Rather, he intends to create versions that would appeal to the minds, eyes and stomachs of American customers. Rice balls stuffed with barbecued pulled pork or Cajun beans, for example, might make their way onto the menu. This wouldn't be the chain's first foray into sushi; 7-Eleven has tested sushi in some New York and California stores.
But 7-Eleven isn't the only convenience retailer looking to take a chance with sushi. Bill Knight, an Exxon distributor in South Florida, is building a NexStore Marketplace convenience store with ready-to-go cuisine such as pizza, Cornish game hens and sushi. The store's menu items will be designed by a "recipe engineer" and crafted by on-site chefs. BD
Add a little magic
Retailers looking to lift sagging fountain sales can inject some life into the lineup with customized straws that seem to defy science. The Magic Straw from Whirley Industries/DrinkWorks (www.whirley.com) uses a patented splitstraw design that's so "sleight of hand," it's easy to see how a magician played a part in its creation.
Both a traffic driver and a profit center, the Magic Straw attracts interest because customers of all ages wonder how liquid sipped up the bottom half of the straw can flow into the top half, since the two
The use of themed characters as the focal point of the severed straw offers a branding platform to promote cartoon characters, sports and entertainment icons or personalities of any kind. The product incorporates either a stationary molded character or a "bobblehead," enabling retailers to capitalize on public interest in magic and media-driven collectibles. Wholesale pricing is based on minimum orders, but is less than $1 per straw. BD