With its farmer’s market and original grilled peanut butter menu, Scotty’s Convenience Store and Grill, at the University of California Riverside (UCR) has won the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) “Best in the Business” award for excellence in marketing and merchandising.
Scotty’s was one of 38 entries in the competition, which was open to all institutional members of NACUFS and recognized creativity and innovation in marketing and merchandising, layout and design and foodservice applications. Scotty’s will be recognized at this month’s NACUFS national conference in Milwaukee.
Standing Out From the Pack
Named after the university’s kilt-wearing Scottish mascot, Scotty the Bear, Scotty’s opened in November 2007 and has distinguished itself with exclusive offerings ever since.
Unlike other c-stores on campus, Scotty’s is open seven days a week and only from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., to appeal to students who keep late hours. With only two career staff members, the store relies on its student staff and managers, who keep the atmosphere young and customer-friendly, and gain feedback from students to ensure the store is carrying the right products.
Organic and fresh products are one such growing demand, and Scotty’s responded by offering an outdoor farmer’s market held in front of the store every other Wednesday during the spring quarter.
“I think the judges really liked that we have a farmers market. It’s trendy right now and it’s been very popular. It brings a sense of community to the students,” said Susan Coffman, director of UCR’s dining services. “We carry organic and locally grown produce, including fresh citrus and eggs from the campus agricultural department. Students like the convenience of having fresh local produce brought to them. We have organic honey, and different products like soy pudding.”
The store tested the farmer’s market last year and received so much positive feedback from students, it decided to continue it every spring.
“All universities across the nation are getting into more sustainable practices, more locally grown products. Students are more interested in organics now,” Coffman said.
The store’s hot grill offerings also impressed the judges. In addition to the usual grilled cheese and turkey melts, the grill features a meatless protein menu with an array of grilled peanut butter sandwiches from classic PB&J to peanut butter and Nutella with sliced bananas, to peanut butter with a sweetened cream cheese and sliced apples and raisins.
“Our executive chef, Lanette Dickerson, wanted to create a unique protein-based menu students would enjoy that could serve our vegetarian customers as well,” Coffman said. “Scotty’s is the only place on campus that carries grilled peanut butter sandwiches. You try to create an identity for each location.”
The grilled options also are cost effective for students. While the cost to make the sandwich is estimated at 85 cents, the retail price is $1.80 for the old fashioned variety and $2.50 for the gourmet sandwich.
The sandwiches have proved immensely popular with students. Scotty’s sold more than 10,000 grilled sandwiches last year and brought in $645,600 in gross annual sales.
The store also carries the usual c-store fare from hot dogs, nachos, pizza pockets and soups to grab & go products, fresh brewed coffee, frozen foods and dairy products.
Expanding with Success
The store has not yet marketed its award status to customers, but business is booming just the same. Students were checking to see if the store was open during the day so often, the staff decided to experiment with afternoon hours too.
“About three weeks ago we started opening at noon to see if we could attract a lunch crowd, and business picked up quite a bit, so we’ll probably expand our hours to include some daytime hours for fall.”