By John Lofstock, Editor
Experts agree that to successfully compete in the convenience store industry retailers must have a solid foodservice program. Developing a winning foodservice strategy requires a radical change in the corporate culture, a hefty financial commitment, lots of hard work and patience.
In fact, one of the biggest differences between top convenience store chains and the rest of the industry is the strength of their brands and their clarity of purpose. With shrinking fuel and tobacco sales, foodservice has helped strengthen the industry’s financial performance. Yet, many companies continue to struggle to define their foodservice brand, execute winning strategy and market their foodservice program.
The 2012 Convenience Store Decisions’ Foodservice Makeover contest was developed to help one lucky convenience store chain take their foodservice offering to the next level. CSD received approximately 70 entries from companies of all sizes throughout the U.S. This year’s contest had some great entrants and after narrowing the field down to several finalists that met our selection criteria, I am proud to announce that Englefield Oil Co., operator of 126 Duchess Shoppes convenience stores in Ohio and West Virginia is our 2012 Foodservice Makeover winner.
“Englefield Oil has always understood the importance of a great food program. We have grown very much over the last four decades and have had much success with our current program. However, we are ready to take it to the next level. We want to continue to build our Duchess Shoppe brand by marketing our proprietary program and ultimately becoming a food destination for customers,” Ashley Englefield, division manager and third-generation family member told me during the interview phase.
The key phrase there is “destination for customers.” This contest was not designed to simply be about the food. It is so much more.
In the months to come, Convenience Store Decisions will report on the foodservice brand development, strategy, operations and marketing improvements that are designed by our impressive panel of experts. We will provide you with an insider’s view of how a foodservice brand image is enhanced by Big Red Rooster, an award-winning design firm; how John Matthews of Grey Cat Enterprises evaluates and refines foodservice strategies and operations; and how Convevo Partners utilizes technology to market and grow foodservice sales.
As an added bonus to this year’s contest, we will also monitor customer perceptions before and after the foodservice makeover as part of CSD’s exclusive partnership with MSA and Paradigm Sample’s Convenience Consumer Insights Panel (cciPanel).
Englefield Oil gives us a lot to work with. Inside the stores, Englefield has a strong foodservice presence. The company operates four Taco Bell’s, two Subway sandwich shops and one Long John Silver’s. Fresh sandwiches are also prepared onsite and offered at 104 locations. The coffee program is branded under the Crown Café banner and featured at all 126 stores. A 4,000-square-foot prototype store introduced in 2008 serves as the model for all future stores.
The company, founded in 1961, has annual sales of more than $500 million.
“Foodservice will take us to the next level of competitiveness and how we do it will set us apart from the rest. This is the biggest area we can make a difference,” said Judy Dudte, division manager of foodservice for Englefield Oil. “When I first read about this contest, I thought it must have been designed for us.”
We will be reporting updates about Englefield’s foodservice transformation over the next few months and we will present the new look, along with the processes that got us there, during an interactive workshop at the NACS Show in Las Vegas on Oct. 8. I hope you can join us.