Measuring Customer Perceptions at Englefield Oil

As part of Convenience Store Decisions’ Extreme Foodservice Makeover contest MSA and Paradigm Sample conducted a pre-makeover survey as a baseline to measure changes in shopper perceptions.

By Trish Temmerman, Management Science Associates (MSA).

Nowadays, convenience store operators understand the growing importance of differentiating their foodservice and coffee programs to attract and retain customers. Not only is competition for shoppers coming from other convenience stores, but also from any quick-service outlets offering an assortment of prepared items, fresh hot and cold foods and hot beverages.

Discerning shoppers looking to satisfy their foodservice needs, in addition to selecting stores because of the convenient location and fast checkout, also choose based on how well the stores meet their key foodservice requirements.
If these requirements are not consistently met, then shoppers will take their dollars elsewhere, and operators lose not only the foodservice sale, but also other dollars that might have been spent on other high-margin categories, like packaged beverages, candy and salty snacks that are typically purchased with foodservice.
Once again this year, Convenience Store Decisions sponsored its annual Makeover Contest, seeking a convenience chain in need of a strategy to take its foodservice program to the next level.
Englefield Oil Co., operator of 126 Duchess Shoppe convenience stores in Ohio and West Virginia, was selected as the 2012 Foodservice Makeover winner out of a pool of 70 entries. Englefield Oil is embarking on a major revamp of its Duchess Shoppe store formats and its foodservice offerings.
Prior to making the investment, Englefield wanted to gain a deeper understanding of its current customer base’s perceptions of its foodservice offerings and coffee program. Paradigm Sample and Management Science Associates (MSA) partnered to leverage their cciPanel (Convenience Consumer Insights Panel) and cciPulse solutions to capture real-time feedback.
First, representatives from Paradigm Sample and MSA visited several Duchess Shoppe locations to view first-hand the various store formats, the assortments offered, and the presentation of and access to foodservice and coffee stations.
This knowledge, combined with interviews with Englefield Oil executives, was incorporated into the development of the shopper survey. Some key questions Englefield Oil was seeking to answer in this pre-makeover phase were:
Foodservice Program
• How often do shoppers purchase and when?
• What attributes are important when purchasing at any c-store?
• How does Duchess Shoppe rate on these attributes?
• How does Duchess Shoppe rate on these attributes compared to other c-stores?
• What other foodservice offerings might be of interest?
• Among customers who do not buy, what are the reasons?
Coffee Program
• How often do shoppers purchase coffee and when?
• How do they rate Duchess Shoppe’s coffee program?
An integrated approach was applied in order to yield the highest number of survey responses.
Employees were educated about the study, in-store signage was visible throughout the store and in the restrooms, and Facebook posts were utilized to invite Duchess Shoppe’s customers to provide their feedback on the current program.
Once the survey was in field, store audits were conducted to understand operational execution, and there was ongoing communication with district managers and corporate to maximize participation in the study.
The following are key highlights from this research:
STORE LOYALTY
How often do you typically shop at Duchess Shoppe? Feedback was provided by Duchess Shoppe’s frequent shoppers:
• 83% of respondents visit at least once a week.
• 38% visit at least once a day.
CATEGORY PURCHASE FREQUENCY
Have you ever bought any of the following at this Duchess Shoppe? More specifically, these customers were previous or are current buyers of the current foodservice and coffee programs.
• 75% have purchased fresh/hot or cold foods (grab-and-go sandwiches and subs, roller grill items, hot sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, burritos, pizza, doughnuts or fruit).
• 89% have purchased hot or cold beverages.
When probed about how often they typically buy fresh/hot or cold foods at Duchess Shoppe, 23% purchased almost every visit or every visit.
 
FOODSERVICE PERCEPTIONS
Overall Attribute Importance: Rate the following on how important they are when you are buying fresh/hot or cold foods at any convenience store. Customers considered freshness and appeal, taste and cleanliness as the three most important attributes when purchasing fresh/hot or cold foods.

RATING DUCHESS SHOPPES
How would you rate the fresh/hot or cold foods at Duchess Shoppe?
• Duchess received “excellent” ratings from 55-64% of buyers on the three most important attributes.
• Easy to find in-store (74%) and Sandwiches made on-premise (68%) earned greatest share of “excellent” ratings.
COMPARING DUCHESS AGAINST OTHER C-STORES
How would you rate the fresh/hot or cold foods at Duchess Shoppe compared to other c-stores?
• Duchess received “better” ratings compared to Other C-stores from 55-67% of buyers on the three most important attributes.
• Sandwiches made on-premise (68%) and Items earn fuel rewards (66%) earned greatest share of “better” ratings.
 
UNDERSTANDING DEMAND
When it comes to your interest in potential new offerings, what other kinds of fresh/hot or cold foods would you want Duchess Shoppe to offer? Breakfast foods, salads and pizza were the top three desired items to include in the assortment of foodservice offerings. Women indicated greater preference for salads, single-service ice-cream/frozen yogurt and yogurt parfaits, while men showed stronger preference for family-size portion options, like meatloaf and spaghetti.

COFFEE FREQUENCY
How frequently do you buy dispensed hot coffee at any Duchess Shoppe? More than 33% of Duchess shoppers purchase coffee at least once a day, while 30% buy a few times a week.
How would you rate the dispensed hot coffee at Duchess Shoppe on the following factors?
• “Area is clean and neat” and “can find creams and syrups I want” earned the greatest proportion of “excellent” ratings.
• Six in 10 coffee buyers gave “excellent” ratings for “consistently tastes good” and “consistently fresh.”
 
In summary, key insights and suggestions from this pre-makeover research were:
General:
• Store experience: Emphasize cleanliness and neatness as priorities to employees.
• Price/value: Consider testing variety of combination deals and items to include as part of fuel rewards.

Foodservice Program:
• Close gaps to achieve higher degree of “excellent,” particularly on the top three most important attributes of freshness and appeal, taste and cleanliness to foodservice buyers.
• Implement messaging to emphasize “sandwiches made on premises” to differentiate from competitors.
• Evaluate the potential for expanding offerings to include breakfast foods, salads and yogurt.

Coffee Program:
• Emphasize taste and freshness. Train employees to monitor turnover of coffee to ensure that it does not sit beyond the recommended time for the equipment used, resulting in less than ideal taste and freshness.
Once the makeover design has been implemented, a post-makeover survey will be conducted by Paradigm Sample and MSA to assess any changes in perceptions and shopping behavior of Duchess Shoppe’s customers when buying foodservice and coffee. With the changes implemented, the goal would be for an even greater proportion of their shoppers rating their program as “excellent” and “better” than their key competitors.
For more information about this custom study
or to explore other cciPanel or cciPulse offerings, please contact Trish Temmerman at ptemmerman@msa.com.

cciPanel Methodology
cciPanel conducted research between July 8, 2011 and July 26, 2011 among convenience store shoppers throughout the U.S.  Respondents were balanced by U.S. Census regions. Results include responses from 409 adults (18 years and older) who shopped convenience stores at least once a week within the past 60 days.

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