Foodservice: Branded vs. Unbranded

Kent Cummings,
Cummings Oil Co.

After looking at several foodservice options and trying our own proprietary concepts, we decided to partner with Hot Stuff Foods. We chose a national brand for a number of reasons,including:

  • National brands have proven systems. When we implemented our Hot Stuff program we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Everything including the food, marketing, operations procedures and equipment had already been tested and implemented in hundreds of c-stores over the last 20 years.
  • National brands focus on my business. Many QSR brands focus marketing, R&D and growth on freestanding units. We chose a partner that focuses 90% of its growth on the c-store industry. The c-store foodservice customer is unique and we wanted a company research, development and marketing is tailored to that demographic.
  • National brands are constantly upgrading technology. One of the most unique components of Hot Stuff is a software program called the P.R.I.D.E. Pie (Preferred product, Remarkable service, Intelligent inventory, Distinguishable marketing and Exceptional cleanliness). This program allows our managers and the Hot Stuff team to monitor essential components of a successful foodservice program. It’s a second set of eyes on our business.

  • National brands are constantly developing new products, and these products fit the unique buying habits and busy lifestyles of the c-store customer. Sure, there are some great new products exhibited every year at the NACS show, but I can’t wait once a year nor do I have the time to look at every brochure that comes to me following the show. Our Hot Stuff menu is designed to provide highquality items that accommodate every daypart. And at least once a quarter we have new items that have already been field tested.

    Plus, no operation that serves food is completely removed from the possibility of a food borne illness or other food safety concern. Our Hot Stuff program mandates several food safety procedures including ServSafe, a national program implemented by thousands of top restaurants across the country.

And, finally, there is information sharing. I attended a Hot Stuff’s President’s Club meeting in April, with a couple hundred other retailers. There we learned new solutions to better serve our valuable customers, an important element proprietary operators don’t have access to.

Cummings Oil Co., operates four convenience stores in Aitkin, Minn., and is cobranded with Hot Stuff Foods’ Xpress foodservice program in all four units.

Fran Duskiewicz,
Senior Executive Vice President,
Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc.

I will not criticize franchise foodservice programs. We are a franchisor ourselves and we understand what motivates people to want instant credibility and ready-made programs. Still, without a corporate dedication to doing foodservice correctly and knowing how to manage labor properly, not to mention being able to absorb a foreign offering into your own company culture, even franchise QSR’s are apt to fail.

At Nice N Easy, we have been working diligently to develop our own brand image from the roadside to the pumps to the products inside the store, including foodservice offerings.

When possible, we have removed any brand that muddies the Nice N Easy image. That means foodservice quality must be top-notch to match the promise of the new image. We believe that any strong regional convenience store company should do the same.

The benefits of a proprietary foodservice program include being able to custom design your offering by location. We prepare items for every daypart—egg croissants for breakfast, subs and salads for lunch, readymade 2/$9.99 pizzas for dinner and freshly baked pastries for an evening snack—and proprietary programs give you the flexibility to create special bundled deals for big events, such as the Super Bowl or Daytona 500. Plus, we are able to market and advertise those deals in the way we think is best.

Having a foodservice professional (Dr. Jack Cushman) on staff also addresses two major problems that are common if you are on your own with a branded QSR – labor management and food safety. The labor metrics are very different and can cost thousands of dollars if not handled properly. Product liability cases can literally put you out of business.

Finally, integration is key. Easy Street Eatery, our proprietary program, is part of the store. It is designed to be in the flow of customer traffic and to offer employee mobility. Some QSR’s we talked to wanted to be as separate as possible, as if the store would sully their image. We would not allow that to happen.

Our proprietary foodservice program is part of our strategic plan to live without cigarette sales and with reduced fuel margins. It has to be our own.

Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc., based in Canastota, N.Y., operates 80 convenience stores, which feature its proprietary Easy Street Eatery foodservice program.

Face-off is a new feature in Convenience Store Decisions that gives retailers, suppliers and consultants an opportunity to debate the issues affecting the convenience store and petroleum industry. Have an idea for Face-off? Contact John Lofstock at 201-845-2468 or via email at jlofstock@penton.com.

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