6 Ways to Think Differently About Your Store

By Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP

DALLAS -- Forget the idea of making a better convenience store—just think about the store in a different way.

That’s how Joe Bona, co-founder and president of MoseleyBona Retail, began his session “Steal This Idea: Great Ideas from Retail and Restaurants” at CSP’s Convenience Retailing University.

Being better is not enough anymore, Bona said. You have to make your convenience stores a retail destination with an elevated experience. It has to be what he calls a CSR: convenience-store restaurant. It’s a blend of quick-service restaurant and c-store, nothing like old-time “g-stores” (gas stations/c-stores), he said.

Considering 43 cents of every dollar spent on food goes toward food away from home, Bona said, those dollars are waiting for the retailers who deliver restaurant-quality food and experiences, including custom-made beverages. And while most c-stores will probably never have seating for 100, “uncomfortable bar stools in the corner aren’t going to cut it,” Bona said.

To break down the process of thinking about the convenience store differently, Bona offered six steps to take:

  1. Don’t think like a c-store. If you’re making food in the store, create a work-flow process that decreases wait times and labor costs. For example, if it takes eight steps to make a certain breakfast sandwich, figure out a way to cut that process in half, Bona said. Make it easy for store employees to produce the food so the customer gets it quicker.
  2. Deliver better retail experiences and food appeal. Give people control over the menu with features such as touch-screen ordering. One concept that elevates the food experience comes from the Roche Bros. supermarket chain. Called Brothers Marketplace, it’s a 10,000-square-foot concept focused on perishables (www.brothers-marketplace.com). The store’s fresh food display in glass cases makes the proprietors “feel like real food professionals,” Bona said.
  3. Realize it’s all about customization and choice. “Empower customers to do what they want when they want,” he said. One Hy-Vee location has a fountain area with printed combinations near the spigots, with a header that says “Bring Out the Mixmaster in You!”
  4. Tap into the value of intellectual property. Hoagiefest is a big deal every year for Wawa. Of course 7-Eleven’s Slurpee is ubiquitous. Even SpeedPass was very successful for a while for Mobil.
  5. Consider adding a drive-thru. “If we want to compete more directly with fast casual and QSRs … you’ve got to be looking at how the fast feeders deliver their products to consumers,” Bona said.
  6. Create a 360-degree customer journey. How do you get customers off the street and onto your site? What’s the first thing the customer sees upon entering the store? Do something dramatic to give the customer something different from the perceptions of a ’70s convenience store.

Finally, Bona said, “Great design can’t save a bad idea.” What is it that you sell? How will you go to market? An offer alone won’t get you there. You need the staff, plus the right communication about your offer to the public. It’s a cross-functional effort, he said.

Originally published February 26, 2016 on CSPNet.com, CSP Daily News
Photo courtesy of W. Scott Mitchell

Joseph Bona