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Five Food-Service Lessons From NATSO Connect 2018

Posted in: Truckstop Business, The NATSO Show, Operations

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For two and a half days, the industry gathers to find knowledge, solutions and connections at NATSO Connect. Just like NATSO Connect, the NATSO Connect Magazine is your source for improving your travel plaza business operations. 

Five Food-Service Lessons From NATSO Connect 2018

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Food and fuel are two of the top things truckstops and travel plazas are known for, and an effective food-service program takes work. During NATSO Connect 2018, food expert Michael Ouimet of Ouimet Consulting Group shared his expertise during the Good to Great Workshop. Here are five quick tips he shared during the event.

Determine What You Want to Be: Developing a food concept takes time, and operators need to decide if they want to do their own thing or tap into a brand by becoming a franchise. Ouimet told attendees franchise fees have increased, but there can still be value in getting name recognition. At the same time, “some people are creative and can do their own thing very well,” he said, adding that the right path can depend on how much time and effort the location has to build its concepts. 

For those going the franchise route, Ouimet encourages operators to read franchise documents closely, including the litigation section. “If there is a lot of litigation, that is a red flag,” he said.

Ouimet also suggested operators look at the number of stores that were dropped, not added. “The listings in the FDD have existing franchisees and ones that left the system. Take time to call,” he said.

Take Advantage of Smaller Cases: The grab-and-go category has exploded, with the segment seeing 10 to 20 percent growth last year, but Ouimet warned operators that bigger is not always better in food service, particularly with grab and go. Ouimet encouraged operators to use smaller cases and keep them full. “Don’t use them as your beverage coolers,” he said. 

Track Products: Operators should track each individual SKU and should co-mingle costs with the c-store, Ouimet said. “The economics are good on grab and go, but you need to look at what those are,” he said, adding that operators should factor in the container cost when determining the profitability of items. 

Follow Prep Sheets: Ouimet advised operators to have specs and recipes and then stick to them, which can also help them better understand costs.  

Focus on Packaging: In many cases, the packaging is harder to decide than the products, Ouimet said. He encouraged operators to look at proprietary programs to help them find creative, cost-effective packaging.

Operators can learn more about food service, industry trends and overall operations during NATSO Connect 2019, Feb. 10-13 in Orlando, Florida. This year’s event will feature insightful keynote sessions, executive briefings from experts, hand-selected vendors, detailed information on trucking trends and fuel volumes and more.

Learn more at www.natsoconnect.org.

/// NATSO Connect 2019 will be held February 10 - 13 in Orlando, Florida. Register and learn more about NATSO Connect here

Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO

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About the Author

Amy Toner

Amy Toner

Toner markets NATSO products, services and meetings. She is the content editor of NATSO's core websites, Stop Watch magazine and Highway Business Matters biweekly articles. In addition, she provides creative services across all departments. Toner joined NATSO in 2006. Prior to joining the association, she served as director of membership services at an association for ambulatory surgery centers. Toner lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son.

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