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Improve Your Food Operations with 7 Tips from Food and Fuel Study Study Tour Expert

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail


Ed Burcher, an industry leader and principal at Burcher Consulting, has spent decades in the c-store and foodservice industries, including WaWa and Coen Markets where he implemented the Neighbours Store at Petro-Canada. He continues to work in the industry today.

Burcher will share his expertise and guide attendees during The NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour, July 18-20 in Chicago. The NATSO Foundation has handcrafted a customized tour to give operators a behind-the-scenes look into a biodiesel plant, successful travel plaza locations and some of the hottest foodservice locations in Chicago.

Today he shares these tips for operators looking to improve their food offerings.

Create an Experience: The overall experience at a location reinforces the purchase behavior. Burcher encourages operators to consider everything from the comfort level of a chair to the feel of the utensils.

Focus on the Food: People spend all the money on architecture and the store and forget that at the end of the day and if it doesn’t taste good and satisfy guest needs people won’t get the repeat purchase,” Burcher said.

Consider the Scale: When selecting new menu offerings, operators need to consider the scale and their ability to produce large quantities of a particular item. “Just because you can make a sandwich as home doesn’t mean you can make it 1,000 times a week, the same way every time,” Burcher said. “The process isn’t as much as picking the food as saying: What am I good at? What can I do well?” 

Establish the Right Processes: The best companies are the ones that are operationally excellent and have committed to the process that allows them to be successful, Burcher said. “Whether you want to sell the best sub, best burrito, best panini, it is first saying that this is the process to get there and establishing what it will take to support that,” he said. “It really is doing the basics over and over.”

Be Unique: Global foods are hot right now and customers are looking for flavor, which is one way operators can find to garner attention in their geographic area. “You have to have a point of difference that will stand out,” Burcher said.   

Identify the Price Point: Burcher said operators shouldn’t be afraid to charge for quality, but also have to understand the price point their customers will be willing to pay. In 2005 when working for Neighbours, Burcher and his team created a panini. “Back then you didn’t get a panini outside of a specialized café. We did a panini, and we said if we put it on a china plate with a pickle spear, we could charge more for it, but at the end of the day we’re competing with Subway and $5 foot longs,” Burcher said. “There is a range and people should think about who they are competing with, what those expectations are and then matching the food to it. The engineering of the menu is important because you do have to cover your cost and you have to make a profit. It is keeping it inside of those boundaries.” 

Go Mobile: More and more foodservice operations are getting into mobile ordering. “Given the changing demographics of the over-the-road driver, operators can look at what they can do to stand out to the crowd. Being able to order your stuff might be useful because the guy or gal is on a timeframe,” Burcher said.

Be Willing to Adapt: As trends and customer wants change, it is important to adapt. “Even the WaWas of the world are evolving and adapting. What you saw at a WaWa 15 years ago has changed,” Burcher said, adding that some locations are adding outdoor seating and others have changed their color scheme. “The color palate reinforces the food.”

/// The full study tour information is hereRegister now for this unique opportunity at Registration for the event is $1,000 for members and $1,500 for nonmembers. Contact Darren Schulte at or (915) 526-5820 with questions.


Photo credit: Christine Schoessler/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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