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{Great Ideas} Four Essential Improvements for your Grab-N-Go Food Offerings

Posted in: Great Ideas, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators

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Welcome to the second article in our newest blog series, Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators. Darren Schulte, NATSO’s new vice president of membership, brings to NATSO a wealth of knowledge about our industry.

Darren has nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising, most recently as the vice president for retail merchandising for TSC Global/Barjan LLC. In 2011, he visited more than 100 independent operators throughout North America. Prior to his time with TSC Global/Barjan LLC, Darren worked for Petro Stopping Centers, Hess Oil and Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores.

Join Darren here every other Thursday for his biweekly retail column.

Four Essential Improvements for your Grab-N-Go Food Offerings

by Darren Schulte 

Food service is a powerful profit center for truckstops and travel plazas. In many locations, this category generates more revenue than non-food service retail offerings and is often the largest portion of the non-fuel gross margin dollar production. Customers are buying grab-n-go foods at a much greater rate than eating at restaurants. Prepared food, and the foodservice category in general, is one of the bright spots in the truckstop and travel plaza business. Use these four key tips to maximize grab-n-go success.

1. Evaluate the site lines to your grab-n-go area and be sure they’re clear. Enter your store as though you are a customer. Can you clearly see your grab-n-go offerings from the door? Are they a focal point of your operation? Does your grab-n-go point-of-sale collateral program drive customers to refill their stomachs?

2. Maximize your ingredients across all of your grab-n-go offerings, including the deli items, roller grill and hot box. Stick to two or three types of bread for all of your sandwiches, maximize your lettuce, pickles, onions and tomatoes on as many sandwiches as possible or use the same bun for all of your burgers. Maximizing your inventory back stock improves productivity. This is not to suggest you cannot have variety, just ensure it is variety that sells.

3. Improve your hot box program. Like a robust roller grill program that is well managed, a hot box program can generate a high gross margin return on inventory invested (GMROII). A hot box placed in prime shopping paths or front counter allow you to expand your food service offerings by adding the same items you are already serving in your full-service restaurant or quick-service deli.

4. Stock your cooler and hot box with healthy items, such as fruit cups, salads, edamame, carrots, beans, cauliflower and a vegetable medley mix. These add-on purchases allow you to maximize your margin while taking advantage of this growing category.

/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts here

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Join the conversation! What improvements have you made to your grab-n-go food offerings? Have you seen an uptick in healthy food purchase? Post your ideas in the comments below.

Or have a different retail merchandising, marketing or operations question? Post your question in the comments and Darren will answer it in the next Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators.

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.