Amongst all the chaos and the work of just trying to make it through each day, I hope that many of you are planning for the day that the world reopens. COVID-19 has brought many changes to our communities and our customers, and I think many of them will continue as the world adjusts to a new normal.
Amy Toner, NATSO’s vice president, publishing and digital content, and I sat down to talk about what we think might remain when the world reopens. We’ve updated the blog post with the recording.
Increasing Convenience and Choice
Delivery and take out were the go-to methods of getting food and products to customers as businesses limited operations due to the new novel coronavirus and customers chose to limit their exposure to others. We have seen new interest and innovation in curbside pickup, take out, delivery to cars, delivery to trucks, delivery to homes, app ordering, food trucks on lots, internet ordering, Grubhub, Uber Eats and on and on.
These are all things that NATSO members have discussed during NATSO’s Great Ideas calls and conferences, that NATSO has blogged about, and that Don and I have shared during our onsite visits. Back then they may have seemed like cool ideas or ideas you may get to one day.
Now they are must-haves in order to survive.
Focusing on Cleanliness
Customers want to feel safe and secure when they visit your locations and the customer experience is critical. Super clean stores, amazingly clean restrooms, old fueling equipment that looks brand new because it is cleaned hourly, organized and easy-to-shop stores are the new norms when the world reopens. Shoppers have demanded cleanliness during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, and that will continue.
Restrooms not as clean as they are today will not be acceptable.
Meeting Customers’ Demands
Customers have gotten used to certain things over the past few months, and it will be difficult to change those new habits and expectations. Not delivering food to trucks while drivers fuel will be considered a reason for not fueling with you. Not having Uber Eats or Grub Hub available to the community may cause locals to no longer shop with you as that was an option just a few short weeks prior.
If you have been fueling your customers so they do not need to come inside, that may now believe full-service fueling for the self-service price is the minimum service model.
Preparing for the Future
So, as you move forward here are some additional things and ideas to consider.
- Offering hand sanitizer stations, ensuring employees wear masks and taking temperatures have become expected measures companies must take to compete.
- Having exceptional sanitation and utilizing robots and other automated cleaning systems.
- Offering ordering kiosks at the diesel bays as well as the gasoline bays.
- Having truck hops and car hops is becoming the new norm.
- Utilizing apps that allow customers to:
- Order food before they arrive
- Order food while they are fueling
- Order food to be delivered
- Order merchandise and other products exactly like they would order food
- Having extra staff to support:
- Curbside pickup
- Delivery to fuel pumps
- Delivery to homes and business
- Drive thru
- Elimination of self-service and serving food from behind counters
- Discontinuing self-service programs as we know them today so
- Self-service becomes vending-machine based
- Sin categories become like scratch-off lottery dispensed from a machine
- Food trucks and other outdoor types of food operations become the new norm on our lots as food service moves outside.
- Understanding that checkout-free technology is becoming the expectation as it offers
- Less wait
- Contactless payments
- Scan and bag options with limited touching
- Pay and go opportunities
- Embracing mobile
- Focusing on increased labor intensity by embrace technology, such as:
- Digital retail shelves tags
- Digital menu boards
- Digital marketing price signage
- The pivoting of travel centers and truckstops as they begin to sell more safety and/or grocery items by the pallet. This is especially relevant for products that support local communities and those fearful of large crowds. Items could include:
- Gallons of bleach
- Latex gloves
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Hair color
- Cases of water
- Gallons of water
- Eggs by the dozen
- Gallons of milk and premium water
- Return to the sin categories driving inside sales, such as
- CBD or marijuana where legal
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