Can Your Stores Ace the Fresh Test?

Few words are thrown around the foodservice industry today as much as the term “fresh.” It no longer applies to just produce, or even freshly made foods. Rather, the entire foodservice experience

 

Opinion: Can Your Stores Ace the Fresh Test?

 

By 
Jane Wood, CEO, Product Evaluations

 

Few words are thrown around the foodservice industry today as much as the term “fresh.” It no longer applies to just produce, or even freshly made foods. Rather, the entire foodservice experience—from the appearance of a hot dog to the signage on the walls—must express freshness.

According to a recent retailer study we conducted in conjunction with CSP, the typical c-store foodservice consumer is a repeat buyer, and a single negative “not fresh” experience can result in distrust of your entire foodservice operation. That translates into fewer repeat purchases, fewer food turns and more waste. This makes a focus on fresh all the more imperative—especially for all the marketing we do around the word “fresh.”

There is an old saying that perception is nine-tenths of reality. While the truth behind that saying could be debated, let’s consider how it applies to your business and in particular c-store customers’ demand for “fresh” in the foodservice area.

Enhancing a fresh perception for your foodservice is about putting freshness cues in place and eliminating or minimizing “not fresh” cues that detract. I am not just talking about throwing away old or past-date foods; I am referring to visual cues that the consumer may or may not be consciously aware of, but lend a positive feeling or perception of freshness.

Next to Godliness

Freshness cues are as varied and wide ranging as c-stores themselves, but it all starts with cleanliness. To the consumer, “clean” and “fresh” are highly correlated. “Food cannot be fresh if the [store] is not clean,” one c-store consumer told us in a recent Product Evaluations/CSP consumer focus group. “I question the quality of the food when the gas station pumps are gross and dirty,” said another.

You are also a consumer and can spot freshness cues from your own experience.

You can relate cleanliness to freshness by focusing not just on clean interior and exterior spaces, but also lighting that strategically highlights food, bright colors and signage. Minimize clutter in the foodservice area, and ensure signage is bright and modern. Of course, the food itself must also provide freshness cues. “I see the salad with liquid at the bottom and I know it  has been there a long time,” said one focus group attendee. “I always reach to the sandwich in the back because you know they put the freshest items back there,” said another. Provide freshness dating on packaging as much as possible, and consider the cleanliness of equipment just as much as the food items themselves.

Employees can also make or break your reputation for freshness. Ensure they look clean, are dressed appropriately and use new gloves every time they handle food.

Putting Fresh to the Test

These are just a few of the many freshness cues that bombard your customer every time they walk into your store. To get a real grasp on it, challenge yourself to evaluate your own store for freshness cues and detractors.

Recognize that you are also a consumer and can actually spot freshness cues from your own experience. The real trick is for you to use an unbiased perspective on your own operation. Dedicate one day to see what you can find.

  • Put on your “customer/consumer” hat and walk through a few competing c-stores and buy some foodservice items, especially those most similar to what you offer in your store. See how many freshness cues you can identify as you walk through the store and the foodservice area in particular. Challenge yourself to find at least five.
  • Make a note for each cue based on your own perception of its freshness. Does the cue support or detract from the freshness perception?
  • Immediately take the same walk through your own foodservice area with your “consumer hat” on; identify freshness cues and give ratings.

You will likely find several quick improvements you can make to increase the perception of freshness in your store. Immediately implement at least one change to improve your freshness perception.

If you follow my steps above, I’d love to hear about it. Email me and let me know what you learned, and how (or whether) you feel the outcome has affected your operation’s freshness perception.

 

Full article can be found here.

 

Marks Take:

 

 The term "fresh" doesn't apply too just produce.  Freshly made foods, appearance and proper signage all go towards the "fresh feel".  A repeat buyer gets this vibe and earns your trust that they will receive a tasty meal each and every time.  That translates to fewer returns and more repeat buyers.  Perception is 9/10s of reality.  Freshness cues in place such as rotating and swapping out older dates.  Visual cues you may or may not be consciously aware of but tend to lead a positive feeling or perception of freshness.  From cleanliness and more these all relate to how fresh your store is.  Strategically placed lighting and minimized clutter aid in the visual cues.  Provide dating on packages or even born dates.  Gloves every time when handling food.  Evaluate your own store for freshness cues.  Dedicate 1 day a month to pushing your store more into this category.  Put on your “customer/consumer” hat and walk through a few competing c-stores and buy some foodservice items, especially those most similar to what you offer in your store. See how many freshness cues you can identify as you walk through the store and the foodservice area in particular. Challenge yourself to find at least five.  Make a note for each cue based on your own perception of its freshness. Does the cue support or detract from the freshness perception?  Immediately take the same walk through your own foodservice area with your “consumer hat” on; identify freshness cues and give ratings.You will likely find several quick improvements you can make to increase the perception of freshness in your store. Immediately implement at least one change to improve your freshness perception.