Delivering Convenient & Exceptional Experiences

By Dotti Haynes, Essity || 3/21/2024 || Originally published on

Convenience store operators need to know three things to provide customers with a reliable road-trip stop.

Convenience stores are becoming increasingly important places in customers' lives, providing them with a reliable place along the road to pick up everyday items and use the restroom. They are also a destination for high-quality food and beverage items. With this shift comes increasing pressure to deliver convenient and exceptional experiences.

This is the evolution of our convenience culture. People are more on the go than ever and expect the world around them to follow suit. For c-stores, this is a massive opportunity — a chance to provide busy people with what they need while catering to higher expectations across the board — from menu options (including snacks and healthy meals) to technology-enabled order experiences.

Today, expectations for cleanliness are also at an all-time high, and that plays a significant role in how customers operate in convenience stores. Recent research from Technomic found that cleanliness is the highest purchase driver among c-store customers, with 83% ranking it as somewhat or extremely important; even higher than factors like quality food/beverage and price.

To stay competitive, c-store leaders and operators must deliver convenient and exceptional customer experiences, including high hygiene standards. Here are three things leaders need to know when thinking about hygiene in their c-store locations:

1. Promoting your hygiene practices matters.
Customers want to see that hygiene remains a priority despite the return to normalcy post-pandemic, and there is a great opportunity for c-stores to promote and highlight their hygiene protocols. Some stores have even received positive attention for their hygiene practices, proving that making your cleaning practices known can be make or break between a customer making a purchase or leaving the store empty-handed.

For instance, cleaning logs attached to doors are convenient for staff and appreciated by customers. You can also consider displaying your store's certifications, such as ServSafe, in prominent areas and on your entrances so that guests can see them right as they enter.

2. Embrace the opportunity of the spring and summer travel rush.
Spring and summer mean more people spend time outdoors and on the road to vacation destinations, and make more quick stops at convenience stores. C-store leaders used to this busy season probably won't be surprised that in 2023, "rest stop" hit peak popularity as a Google search term between June 25 and July 1.

As many c-stores nationwide are bolstering their foodservice operations, this busy season is a chance for them to capitalize on store traffic and position themselves as competitors to traditional quick-service restaurants. Hygiene is a fantastic place to start — whether ensuring your foodservice areas are equipped with elements like napkin and hand sanitizer dispensers placed in highly visible areas or regularly cleaning frequently touched areas such as doorknobs, bathrooms and surfaces. And just like walking into a traditional restaurant, if a customer doesn't perceive the establishment as clean, they won't consider the food hygienic and safe either.

To enhance your hygiene workflow ahead of the summer travel season, start by conducting an audit of the hygiene protocols across your c-store. By evaluating hygiene products in the entire store, from food prep and service areas to restrooms and other back-of-house areas, you can ensure that customers — your potential, newly converted loyal following for food items — have a hygienic impression of your store across the board.

3. Consider how you can do more with less in advance of the holiday season.
Like spring and summer, the holiday season increases road travel as people reunite with family. Convenience stores can anticipate a surge in traffic during these months, especially those situated on or near major travel routes. They are easy spots for travelers to grab last-minute needs and gifts, particularly right before planned festivities.

Managers and operators must be well-prepared to keep up with customer expectations around stocked food and beverage products while also having enough staff members to manage increased foot traffic.

When it comes to keeping your c-stores as clean and presentable as possible, try leveraging your hygiene product portfolio to help you do more with less during busy times like the holidays. Consider revamping your assortment to introduce high-capacity products that allow cleaning teams to refill less often and serve more guests between refills to accommodate these high-traffic times.

Right now, it is an exciting time to be in the c-store business. Long gone are the days when people immediately thought of c-stores as unhygienic. Instead, consumers' high expectations have ushered in a new era for c-stores to take convenience to the next level.

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