Coming out of a pandemic and into inflation has certainly meant that businesses must be flexible enough to pivot. Despite the constant flex in business models, customer service must be at the center of all we do. There have been many changes to the way we achieve this goal.

Convenience Store Grab-and-Go

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a shift in customer behavior. Rather than eating in, grab-and-go home visits are up 3.4%. Customers spend more time at home and within a local proximity. Their needs have changed. Customers want to get their food but eat it at home. Grab-and-go is often hot and ready to eat. A newer trend is grab-and-go which is ready to heat at home and then eat. In addition, customers are also increasingly looking to purchase grab-and-go meals for the entire family. Family-size meals are becoming increasingly popular. These grab-and-go trips are taking place in a relatively even time of day pattern: 25% morning, 21% afternoon, and 27% evening. Overall, grab-and-go is driven by the old purchase motivators: speed and convenience.

For the convenience store, this shift does not have to mean a drastic change. Most convenience stores have hot foods already. The need is just to increase options to purchase multiple servings at once. With inflation being felt across the board, customers are looking for value. Grab-and-go bundles at convenience stores can be faster, simpler, and less expensive than competing restaurants.

Convenience stores should begin with experimentation with packaging and options. Find out what sells and what does not. Consider staffing – what type of service can your labor maintain? For the grab-and-go to become a strong success, you will need consistency so that the customer knows what to expect. Businesses should not expect sales to jump immediately. It takes time to change customer purchasing habits. Start small and build up.

An example of a convenience store taking these options to another level is Kwik Trip. Kwik Trip is known for its Kitchen Cravings Take Home Meals program. Launched in 2019, the meals are prepared daily and individually packaged with full cooking instructions on the label. Standard selections include customer favorites like cheesy chicken casserole, beef stroganoff, and multiple pasta meals, along with a smaller lineup of limited-time offers (LTOs).

Restaurant Flexibility Means Customer Service Flexibility

Similar to the shift in food service at convenience stores, restaurants have been making a shift as well. Restaurants are increasingly offering more quick-service, casual dining, and more carry-out. These options offer a faster guest experience. Often restaurants have an area for full-service, an area for carryout pick up, and a quick-service area. These are in addition to maintaining the usual options of drive-thru and catering. The new service style can offer customers more flexibility. No matter which services your restaurant chooses to offer, hospitality and quality products must always remain at the forefront.

Clean and Sanitary

The food service industry made many new cleanliness and sanitization measures amid their comeback efforts after the pandemic. In 2021 sales were down 7.5% or $65 billion compared to 2019. As of April 2022, food service business employment is 6.4% below pre-pandemic levels. Inflation now places additional pressure to keep margins down and attract customers up. Restaurants are working to provide excellent guest experiences with often reduced offerings, reduced staffing, and increased expectations from customers. Customers had to become used to not having options to eat out during the pandemic, and many require more motivation to make the move back to it.

In addition, During the pandemic, customers have trained themselves to look for safety and sanitation cues wherever they do business. This attention only increases in food establishments. Businesses are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate their efforts of cleanliness and sanitization to the customer. It is clear that strong cleanliness and hygiene practices have become table stakes when it comes to driving sales and customer loyalty in this environment. This is a behavior that will stick around for years to come.

Suppliers Affect Customer Service, Too

For businesses to meet the customer needs for flexibility and cleanliness, it is essential that you are working with a supplier that is plugged into those demands. Suppliers have even stepped up to offer solutions to support cleanliness and hygiene in both the front and back of the house. Guests and employees have higher expectations than ever before, and it is up to business owners to meet them.

Whether you need to find ways to make workflow more efficient and easier for staff, offer more flexibility in offerings to your customers, reduce consumption, find a more cost-effective solution, or create a more hygienic experience for guests, Taylor Freezer of Michigan can help meet your needs. Our job at Taylor is to provide you with products, parts, and services to make your business a success 

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