33 percent of consumers frequently eat breakfast away from home. This gives c-stores a huge opportunity to make profits in the morning by stocking and preparing their store with the items that early rising customers want.
Coffee is King
In the morning, customers are coming in to get energized on their way to work but coffee is not as simple as regular and decaf any longer. Coffee technology has advanced and new flavors and styles have emerged in the last few years. Many shoppers see their morning cup of joe as a treat to get their day off to a great start, so you should make sure your coffee bar is ready to satisfy these customers. Depending on how your coffee station is set up, you should include some of the following if you want to win over coffee lovers.
A variety of brews; coffee comes in many types besides regular and decaf. Find a highly rated regional or national roaster that has many different roasts for you to choose from. You want to make sure you have light and dark options as well as seasonal brews during holidays. In the winter you may want to consider brewing a peppermint roast alongside your traditional options. This is an easy way to step up your coffee game.
Plenty of flavors; alongside coffee, you can also carry flavored lattes, macchiatos, espresso, hot chocolate, and iced coffee. These are just a few of many different caffeine options besides coffee that customers may want as an alternative to the traditional black roast.
Cream and sugar options; when it comes to making coffee your own, most customers have their own ways of doing it. Some customers like half and half, while others prefer whole milk. Many customers find that sweet flavors of creamer that can be easily pumped into their coffee are the most convenient. Others still prefer individual packs that they can grab and take on the go. For customers who want that extra sweetness make sure you have all the traditional sweeteners and sweetener alternatives as well as some of the newer options like Stevia or Truvia. Having organic raw sugar in addition to traditional white is also great for the health conscious coffee drinker.
Food Options Customers Want
In 2016, Kellogg did a study to find the top five reasons customers purchase breakfast from c-stores. The results showed that shoppers came in because they needed a quick option, something to hold them over, an option while shopping, morning energy or fuel, or something on the way traveling to work or school. This means that the right breakfast options should apply to some or all of these options. Some great items to carry are:
- Traditional Egg, Protein, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwiches
- mix it up with extras like Tabasco, mushrooms, spinach, or different types of cheeses
- Biscuits and Bagels
- offer jellies, jams, cream cheese and other condiments on the side for plain biscuits and bagels
- bacon, sausage, egg, or all three combined
- Breakfast Burritos
- these can be a healthier option with lean turkey and egg whites
- trying offering plain and some with drizzles of honey or chocolate
- choose different types including glazed, icing with sprinkles, powdered, and jelly or creme filled
- offer regular sized and minis
- Muffins, Cinnamon rolls, and Other Pastries
- flavors like blue berry, apple cinnamon, and banana nut are all popular choices
- Fresh Fruit
- depending on what is in season, offering freshly sliced fruit in to-go containers is an item many customers want in the mornings or for a snack later on in the day
Common Breakfast Program Mistakes
Since so many customers want breakfast items, c-store owners try to tackle this daypart by initiating a brand new program. This can come with a few different problems if you are not preparing correctly.
Not enough employees.
In order to prep, stock, and maintain a coffee bar and breakfast assortment you will need additional labor. When dealing with ready-to-eat foods you must take the proper health and safety precautions which is often too much for one person. Having additional help, even if it is only for a morning shift can lighten the load and ease the burden of the morning rush.
Not training the employees you have.
If you have employees to work the breakfast program you need to make sure you are training them to run the areas appropriately. They need to know how to brew the coffee without burning it, how to make or cook the ready-to-eat options, and how to fix any malfunctions that may go wrong. Make sure that they are constantly keeping the area clean and are picking up any trash and items that are left behind from customers in a hurry.
Not being consistent.
One of the most common mistakes with c-store breakfast programs is consistency. Once a customer tries your items and decides they want that every morning they will be expecting you to have it. If they come in and the yummy coffee brew they had yesterday is suddenly gone, they will most likely be discouraged and leave. The same thing can happen with food or other drink items. The safest thing you can do it start with a couple of items and expand your menu as the demand for new items increase.
Boost Sales with Discounts and Bundles
If you truly want to master mornings in your c-store you should offer promotions. Start when you get new items or flavors by offering a discount or BOGO sale so that customers are tempted to try out the new products. You can advertise this on the proper signage or print it right on customers receipts in-store and at the pump. You may also want to offer a discounted bundle for those shoppers who want to purchase a beverage and a food option together. You do not have to limit this to just coffee and a food item. You can also bundle together water and fruit or an energy drink and a granola bar, the options are endless.
Overall, if you see a need in your c-store to provide breakfast options, then take the leap and create your own program. Start small with the basics like biscuits and donuts, and build your breakfast arsenal over time. Customers will soon make you a part of their everyday routine and are likely to come at other times during the day raising profits in every daypart.