These days, convenience is a huge factor when it comes to mealtime. Most American shoppers are interested in healthy prepared meals or homecooked ones that are easy to put together without having to spend a lot of time, especially on weeknights. Many families don't have time to plan meals, either, meaning the days of huge weekly shopping trips are behind us. In fact, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy noted that almost half of all grocery store visits are quick trips – people are coming in specifically to buy one meal at a time. So how can you cater your grocery store to these convenience-seeking shoppers? Consider these tips.
Offer 'impulse meal solutions'
Sean Deale, a retail industry analyst writing for RetailNet Group, touted "impulse meal solutions" as an easy and profit-driving way to offer customers convenience. According to a study by researchers at Cornell University and published in the journal Environment and Behavior, people make an average of 221 food-related decisions every day. Clearly, many of these decisions will take place within your store, and by offering prepared foods that are in convenient to-go packaging, you can make their decisions a lot easier. Consider items like sandwiches, salads, cooked chickens or soup. Buffet equipment can ensure that your items stay at the correct temperatures.
Provide prepared foods
Heading to the grocery store to pick up lunch or a quick dinner is often a lot easier than heading to a take-out restaurant, and the options can be much healthier. Take advantage of this by offering prepared foods at your venue. You may need to purchase some commercial kitchen equipment and hire a few extra employees to cook the food and keep the area clean, but you might find that the extra effort pays off.
"Solutions like this one help narrow down the choices for shoppers, while allowing shoppers to try new and different options on a regular basis," wrote Deale. You don't have to worry about offering a wide selection, but try new dishes and find foods that your customers may not be familiar with. Mix in new takes on classics too, like artisanal mac and cheese or an innovative recipe for meatloaf. A standby that you might not have to change is a salad bar, which is always a favorite and takes advantage of consumers' interest in healthier foods.
Rethink your layout
The ICUSD pointed out that you should offer customers meal solutions early on in the shopping process rather than as an afterthought. That means the location of some of your displays might need to be reconsidered. Put food display cases that offer meal ingredients or prepared foods near the front of your store or on the side where shoppers tend to begin their trips. Avoid placing these items in the back of the store or near the checkout counters.
Update your food merchandising efforts
When you start making convenience-friendly changes to your store, you'll need to advertise them so customers know what you're doing. Start by updating your product signage – you'll need attention-grabbing signage that points shoppers to your new offerings. You can also revamp your sampling and food demo strategy. Focus on themes that revolve around convenience, like "Quick side dishes," "Meals in 30 minutes or less" or "Grab-and-go breakfasts." Customers will appreciate that you're catering to their interests and offering solutions that can make their food decisions and their lives easier. Shopping at your store will be a breeze when it's time to eat, which can increase your profits.
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