Supermarket Food Service Operations Require a Customer-Focused Business Plan

By Published On: December 31, 2021

Orlando Espinosa is the Founder, Orlando Espinosa + Associates LLC.

Orlando Espinosa recently presented “Enhancing the Customer Experience Through Engaging Kitchen Design” at Supermarket Sense 2016 in Conyers, Ga.

Supermarket food service operations offer tremendous potential for business owners, which is why a carefully considered plan is essential to success. This is not a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Developing a successful grocerant requires homework on specific customer trends and habits and a business plan for meeting those needs.

Some successful supermarket owners have treated food service operations as an add-on or even a loss leader. They undertake the operation without understanding its nuances, thereby shortchanging themselves of the opportunity to provide added value to customers and earn a reasonable profit.

Consultants and other experts who design in-house foodservice operations in places such as hospitals or corporate headquarters can provide key insight on meeting customer needs and ensuring financial viability. They understand staffing and product considerations and the pitfalls that can derail attempts to capitalize on this growing food industry trend.

Some issues to understand when designing a Supermarket foodservice operation:

  • Weigh the benefit of using recognized national or regional brands in the foodservice area. Some institutions, such as universities, offer items from these companies in their foodservice areas with great success. Brands are attractive because they provide menu consistency and a known value to customers. They also can create a sort of umbrella credibility effect on all of the products in the grocerant because of how they are perceived by customers.
  • Consider generational differences in food-buying approaches. For instance, baby boomers tend to prefer three square meals a day, eaten at what are considered traditional mealtimes. Given that, foodservice operators may use more staffing at those designated times. However, millennials tend to graze and may want meals at non-traditional times. But they still expect freshly prepared, nutritional, tasty foods. Operators need to analyze staffing and what foods they can offer to also meet those needs (such as a stir-fry that allows for fresh assembly using ingredients that are already prepared).
  • Cater to base customers with opportunities for them to “buy up.” This is why studying consumer habits and understanding their tendencies is crucial. The operation should provide offerings at the price point most attractive to the average customer, then supplement with specialty or more elaborate options for customers who want an occasional treat or those who consistently consume higher-end foods.

Supermarket owners can show they care about the nutrition, taste and convenience of the items they offer by understanding their customers’ desires and designing offerings that fulfill them. That approach also fosters engagement and loyalty.

There is tremendous opportunity in supermarket grocerants. Maximize the potential by learning how to balance profitability and customer engagement.