a sign from above

It takes more than great food to stand out from the competition.

By Mark Mayberry

Your customers can go a million places to eat. It may be difficult to stand out from the competition, but it’s certainly not impossible.

While in St. Paul, Minn., recently, I saw a couple of signs that helped set two foodservice companies apart from the competition. Although these businesses were not part of a c-store, I think you’ll agree that you can “borrow” their creativity to help differentiate your c-stores from the competition.

The first sign was at a submarine sandwich shop. As I passed Jimmy John’s, a neon sign in their window really got my attention. It read, “Free Smells.”

I learned to love sub sandwiches when I lived in Asbury Park, N.J., while I was in the Army. Next door to where I lived was a sub shop, and every time they would cook a new roast beef (my favorite!), they would knock on my door to tell me about the warm roast beef. How’s that for a Shazam! (I use the word “Shazam” because my last name is Mayberry. Wouldn’t it be great if your customers said “Shazam!” when they talked about the experience they had at your c-stores?)

In my opinion, the best sub sandwiches in the world are made in New Jersey. Ever since my stay in Jersey, I have eaten hundreds of sub sandwiches throughout the United States, trying to get something close to those wonderful subs in New Jersey. Jimmy John’s was the first time I ever saw a sub shop that talked about that extra something—the smell. Even though I was headed to another restaurant, I had to stop at Jimmy John’s, just to take a picture of the sign. Of course, I was compelled to stick my head in the door, just to experience the “smell.” And yes, it was worth the extra stop. The next time I’m in St. Paul, Jimmy John’s is at the top of my list for a place to eat lunch.

My next stop was at Bread And Chocolate, a small deli-type restaurant. When I walked in the front door, I was drawn toward a wonderful display of cookies in their glass showcase. The chocolate chunk cookies looked fantastic (big – and plenty of chocolate chunks). I probably would have bought one anyway, but the sign at the front of the tray made my purchase a sure thing. It said, “Hot” Chocolate Chunk Cookies! And sure enough, it was as if they just came out of the oven. Shazam!

The signs at Jimmy John’s and Bread and Chocolate took a commodity (chocolate chip cookies and submarine sandwiches) and added some Shazam. They set themselves apart from the competition. They were truly unique, memorable— and fun.

What are you doing to set yourself apart from your competition? Are your c-store’s products and services really unique? Take the Shazam! challenge.

Quickie Survey

Fifteen of the industry’s top suppliers, including Anheuser-Busch, McLane Co., Hershey’s and Coca-Cola, rank retailer needs.

Based on your perceptions of convenience retailing over the past 10 years, rate the following in terms of importance to retailers (1 being not very important, 10 being extremely important). The average response:

  • Price: 8
  • Distribution/wholesaler availability: 7
  • Packaging: 6
  • Consumer benefit: 8
  • Merchandising & promotional support: 7
  • Product assortment: 7 (filling a gap or creating a new segment in the category)

Based on your perceptions of how convenience retailing will change over the next 10 years, rate the following in terms of importance to retailers:

  • Price: 7
  • Distribution/wholesaler availability: 8
  • Packaging: 7
  • Consumer benefit: 9
  • Merchandising & promotional support: 8
  • Product assortment: 8 (filling a gap or creating a new segment in the category)

Mark Mayberry is an international speaker, author and consultant for the The Mayberry Group in Woodstock, Ga. He can be reached at (800) 394-6138 or Mark@Markmayberry.com. On the Web, visit www.MarkMayberry.com.

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